Seriously, this should be mandatory for every single human to read in high school.
I’m so glad I got my hands on it when I did, because it is blowing. my. mind.
It’s like the Clif notes version of how to shop, prepare, store, and eat vegetables and fruits for maximum nutrition, with extremely interesting, contextual antidotes and facts about each group.
I’m only 57 pages in, but already feel like a produce detective when I go shopping at the market or grocery store.
The fact is, we’re already at a disadvantage with less nutritious produce than 100 years ago, due to vastly depleted soil from mass production and the introduction of toxins (ahem, pesticides, herbicides, and the like).
We’ve also engineered so many of the nutritious wild breeds out of our diets since the invention of agriculture, favoring produce high in starch and sugar and low in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
“…There is a dramatic nutritional difference between the wild plants in our original diet and the man-made varieties we eat today. Some wild potatoes, for example, have twenty times more antioxidants than our modern russets… Jo Robinson explains that we do not need to forage for wild plants to regain these lost nutrients. We can choose select varieties in our local grocery stores and farmers’ markets that come close to having the nutritional value of wild plants” (Robinson, 2013).
Take iceberg lettuce, for example.
We’ve all heard, “Eat your greens,” but with 1/40th the bionutrients of bitter dandelion greens, iceberg lettuce ain’t cutting it. I mean, who knew the dreaded dandelion was loaded with WAY more nutrition than the #1 consumed fresh vegetable in America (a.k.a. iceberg lettuce)!?
No wonder chronic disease, obesity, and cancer are on the rise.
Thanks to Jo Robinson, I have now altered the way I purchase, prepare, and eat my greens, I’m upgrading my health because of it! Here are my favorite pointers from her book, so you can “upgrade” yours, too…
- Choose red, red-brown, purple, or dark green looseleaf varieties.Why? Because lettuce has to protect itself from the sun by producing its own “botanical sunscreen,” and looseleaf varieties are the most exposed, which means they have to up the protection against the sun. This translates to a higher level of antioxidants in our bodies.
- Those that form a tight head and are lighter in color are the least nutritious (a.k.a. stop buying iceberg lettuce).
- Choose whole heads of lettuce over bagged greens, but if you buy bagged greens, look for red and dark green varieties that haven’t turned yellow or brown.
- “Arugula, radicchio, endive, and spinach are higher in phytonutrients than most lettuce varieties and will enrich the nutritional content of your salads” (Robinson, 2013).
Robinson advises to spend 10 minutes preparing your lettuce to preserve flavor and nutrients. This was a new concept for me, as I’ve always casually stored fresh greens in an open plastic bag, hoping to get to it before the leaves turn yellow and wilt.
1)Soak lettuce and/or loose greens in very cold water for 10 minutes. “If you tear your lettuce into bite-sized pieces, you will increase its antioxidant content. But if you do, be sure to eat it within one or two days” (Robinson, 2013).
2) Dry the lettuce with a salad spinner or towel. I don’t have a salad spinner, unfortunately, so I do it old-school style.
Store the greens in a resealable plastic bag. Squeeze all the air out, seal it, and then prick 10-20 tiny holes for optimum air exchange in the refrigerator.
- Eat a variety of greens together for optimum nutrition! Like the pictures above, I plan to eat a mix of looseleaf greens, lettuce, radicchio, and spinach to boost my phytonutrient dosage.
- Eat your salad with unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil. It has a lot of antioxidants, stays fresher longer, and helps increase the bioavailability and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in the greens. Most store-bought dressings have oxidized vegetable oils like soybean oil, which not only is inflammatory, but has 1/7th the effect on bioavailability (Robinson, 2013).
- Add fresh fruit, a dash of honey, and/or avocado to your greens to mask some of the bitterness.
So, there you have it! Now, you can find and eat greens in a way that boosts your nutrition and stretches and your dollar (thanks, Jo Robinson!).
Oh, and for those of you who grow (or desire to grow) your own greens, you can check out which varieties are best suited to survive in your area here.
Now, because I’m planning to eat a whole lot of salad this week, I’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite greens, and what’s your favorite kind of salad?
Robinson, Jo. (2013). Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health. Little, Brown and Company: New York, New York.