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Eating On The Wild Side book summary

Eating On The Wild Side book cover

A radical new way to select and prepare foods to reclaim the nutrients and flavour we've lost.

An interesting book on the evolution of the fruits and vegetables we mostly tend to eat today. It talks about the diminishing amounts of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients in our modern day species of plant foods, due in part to our increasing preferences for ever-more sweeter foods and the need to develop fruit and vegetables that are capable of being stored and transported over thousands of miles (from land to supermarket).

To counter this, the book offers suggestions on the best varieties of vegetables and fruits we should be eating to increase our intake of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, and also how to choose the most nutritious produce and store them for nutrient preservation. One thing to note though, is that this book is clearly written for US consumers, so some of the varieties mentioned won't mean much to readers, in say Europe.

The book is divided into 2 sections, vegetables and fruits. For brevity:

  • AO = anti-oxidant
  • PH = phytonutrient

Tip: If a fruit or "vegetable" has seeds or a pit, it's a fruit.


General observations

  • The more intensely coloured a vegetable, the more phytonutrients it contains. The most nutritious colours are red, purple and reddish brown. These hues come from anthrocyanins (what make blueberries blue and strawberries red).
  • Anthrocynanins are powerful AOs that show good promise in fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure, slowing age-related memory loss and reducing the negative effects of eating high sugar, high fat foods.
  • The most nutritious greens are dark green in colour, which comes from the PH lutein . This is another AO that can protect eye health and calm inflammation.
  • Plants with loose and open leaves contain more bionutrients. This is because they are most vulnerable to UV rays as most of its leaves are exposed to direct sunlight.
  • When leaves are separated from the head or cut, the plant produces chemicals that speed the leaves' decay (don't cut vegetables until you're ready to eat them).
  • Eat greens raw for the most health benefits.
  • Common bacteria are 1000x more likely to become resistant to our modern antibiotics than to garlic.
  • Raw garlic contains the ingredients to make allicin , which is created when the protein alliin and the heat-sensitive enzyme alliinase mix. These compounds are isolated in the garlic, until it is sliced / pressed. Heating the garlic immediately destroys the enzyme so allicin is not created. If crushed garlic is kept away from heat for 10 minutes, allicin will be created and it can withstand heat.
  • The smaller the onion, the less water it contains and the greater the concentration of PHs. Strongly flavoured onions are best, with red and yellow onions offering the most health benefits.
  • Frying onions increases the PH quercetin content (boiling reduces it).
  • Shallots are mild but nutritionally potent.
  • Leeks lose most of their AO properties after a few days in the fridge. Eat as soon as possible. Same with scallions (which are extremely nutritious). On the other hand, garlic and onions can be stored for prolonged periods.
  • Carrots are high in beta-carotene . Don't bother with baby carrots for nutrition.
  • The leaves of beetroots have more AO than the roots. Beets have more AO properties than all common vegetables apart from artichokes, red cabbage, kale and bell peppers.
  • Nitrate in beets can reduce blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen required by muscles during exercise.
  • Small dark red tomatoes have more lycopene per ounce (and are sweeter and more flavourful).
  • Red cabbage is the AO king.
  • White cauliflower has more cancer-fighting properties than green or purple ones, but are lower in AO.
  • Legumes are very high in protein but low in the amino acid methionine , which is necessary to form a high quality protein. Most grains are rich in methionine but lack other essential amino acids that legumes have. Eat them both in the same meal to get all the essential amino acids you need.
  • Black beans and lentils have more AO than other common lentils.
  • The fat in avocados (monounsaturated oils) aids in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like beta-carotene and lutein.

Choosing vegetables

  • Choose the coloured species of any particular vegetable type - deep yellow, blue, red, black and purple.
  • The sweeter the vegetable, the more sugar it contains (generally not a good thing).
  • Buy organic to reduce exposure to pesticides when you eat the skin of the produce.
  • Hass avocados have 2-4x the AOs compared to other varieties of avocado.
  • Canned corn is higher in carotenoids than fresh corn.
  • Frozen carrots are not as nutritious as fresh ones.
  • Processed tomatoes are the richest known sources of lycopene (though be careful to look for tomato products sold in glass jars or BPA-free cans).
  • Frozen broccoli is less nutritious than fresh as blanching broccoli (part of the freezing and packaging process) destroys a third of its glucosinolates . Same with cauliflower.
  • Frozen green beans and peas destroys about 25% of their AO. Canned peas and beans are also less nutritious.
  • Dried beans become more nutritious when canned.

