What if I told you that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was a marketing tactic used by the apple industry to promote a fruit that nobody wanted to eat?

What if I told you that the apples you eat aren’t actually apples? And that if you had access to real apples, you probably wouldn’t eat them?

All of this is true, yet the truth in health and fitness is rarely brought out of the shadows.

Say this with me: There are whole foods, but no Whole Foods.

This will all start to make sense as we work through this mind-spinning topic.

But before we get to apples, let’s talk about lies and myths in general, namely the lie that you should be eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

What does “fruits and vegetables” mean?

There are up to 10,000 different species of plants that are readily eaten under normal conditions around the world.

One of the best kept secrets in nutrition is the concept of “nutritional diversity.” Rather than focusing on the quantity of plants you eat, you should focus on the quality (nutrient density) and the variety. That promotes real health.

In order to do that, you must understand what you’re eating and what’s available to you. Otherwise, you box yourself into eating a plethora of low-quality plants from the same species (almost certainly what you’re doing right now).

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m suggesting that you’re eating low quality plants. You’re trying to eat healthy, you’re choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables, you shop at Whole Foods—what’s the problem?

Do you remember me saying that there are up to 10,000 species of readily consumed edible plants on the planet? How many of those do you think make it to your local Whole Foods?

On any given shopping trip, you’re choosing from 20 to 30 species of plants. And if you don’t know what those different species are, your selection of plants may all be from a single species.

Let’s say you load up your cart with cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, kohlrabi and Chinese kale. Such diversity! A huge win, right?

Actually, there’s no diversity there whatsoever. All of those plants are from the same species. That’s a problem.

Don’t worry, the story gets worse.

Those plants you’re choosing aren’t “natural foods,” as advertised.

The real food movement is in full swing. People are realizing the power of going back to eating “natural” foods—whole foods.

A note before we continue: what I’m about to tell you can easily make you want to throw up your hands and say, “I give up.” For now, just consider this “educational.” I’m not saying you have to immediately make more adjustments to your lifestyle. But there’s value in knowing the truth.

Here’s the deal: the fruits and vegetables you eat today, primarily, are not natural. They’re not even close to natural.

The meat you eat today is not natural, either. We’re told by Whole Foods (and others) that they’re focused on supplying these “natural” and “healthy,” “whole” foods.

What they’re really supplying you with is a minimal choice of heavily domesticated, genetically selected plants. The meat they’re supplying you with is also genetically selected, heavily domesticated, and from a very narrow species window.

The domestication of plants and animals marked the death of nutritional potency and diversity.

To be clear, this discussion has nothing to do with hating the idea of not eating natural foods. It has everything to do with the decline of human health.

Hippocrates famously said, “let food be thy medicine.” Most people think that shifting back to eating “real food” is a great way to abide by Hippocrates’ suggestion.

It is. But at the same time, it isn’t.

Only truly natural food can be thy “medicine.” Domesticated foods aren’t medicine because their potency has been dramatically reduced through the domestication process.

This is especially true with plants. A good rule of thumb is that bitterness is positively correlated with nutritional value (this is not an absolute. It’s a rule of thumb. If you don’t know the difference, don’t leave a comment).

Nutritional plants are bitter so you won’t eat too much of them. And because they’re so potent, you don’t need to eat a lot to get the medicine.

You can sit down at Whole Foods and eat a gigantic bowl of salad full of domesticated lettuce. You’d be hard pressed to sit down and eat a bowl of dandelion.

100 grams of Dandelion has over 10,000 IU of Vitamin A while your precious iceberg lettuce hovers somewhere around 500 IU.

In fact, Dandelion trounces all domestic lettuce in nearly every important micronutrient category.

Dandelion trounces a lot of things. It has seven times the phytonutrient content of spinach, yet it’s sprayed down as a menace while we fight tooth and nail with chemical and economic warfare to keep lettuce alive on modern farms.

You can’t eat a lot of dandelion because it’s quite bitter and bitterness isn’t desired in today’s food culture. It’s also not desired by your brain. We’d much prefer to eat foods that taste sweeter. Or, at least, not bitter.

We’ve achieved this flavor manipulation through our system of agricultural domestication, which affords us the opportunity to make genetic selections in the breeding process.

Over time, we take natural, wild foods and make them much more palatable (and larger). But we’re not just changing the flavor, we’re changing the entire nutritional profile. And we’re creating foods that can’t survive without us.

