Freakonomics Guest Explains the Health Benefits of Wild Berries and Produce

At 27:00

To think productively about our nutritional present and future, Robinson began by looking to the past.

ROBINSON: I began to compare the food that we’re eating today with the wild diet that sustained us for about 98 percent of our evolution.  And it was so very clear that over time we have greatly diminished the nutrient content of our animal products and everything that we grow. For example, the antioxidant content of wild plants varies to 2-400x greater than the domesticated counterparts that we eat today.

Robinson believes, powerfully, in the value of antioxidants.

ROBINSON: Well the word “antioxidant” can tell a lot of the story. It’s against oxidation. And oxidation is just this chemical process where a molecule grabs an electron from another molecule , which sets up this chain reaction which can cause all kinds of destruction in every cell in our body.

As Robinson writes, “Plants can’t fight their enemies or hide from them so they protect themselves by producing an arsenal of chemical compounds that protect them” — from insects, disease, harsh weather, and sunlight. And many of those compounds function — for us, when we eat them — as antioxidants. The problem is that, as a result of many years of breeding food for taste and productivity, we’ve created a menu of modern fruits and vegetables that aren’t necessarily good for us.

Berries are great – but, again the wilder, the better.

ROBINSON: There’s really nothing better for our health than wild berries. Wild berries tend to have from 2-10x more health-enhancing phytonutrients than our domesticated varieties.