Although not really new, the facts marshalled in an upcoming book are startling nonetheless.
In Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, Jo Robinson highlights an overlooked aspect of agriculture.
Over millennia, we've literally bred the “phytonutrients” out of commercial crops, rendering them far less healthful than their wild ancestors.
Most of the phytonutrients in question are the disease-deterring compounds classified as polyphenols and carotenoids.
Commonly called antioxidants, polyphenols and carotenoids don't really have substantial antioxidant impacts in the body.
But they act as “nutrigenomic" agents that exert highly beneficial influences on our cells' working genes, thereby reducing disease-promoting chronic inflammation and/or discouraging cancer.
Organically grown crops don't always have more vitamins or minerals than their conventional counterparts, but they seem to offer a modest antioxidant advantage ... see “Organic Crops Win for Antioxidants ... Again”.
As Robinson says, “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.”
And she points out another problem: “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.”
Click here to read an excerpt in The New York Times, which features colorful graphics depicting the antioxidant advantages of wild foods and relatively un-domesticated crops and cultivars.
Robinson J. Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food. The New york times, May 25, 2013. Accessed at