We do the same with meat. Most people hardly eat wild game anymore. And even the domesticated cow, which is still decent when fed a diet of grass, is knocked down ten more notches when we pump it full of hormones and feed it grain.

What’s prized in beef? Marbling (occurs from grain feeding). Mild flavor. Less “gaminess.”

Animals are genetically selected and bred to produce meat we prefer to eat because our own domestication process has softened us. If you haven’t noticed, humans are doing a wonderful job of domesticating themselves.

Along with cows, pigs and chickens are both domesticated, un-natural animals. And like cows, both eat un-natural diets. Chickens are supposed to eat bugs. Yours eat corn and soy.

Wild game and wild plants trounce their domesticated counterparts in all aspects of nutrition. We need to eat more calories (and more sugar) in a domesticated diet to give our bodies what we need. It turns out that has severe consequences.

Don’t worry, it gets worse.

Have you ever wondered why we need to spray our foods with pesticides?

Natural foods are hardy. They survive on their own. In fact, our domesticated society has to work to keep these plants in check when they get too close to our societal boundaries.

If you planted wild cabbage in your front yard, it would take over everything without a care in the world. We have to purposefully kill fields of dandelion because they will continue to spread and overtake our “real” plants.

Now contrast that with domesticated plants. Farmers have to be like plant doctors. They have to treat the land a special way, they have to coddle the plants, they have to protect the plants from insects and weeds, and they have to provide water from external sources. Domesticated plants are delicate. They’ll never threaten to overgrow and steal more position.

To produce shiny plants that are clean and appealing in Whole Foods, we spray them with chemicals and genetically engineer them to last longer after they’re picked and on their own.

Organic doesn’t mean “natural.” Organic means that this un-natural, delicate, domesticated plant had even more coddling from the farmer so that the harsh pesticides could be avoided.

That doesn’t mean organic is bad, I just don’t want you to be confused. You should still buy organic because you don’t want the pesticides, but don’t think that organic means “natural.”

The entire “food” supply is a farce.

Even if you try really hard to eat healthy, everything you eat is domesticated. It’s less nutritious, requiring you to eat more calories and more sugar overall.

Remember, this is just for educational purposes. Success is a scale. I’m telling you that it’s REALLY hard to be a 10. The good news is that you don’t have to be a 10.

Right now, most people are a 2. You can easily get to a 6 or 7 with basic adjustments and have a body and life you love. With a little extra effort you can be an 8 or 9 and supercharge that.

But it only takes a few pictures to tell the story of our bogus food supply. Compare the wild version of each food with the domesticated version. Could you even recognize the wild version if you came upon it? And rest assured, the taste and nutritional profile is about as different as the appearance.

Apples

wildvsnatural-apples
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You would never eat the apples on the left. They’re only “good” for making cider. The apples on the right, which you’re told to eat every day for “health,” are not natural. They’re large, less nutritious, and have exponentially more sugar.

Bananas

banana
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Have you ever seen that thing on the left? It’s like alien food, isn’t it? Look how pretty and big the bananas on the right are!

Celery

celery
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If you were out in the wild, would you be able to spot wild celery?

Rice

rice
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Wild rice has less carbs, more fiber, and more nutrients. White rice has to be “enriched” to provide nutrition.

Strawberries

strawberries
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Would you recognize a wild strawberry? Look how big and shiny the one’s on the right are. Definitely not “natural.”

Asparagus

asparagus
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Similar…but very different.

Cabbage

cabbage
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How did cabbage get so pretty?

Pork

pig
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Fatter, less able, practically hairless, wowzers.

Broccoli

broccoli
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A lot of the foods we consider “natural” like oranges, broccoli, and cauliflower are virtually unknown in the wild. Onions, garlic, scallions, leeks and all other “alliums” are all hybrids of the wild onion and garlic plant.

Remember “food be thy medicine?” Wild lettuce is a narcotic. All the lettuces bred from that? Not so much.

What you should do with this information…

Learning that the entire food supply is a farce can be quite a depressing thing. Or, it can be motivating and inspiring.

Learning about actual food and reconnecting with food and nature is enlightening and empowering. When you learn about what real food actually looks like, you have a clear answer to the question, “What should I be eating?”

The answer to that question also answers “How much?” and “When?” automatically.

