In Search of Species Variety in My Diet

So this summer has been insane. I am currently working two jobs, so I haven’t been able to post much, but I wanted to update you all on some things that have been on my mind lately.

Most of us eat much less variety than we think we do. Based on what research you read the exact numbers may vary but one study found that only just 15 crop plants make up 90% of the world’s energy intake. Moreover, just 3 crops (rice, maize, and wheat) provide 60% of the world’s energy intake. In fact many of the common vegetables we eat are all varieties of the same species. 

Take Brassica oleracea, for example. This single species has been cultivated into so many different subspecies and varieties that it includes many crops, including:

  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kohlrabi

So why is this a problem? Historically, humankind has eaten about 80,000 different species as food sources. We have severely limited our options in recent centuries, and this is a problem from both a nutrition and a sustainability standpoint. 

So I’ve decided to do an experiment. On September 7th I’m going to be starting the whole30. Some of you may be familiar with this program, essentially I’m committing to eating a real food, primal diet low in sugar and high in micronutrients for a month. I’m going to add an additional challenge for myself, though. I want to see how many species I can include in my diet over that month. Here are some ways I’m considering adding more variety into my food:

  1. Eating wild foods: much of the variety in our diets was lost with the introduction of cultivated foods that allowed us to depend on a few staple foods. Going back to wild foods could help me find new foods to introduce into my diet. Foraging can be time consuming, but it could be really beneficial in bringing some new foods into my life.
  2. Eating traditional foods from other cultures: there are plenty of foods available as imports that I wouldn’t normally consider. Eating locally is important to me, so I plan on only using this source in moderation.
  3. Eating spices: there are so many spices available – and this way I also get to try some new flavor combinations!
  4. Drinking herbal teas: we have many herb species growing on our farm that I’ve never tried. Borage, bee balm, and Angelica are all herbs that can be grown locally that I could try!

One of the biggest difficulties I expect to have with this challenge is the fact that I am not going to eat any grains. This will limit some potential species but I still think I can get a decent number in. Have any of you ever tried a challenge like this? What do you do to include more variety in your diet?

3 thoughts on “In Search of Species Variety in My Diet

  1. Hello. I tried to DM you on Twitter, but of course you’re not following me (yet). I do a podcast at Eat This Podcast, and I wondered whether you had thought of doing an audio diary while you do your experiment. Or whether we could talk briefly fairly often, which I could then edit into an episode. I think it would be really interesting.

  2. Pingback: In Search of Species Variety in My Diet | living on a green thumb | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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