The field of nutrition is constantly changing. There’s a lot to know, and people always want to know more. After all, there’re not many things more important to you than what you’re eating.
But it’s not just products on supermarket shelves that warrant study. There’s a world out there with much more to teach us about nutrition than we realize.
Dr. Weston Price has been called the “Charles Darwin” of nutrition, and he discovered about nutrition, he discovered by travelling the world. Price is, in fact, a dentist who investigates the effects of nutrition on dental health. He started out by studying indigenous cultures, such as the Lotschental of Switzerland, Native Americans, Aborigines, Eskimos and Peruvian Indians.
He observed that many western diseases, such as tuberculosis, were not present in indigenous cultures, and his studies led him to the conclusion that the increased focus on processed foods in western cultures contributed to the development of many of these diseases.
Although no one’s suggesting that people should adopt an indigenous diet, it shows the potential for discovery in this area through a more hands-on approach to scientific study. There are multiple undiscovered food sources out there, or sources that have potential as yet unknown.
Examples of Uncommon “Super Foods”
Simply chewing a raw coca leaf from the Amazon rainforest is enough to provide the burst of energy people have been conditioned to find in their regular caffeine fixes.
But many aren’t aware of its powerful medicinal properties, instead associating the coca leaf with cocaine or Coca-Cola. Obviously, neither of these is amongst the healthiest things to consume, but the coca leaf by itself, unaltered by any chemicals or additives, is extremely healthy and contains a wealth of essential nutrients, such that it has been named a “miracle food”.
Doctors examining the biological structure of the coca leaf have been stunned, some claiming that it not only contains almost every nutrient the human body requires, but also has numerous medicinal benefits. Ironically, one of the things the coca leaf can be used for is treating cocaine addiction (cocagrowers.org).
Other examples of uncommon “super foods” include:
- Maca: Grown and harvested by Quechua Indians, the Maca plant provides a natural energy boost and mental stimulant, and its high quantity of amino acids benefits fertility (livestrong.com).
- Acai Berries: Found in the Brazilian rainforest, considered a powerful booster for the immune system.
- Tumeric: A plant found in South India and Indonesia that is rich in anti-oxidants. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
- Goji Berries: A long-time staple of traditional Chinese medicine, strengthening the immune system and believed to enhance defense against tumors and liver diseases. Such is the food’s mythical status that legends claim a herbalist lived to be 252 years old by eating them (revitaliseyourhealth.com).
- Cordyceps Mushroom: Another ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine, this fungus has an interesting reproductive mechanism. It invades the tissue of an insect and takes control of its hosts behavior, forcing it to climb a plant at which point spores explode from its body and infect other insects, sometimes wiping out entire colonies. Though clearly somewhat harmful to insects, it has multiple health benefits for humans, including stress relief.
- Quinoa: Another product from South America, this grain can be used as a substitute for rice or pasta, and is believed to help prevent obesity
Nutritionists are food scientists, and scientific work doesn’t occur only in the lab. Many may be inspired to follow the lead of Dr. Weston Price and see what insights can be discovered around the world, in places people never thought to look.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of Now Learning, an education portal that promotes tertiary education in Australia, including online courses in healthcare, nursing and midwifery.