When you learn about what real food actually looks like, you see right through concepts like Veganism, Vegetarianism,  and Fruitarianism, which are ways of eating that are only afforded to modern culture because of domestication and a very *un-natural* agricultural system.

Again, my intention isn’t to have you obsess over this stuff. It’s just educational. By no means are you going to fail if you don’t implement this information. But this is fascinating stuff, isn’t it? How do you feel about it?

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Comments

  • Kevin…great article! This is as I tell my clients, “level 3 stuff” haha. Given that you know this information though, I’m curious as to what steps if any, you take to incorporate more wild foods into your diet?

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Great question Zach. Truthfully, nothing so far. Though I’ve set two goals:

      1) Work more toward incorporating wild game for protein.
      2) Learn about simple foraging and making it a point to find some wild foods in my area. While I don’t think I’ll be going out specifically on food expeditions, I think it would be something fun and new when I go hiking, for example.

      My goal has never been to be perfect. I don’t care to eat perfect or look perfect, but I’m fascinated at the state of our food supply and want to report on it as much as possible for educational purposes.

      Hope that makes sense.

  • Mike says:

    Great thought provoking post Kevin.

  • Evan Brand says:

    Yeah, apples are nuts… Almost all modern food is nuts..

    The problem is, even with organic foods, who knows what the mineral content of that soil is.. and when you see organic leafy greens that have been “triple washed”, you can assure that the majority of the minerals including magnesium and zinc have been washed off.

    Even rain washes zinc off leafy greens.

    Unless you grow the stuff yourself, you’re gonna need mineral supplements.. I just figured out the lines in my nails were partly due to low zinc. I failed the zinc taste test.

  • Trudy says:

    Wow! Here I was thinking organic was good for me… granted, still better than all the processed stuff but not truly what I should be eating. I never would have known any of this if you hadn’t posted this piece. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Glad you found this helpful Trudy. Just to clear things up…not saying that there’s anything wrong with organic—it’s still a great thing—it just needs to be put in context 🙂

  • Kate says:

    Great article. I’ve been a gardener most of my life, but a few years ago I found out about permaculture and food forests and started learning more about foraging. One of the main things I’ve learned is that soil health is key to everything. It’s where all those edibles we grow get their nutrients from, so if it’s deficient then so too will be your harvest. It’s not enough to grow without chemicals although that’s a great start. There are a lot of plants out there that are edible but in our modern commercially produced food system they’ve been pushed aside which is too bad since they are generally very easy to grow, high in necessary vitamins and minerals, and come back year after year on their own. Dandelions are a perfect example…just a bit of knowledge about when they taste best (early spring when they are very young) is the difference between a great taste experience and something most people would find inedible. My goal is to be able to forage all over my yard 🙂

  • Steve says:

    It makes sense to me that we should eat what we think tastes good. Therefore, it also makes sense to me that we should not eat what we think tastes bad. I would say that’s a very effective defense mechanism. I don’t like bitter foods, I can’t stand them. I won’t eat them.

    It makes no sense whatsoever to have to force myself to eat something that I don’t like. Wouldn’t that be a design flaw? Food should taste good, not bad. It should smell good, not bad. If food smells bad, don’t eat it. If food tastes bad, don’t eat it. (I’m aware that both taste and smell are subjective).

    Because of our modern food engineering, we can make food taste and/or smell just about any way we want, and this does not necessarily make it healthy or unhealthy for us. So my comments are limited to plants and animals that haven been minimally processed – what we would typically define as a healthy, whole-foods, minimally-processed, nutrient-rich diet.

    Many people do not like the taste and/or texture of vegetables. I am one of those people. Name one nutrient that exists solely in vegetables that we can’t get from meat, dairy, fruit or nuts – you can’t.

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Hi Steve,

      I think you might still be suffering a bit from the amount of manipulation our food supply has undergone.

      In Asia, there are many delicacies that Americans would never touch…that many wouldn’t even consider to be “food.”

      How is this possible? It’s possible because you’re normalized to certain things.

      You can’t grow up on a Standard American Diet and say, “humans don’t like the taste of those bitter foods or the texture of those vegetables and therefore shouldn’t eat them.” You don’t like them because you’re normalized to processed, hyperpalatable food products.

      And as I explained in the article, they’re bitter so that you don’t eat too much of them as they’re highly potent. A forager wouldn’t have the luxury of saying, “that’s too bitter, I won’t eat it.” You have that luxury because of modern agriculture—you’re not at risk of starvation.

