Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Is there such a thing as a "generic" apple?

When you eat any food, shouldn't you care more about the particular piece you are eating, rather than the generic values listed in an app or book about calorie counting or nutrition?  The nutritional value of something as plain as an apple will depend on:  its variety (Gala? Fuji? McIntosh?), size, harvest date, length and conditions of storage, which parts you eat (peel? seeds?), and even what other items you may eat along with it.

Ultimately, the real value is whatever nutrition your body absorbs from it after your internal microbes pick it apart, and once the rest of your meal and environment are taken into account. In fact, there is such a wide variation in nutritional value that [I bet] some of the apples you might eat are actually less nutritious than foods we normally think of as “bad”.

I have a deeper appreciation for these importance nutritional differences, and the subtleties missing from nutrition labels after reading a new book by Jo Robinson: Eating on the Wild Side- The Missing Link to Optimum Health. It’s chock full of practical advice like:

  • Slice/chop/press garlic, then let it rest for ten minutes before cooking to boost its nutrition.
  • Cooked carrots have 2x the beta carotene of raw carrots.  Cut your own sticks for carrots; the baby kind are much less nutritious.  Then eat them mixed with fat (e.g. butter) to amplify the nutrition.
  • Red cherry tomatoes have 12x more lycopene than red beefsteak tomatoes
  • Canned artichoke hearts are among the most nutritious vegetables in the supermarket.
  • Same with canned beans: which are healthier than fresh, and have more oxygen radical absorption than red wine or blackberries.
  • Broccoli loses half its nutrition when you nuke it. Much better to steam for 4 minutes, or sauté in olive oil and garlic.

There are many, many more tips like this, backed by with tons of references from years of reading medical and nutrition journals. It’s changed the way I think about food, and made me look at apples much less generically.