We often get told that domesticating and genetically modifying our food makes it more nutritious. However, this theory is being turned on its head. Yes, domestication and genetic modification allows us to get larger yields of bigger fruits and vegetables, but larger yields and bigger plants don’t necessarily relate to more nutritious food.
Plants contain chemical compounds called phytonutrients. Obviously plants can’t get up and run away from threats so they rely on the phytonutrients they produce to help protect themselves against attacks from germs, fungi and bugs. When we eat those plants we absorb their phytonutrients which we then use to keep ourselves healthy.
New technology has allowed scientists to compare the phytonutrients of wild and domesticated plants and the results are shocking. Because wild plants are not protected from threats in the same way domesticated plants are, they are forced to produce more phytonutrients. All of the chemicals we use on domesticated plants to protect them from insects and other threats actually cause them to produce less phytonutrients which in turn leads to less nutritional value. Domesticated plants are also bred to taste more appealing to the general public which may seem like a good idea until we stop to realize that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste. By breeding out these intense flavors we have actually removed much of the nutritional value.
So don’t believe the hype, domestication and genetic modification of food is not the answer to providing nutritious food to feed the world. In fact, even the United Nations recently released a report saying that small-scale organic farming is the only way to feed the world in a sustainable way. You can read more about this report here. As far as which foods are wilder and contain more nutritional value, check out these links:
- –Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food – New York Times
- –Eating ‘Wilder’ Foods for a Healthier Diet – NPR
- –The Missing Link to Optimum Health – CNN
Besides being a regular contributor to the Function Health Club blog, Jeff Doyle is also the co-owner of Function Health Club as well as a Personal Trainer, BCRPA Trainer of Fitness Leaders, Agatsu Kettlebell Instructor and Older Adult Wellness Practitioner. He also has a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. You can contact Jeff directly at firstname.lastname@example.org