Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food

Corn healthy for us? Yes, but the more color the better.

I've been worried about my diet and wondering if over the years we'd possibly damaged the nutritional benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables because of modern agricultural techniques. Of course, I should have worried more and wondered less -- and it might have helped if I'd have done the research sooner.

Now, I got lucky and a friend posted a link on facebook (thanks, Karen!) to this article in the New York Times. It turns out that we've been breeding the wholesomeness out of foods for centuries:
Were the people who foraged for these wild foods healthier than we are today? They did not live nearly as long as we do, but growing evidence suggests that they were much less likely to die from degenerative diseases, even the minority who lived 70 years and more. The primary cause of death for most adults, according to anthropologists, was injury and infections.
Each fruit and vegetable in our stores has a unique history of nutrient loss, I’ve discovered, but there are two common themes. Throughout the ages, our farming ancestors have chosen the least bitter plants to grow in their gardens. It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste. Second, early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil. These energy-dense plants were pleasurable to eat and provided the calories needed to fuel a strenuous lifestyle. The more palatable our fruits and vegetables became, however, the less advantageous they were for our health.
So, while I, along with many others, have a deep-seated (almost wrote deep-seeded, but...) distaste for Monsanto and any outfit that thinks it can patent mutations, we unfortunately should reserve our contempt for the many agriculturalists through the ages who made our food taste better and become less nutritious.

Oh, and Barack Obama was on to something with his early, early "gaffe" concerning arugula. Apparently arugula is one of those bitter leafy vegetables that are, health-wise, much superior to, say, iceberg lettuce. Go figure.

(h/t Michelle Malkin) Oh, and Michelle, bite my arugula!

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