Whether you’ve got the basics of a whole foods diet down or you’re just beginning a new way of eating, you can make simple swaps for more nutritious foods. It’s a concept called ‘Eating on the Wild Side’ and I was introduced to it by Jo Robinson, in her book of the same name.

Eating on the Wild Side details the nutrition research that’s available about the most commonly eaten vegetables and fruits in the United States. It looks at the nutrient and antioxidant differences between different varieties of each veggie and fruit, and then makes recommendations on:

  • Which varieties to choose for the greatest nutrient density, with suggestions for the grocery store, farmer’s markets, and your own garden.
  • How to prepare these fruits and veggies to make the most of their healthful components.
  • The specifics on how to store veggies and fruits to retain, and even enhance, their nutrient content.

There are some points that I think are common knowledge now. Like dark green leafy and all cruciferous veggies, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale, are super-good for you.

But there are also some surprising takeaways from this book. Like the most colorful varieties are not always the most healthful, and sometimes the sweeter fruits are more nutritious.

Most of the tips are so simple that you can easily work them into your current cooking routine.

 

Simple swaps for more nutritious foods:

 

  • Chopping, mincing, or pressing garlic and then letting it rest for 10 minutes prior to cooking it greatly enhances the active ingredient, allicin, which doesn’t form until the cell walls are ruptured.
  • All-purple carrots have up to 10 times more antioxidants than orange carrots; eating them cooked makes the nutrients more available; and cutting them after they’re cooked preserves those nutrients.
  • White fleshed peaches and nectarines are more nutritious than yellow fleshed. They have six times more antioxidants and they’re sweeter – but not so much that it changes their blood sugar impact. Be sure to choose organic because these are some of the most heavily sprayed fruits. And eat the skin for maximal nutrition.
  • Green onions, or scallions, have 140 times more phytonutrients than regular white onions. The green parts are more nutrient dense than the whites, and they don’t make you cry. Use them liberally!
  • Artichokes, including canned artichoke hearts, are some of the most nutrient dense vegetables in the grocery store. Even though they look really bland, one serving of an artichoke has as much nutrition as thirty servings of orange carrots.

Eating on the Wild Side is a fun book for those of us who are aiming for that next level of nutritional density in our meals, and those who want to minimize their use of nutritional supplements.

It’s also a great reminder to take advantage of the local foods around us. It motivated me to make use of all the grapes and apples that were ripe in our yard. Concord grapes grow with little tending, make delicious juice, and they’re full of antioxidants? It was worth my time to wash and juice them instead of allowing the ants to get all of that goodness!

If you regularly shop in farmers markets or garden you’ll love this book! Each chapter includes recommendations for the most nutritious plants that aren’t usually grown on large-scale farms. And some varieties that you might only grow at home.

I especially enjoyed learning the history of so many of these common foods, where they originated in the world, and which ones naturally mutated or were altered by farmers and scientists. It also made me appreciate the varieties of foods that we have today. So much of what our early ancestors were eating was very bitter, tough in texture, and rarely sweet, even though it was often, but not always, more nutrient dense.

There is so much more to this book, and if you’d enjoy learning about other veggies and fruits you can swap, check out a copy of Eating on the Wild Side for yourself. Then you’ll shop with your own set of notes, or the book itself, until you get in the habit of knowing which veggies are the best choices available in your local stores.

Want more of the World’s Most Nutritious Food?

If bringing back more nutritious foods is a cause close to your heart, please join me in supporting the nonprofit organization I work with, Soil Mineral Underground’s Nutrient Dense Project. Here you’ll learn about our research on how to grow more mineral rich veggies, fruit, and grains. A $25 donation is all it takes to test one variety for our public domain database! Everyone has access to the data, so please share this with your local farmer and home gardeners to use as well!

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