We are getting better at producing sweet tasting food. Farmers have been breeding ever more palatable fruit and vegetables for 10,000 years. Scientists have been speeding up this process for the past century.
Our food today is more pleasurable than what our ancestors had to eat. It’s generally more tender and less bitter. It is increasingly higher in sugar and starch.
But as we bred taste into our food we unwittingly bred out nutrition. Ever since we stopped foraging for wild plants, we have been getting fewer and fewer phytonutrients from our food. These are the compounds that could help us manage the diseases of civilization — diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia.
It’s too late for us to return to foraging for more than a tiny part of what we eat. I sometimes pick wild raspberries and dandelion greens along a trail, but never get enough for a full meal.
Instead, we can choose those fruits and vegetables that retain much of the nutritional content of their wild ancestors. We can’t all go Stalking the Wild Asparagus that Euell Gibbons wrote about in his 1962 bestseller about living off the land. But we can go “eating on the wild side,” which Jo Robinson writes about in her new book of that title.
“We can choose those select varieties of fruits and vegetables that have retained much of the nutritional content of their wild ancestors,” Ms. Robinson writes. “One of the most important discoveries of twenty-first-century food science is that there are vast nutritional differences among the many varieties of a given fruit or vegetable.”