      The facts demand context. You’re giving your opinion about your food preferences out of context, because you live in and likely grew up iin a manipulated environment…

      • Steve says:

        Why don’t many children like vegetables? My son is 3 and I still can’t get him to eat his veggies. Why is that? He’ll eat just about anything else we put in front of him, but he won’t touch a vegetable. Is he the only toddler like this? Not by a long shot.

        I’m not saying that all humans dislike vegetables and/or bitter foods – but many do. How many people like the taste of black coffee? Sure, quite a few people do, but most do not. What about 100% chocolate? Most people do not like pure chocolate, it’s too bitter for them.

        We all live in various geographic meridians, and our diets reflect that. What is the norm for one is strange or disgusting to another. But that still does not take away from what you find tasty (provided that you are once again normalized to what I deem “real” food).

        Why make yourself eat food that you do not enjoy, when there is no purpose? There are no nutrients exclusive to any one specific food group – we can thrive on anything, provided our nutritional needs are being met.

        As for myself, I live in Costa Rica. I get most of my food from the farmer’s market. I don’t like most processed/packaged food, as the flavors are too strong and/or salty. My own diet consists largely of meat, dairy, fruit and nuts, very little processed foods. I would say that my diet is rather normalized to what nature provides for us, and I still do not like (nor eat) most vegetables and bitter foods, but my own situation is irrelevant to the discussion.

      • Kevin Geary says:

        And I suppose more evidence Steve, is the fact that I watch people go from saying things are “too bitter” like spinach or dark chocolate, to greatly enjoying them after they commit to eating real food and avoiding hyper-palatable processed foods and afford themselves time for taste-buds to regenerate.

      • Kevin Geary says:

        You’re still giving your opinion about food from the context of growing up in a manipulated environment. Children don’t like vegetables because 99% of them eat sugary baby cereal at 6 months old, drink “juice,” and eat candy.

        Your argument is like saying, “cars are a crappy form of transportation” when you’re standing on the moon. Yes, on the moon they are…but on Earth where they were made to be used, they’re quite effective.

        Unless you grew up in a non-manipulated environment, your reality about real food is only one of manipulated context.

  • Nathan says:

    Great thought-provoking post, Kevin. I’ve just discovered your work (thru your great post re: vaccines on Medium.com) and I’m liking what I’m seeing, your apparent libertarian viewpoint particularly. Combine that with your nutritional focus and we are apparently very much of the same ilk.

    I’ve only relatively recently awoken to the fact that we’ve been fed so much misinformation about nutrition over the last 50-ish years (or more) and have focused even more on eating “real” food. Your thoughts on this are indeed very interesting.

    And just very recently I have taken that further in thinking about eating foraged foods. I live in a rural location that is semi-wooded and anticipate being able to find lots of things to enhance my diet, on my own land and nearby.

    A great source of info in this area that I’ve only recently started following is Daniel Vitalis and his Rewilding website (danielvitalis.com). I’ve got a lot more to learn, for sure.

  • Shawn says:

    I’ve known for a few decades now about our depleted soils and the lack of nutrients in even our best organic produce. I’ve also known that the seeming “variety” of food in our markets is an illusion and that genetically speaking we do not get much variety at all.

    Even though I’ve known (or maybe because I’ve known) all of that for a long time, this article depressed me.

    I liked the honest answer you gave, Kevin, when you said you have not yet done much of anything to fix this situation for yourself. I’m not sure what the typical person can do about this situation.

    But it begs the question…if our food is depleted of nutrients, where are they getting the nutrients to put in the little pills and tablets that we take to fill in the nutrition gaps? When food can no longer be our medicine, what is left for us?

    • Steve says:

      Depleted soils and lack of nutrients would only apply to minerals, as plants synthesize vitamins. They pull minerals from the soil, but they make vitamins.

  • mhikl says:

    It is rare to find a great new site anymore, as I have studied, culled and collected the finest sites over the years. I am not just talking ‘good’ sites, that are plentiful but repetitive. I am talking original, well written and thought provoking sites that challenge taught assumptions.
    Mr Dandelion and other rough vegetables shall be allowed in my garden when I move this summer to BC. I do eat the most nutritious foods whilst eliminating empty calories, grains and legumes but I know I have to do better; and it is from the knowledge of those who think and study beyond the herd that our understanding can grow.
    Namaste and care,
    mhikl

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