Storing vegetables

  • Lettuce: Soak in very cold water (to slow the ageing process), dry then tear leaves to double AO value and eat within 2 days. In the meantime, store in a sealed bag pricked with holes in the crisper drawer of the fridge. This ensures humidity remains high, greens get enough oxygen to stay alive, but not so much so as to respire too quickly.
  • Potatoes: New potatoes (harvested early in the season) should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a week. Old potatoes can be stored for several months.
  • Carrots: Keep away from fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas (e.g. bananas, apples) as it triggers the formation of bitter compounds.
  • Beets: Store the greens and roots separately. Store the beet roots unwrapped.
  • Tomatoes: Do not store in fridge. They will become less sweet, more bitter and lose aroma.
  • Broccoli: Respires very quickly. Chill immediately and eat within 1 or 2 days. Same with leeks and scallions.
  • Asparagus: Has a very high respiration rate. After 3 days of storage, it becomes twice as acidic.

Cooking vegetables

  • Steam or cook in microwave for minimal heating time. Do not boil (most of the phytonutrients will leach into the cooking water).
  • Most vegetables are more nutritious when eaten raw, but not carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cabbages, asparagus and tomatoes.
  • Cook carrots whole, then chop to retain more nutrients (rather than chopping then cooking).
  • Eating broccoli raw gives you up to 20x more sulforaphane (anti-cancerous PH) than cooked broccoli
  • If you can't eat kale raw, steaming or sauteing kale in olive oil (just long enough for it to wilt) is the best way to cook it.
  • Steam cabbage briefly to reduce odour and increase its nutritional value.
  • Dried beans that are soaked and cooked in a pressure cooker retain the most AOs.
  • Cooked asparagus is better than raw asparagus. Steaming is the best method.

Eating vegetables

  • Some nutrients (e.g. beta-carotene in carrots) cannot be absorbed unless the dressing or meal contains some kind of fat (like extra virgin olive oil, or better, nuts and avocados).
  • Apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and fresh lemon juice are all good sources of AO.
  • The skin of a vegetable contains most of the nutrients and fibre. This is because the outer layers are its first line of defense against UV rays, mould, animals, insects, fungus and disease.
  • Cooking potatoes and chilling for 24 hours before eating transforms them into low-moderate glycemic vegetable.


General observations

  • Unpeeled apples gives you 50% more PH than peeled ones.
  • The most nutritious apples include Braeburn, Cortland, Discovery, Gala, Granny Smith and Honeycrisp.
  • Blackberries and blueberries are among the most nutritious foods you can eat. They are rich in vitamin C and anthrocynins.
  • Cranberries and raspberries are extremely high in AOs.
  • Stone fruits exposed to cold temperatures may never ripen, so don't store in the fridge unless perfectly ripe.
  • White fleshed nectarines and peaches are more nutritious than yellow fleshed ones (surprisingly).
  • Apricots have 3-8x more PH than peaches or nectarines
  • Cherries can speed up muscle recovery after exercise, and reduce pain. Go for organic, fresh cherries as they respire very quickly. Fresh cherries have green stems.
  • Dried plums (prunes) are an overlooked, inexpensive superfood. The AOs they contain makes up for their high sugar content.
  • Buy organic oranges to ensure they have not been artificially ripened (which only causes their skin to go orange, but not their flesh to ripen). This also allows you to eat the peel. The greatest concentration of PHs in oranges are in the pith.
  • Lemons help to preserve PHs in other foods (great in tea).
  • Ripe limes are yellow, not green!
  • Bananas are relative high in sugar and low in PH.
  • Mangos have 5x more vitamin C than oranges. Use the aroma to tell whether a mango is ripe, not the colour of its skin.
  • Guavas and papayas are also high in vitamin C.
  • Melons are 95% water, so whatever nutrients they contain are highly diluted. Melons generally are one of the least nutritious fruits.
  • Watermelons with deep red flesh are a good source of lycopene.
  • Honeydew and casaba melons are the sweetest and least nutritious of the melons.

Choosing fruit

  • Frozen berries are almost as nutritious as fresh berries. Cooked blueberries have even more AO than fresh berries. 50-80% of AOs are lost when drying berries however.
  • Drying apricots destroys many of its nutrients due to exposure to the sun. Sulphured apricots retains more AO than untreated ones (but sulphured products aren't as good for you).
  • Strawberries are one of the most contaminated fruits, along with apples, nectarines, peaches and cherries. Go organic with these.
  • Fruits that do not ripen after harvest:
    • citrus fruits
    • berries
    • cherries
    • grapes
    • pineapples
    • pomegranates
  • Fruits that can be picked when semi-ripe as they continue to ripen after harvest:
    • apples
    • apricots
    • avocados
    • bananas
    • guavas
    • kiwifruits
    • mangoes
    • nectarines
    • peaches
    • pears
    • plums
    • tomatoes

Storing fruit

  • Apples last 10x longer if stored in the fridge rather than the counter.
  • Store strawberries on the counter for a few days to increase AO value.

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