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Breeding the Nutrition out of our Food - NYTimes  RSS feed

 
George Meljon
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Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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This is from May, but I found it today circuitously on a list of most shared articles by the NY Times.

In a nutshell it is an opinion letter that explains how the phytonutrient content of our produce is so much lower than foods found in other parts of nature - like dandelion (it has 7 x more phytonutrients than spinach).

This isn't a new phenomenon, though. The article claims we've been bereft of higher quality foods for thousands of years.

Here is a brief excerpt:

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.


Anyway, enjoy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/opinion/sunday/breeding-the-nutrition-out-of-our-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
 
Dale Hodgins
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Much selection also served to reduce tannins and other toxic compounds. Larger fruits and grains, greater quantity available and greater digestability probably more than made up for those drops.

In recent history, we have witnessed production of crops where shelf life, uniformity of size and shipability have trumped nutrition. Commercially grown potatoes contain far less protein and beta carotene than older varieties. Protein is the natural enemy of shelf life.
 
George Meljon
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Here is a link to an interview with the author, who has a book Eating the Wild Side to support her ideas:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/07/10/195592468/Eating-On-The-Wild-Side-A-Field-Guide-To-Nutritious-Food
 
George Meljon
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Much selection also served to reduce tannins and other toxic compounds. Larger fruits and grains, greater quantity available and greater digestability probably more than made up for those drops.

In recent history, we have witnessed production of crops where shelf life, uniformity of size and shipability have trumped nutrition. Commercially grown potatoes contain far less protein and beta carotene than older varieties. Protein is the natural enemy of shelf life.


Good points. Certainly the selection couldn't have been all bad. I am interested now in finding which foods are said to have more nutritional value (and why).
 
Dale Hodgins
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I think the most pleasurable and marketable means of improving food in the short term, is through using nutritionally dense spices. I like my mashed potatoes laced with Italian spices and stews containing Indian and Italian spices. I've found that by using these things, I'm less likely to go crazy with salt. Many bitter things can be added to soups and stews in moderation. Single food meals such as a big meal of sweet corn, are bound to leave us lacking in many nutrients.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I think the most pleasurable and marketable means of improving food in the short term, is through using nutritionally dense spices. I like my mashed potatoes laced with Italian spices and stews containing Indian and Italian spices. I've found that by using these things, I'm less likely to go crazy with salt. Many bitter things can be added to soups and stews in moderation. Single food meals such as a big meal of sweet corn, are bound to leave us lacking in many nutrients.


Yep, me too.

Spices tend to be nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they loaded with vitamins and minerals themselves, antioxidant compounds in many spices prevent the formation of toxic substances during cooking. For example, rosmarinic acid inhibits the formation of acrylimides (cancer causing compounds formed in starches, especially during baking) or heterocyclic amines (carcinogens formed when meat chars).

Oregano is has the highest ORAC (antioxidant) potential of the typical western garden herbs, followed, I believe, by rosemary.

Who needs nutritional supplements when you have tasty perennial superfoods galore in zone 1?
 
Nick Kitchener
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I was thinking along similar lines just last night.

Over the past couple of hundred years, we've bred food crops to compensate for the mechanical limitations emerging from the industrial revolution. The whole grain thing is a perfect example, and has led to a cascade of intervention that I think is undesirable.

What if we just stopped, went back to the beginning, and began a new breeding effort with modern technology? I'm not talking about genetic engineering. I'm talking about taking pre Victorian era crops and using modern engineering and computer science to overcome the challenges our ancestors addressed through genetic manipulation.

Instead of changing the species to fit our machine, why not make the machine to fit the species. We certainly have the capability now.

Consider grains again. Once upon a time they existed in complex polycultures. If we made sorting machines capable of identifying one type of grain from another then we could grow crops like they grow in their natural state on an industrial scale.
You could essentially apply food forest principles to prairie ecosystems. An artificial prairie made up of edible grasses and herbs where you mow every so often to harvest the crop.
 
John Elliott
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Let me weigh in here and toss in my $.02.

I look for Italian vegetable seeds because Italians seem to have, over the years, selectively bred the best tasting and most nutritious vegetables. They are not concerned with determinate tomatoes that can be picked on a Thursday 3 months from now and never be touched by a human hand until the consumer removes the plastic wrap. No, Italian tomatoes are bred for flavor and there are distinct differences between paste tomatoes and salad tomatoes.

It's the same with other vegetables as well. The capers and artichokes and peppers really do have more flavor than the same items you see (if you can find them) in an American supermarket. If you walk through a street market in Italy, you only see the freshest of in season vegetables, and most sellers bring the good looking stuff to sell, and the blemished vegetables get fed to the chickens and the pigs.

Here is a link to a U.S. supplier of Italian vegetable seeds that I have tried and can recommend.
 
Cory Collins
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Location: McKinney, Tx
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Here is a podcast interview with Jo Robinson. I found the articles of great interest and look forward to reading the books. Also, if you're not familiar with Chris Kresser, most folks here will find him most like minded. He's an provides an excellent scientific approach to alternative medicine.

Jo Robinson Chris Kresser "Could ‘Eating Wild’ Be The Missing Link to Optimum Health?"
 
John Polk
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I recently read a study, where they were comparing old grains with modern versions. They did nutritional analysis of the various varieties, and put it into terms anybody could understand. They showed how many slices of bread it would take to receive the recommended amount of various minerals. In some modern varieties, it would take like 27 slices to get what an older variety would give you in 15 slices.

There is a trade off when utilizing machines to reduce the labor costs.

 
David Livingston
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Interesting comments folks I agree that some of the reasons for the choices for farmers put longevity first .
However I have seen simililar reports used to justify
The sales of vitamin pills . Big pharma can be very tricky so watch out
David

 
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