Humans love sweet things. Sweet fruit, sweet teas, sweet everything. We’ve been doing our best to remove the bitter taste from foods for at least as long as we’ve been farming. It may make our meals more palatable, but according to Jo Robinson in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, our desire to make everything sweeter has removed a hefty component of the plant’s nutritional benefits, particularly the phytonutrients.
But what are phytonutrients and why do they matter?
Phytonutrients are the bitter and astringent-tasting compounds that protect us against major illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. And recent studies have shown that the fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores are relatively low in these healthy compounds.
So how do we regain some of this lost nutrition? By eating more wild plants that retain their dark color and bitter taste, Robinson says.
Robinson writes that “wild dandelions have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach while a purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes.”
So while we all love the sweet taste, incorporating some more “wild” plant varieties can up your illness-beating nutrient profile. Look for darker-colored corn, use arugula and herbs instead of lettuce, and eat up those scallions. If you want to get really crazy, try using blue cornmeal for your next batch of weekend pancakes.
Photo Credit: Andres.Thor