Jungle-icious

Posted on June 11, 2011

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I just finished Daphne Miller’s book, The Jungle Effect and suggest anyone who takes an interest in nutrition, diet and wellness should read it.

Here’s a sneak preview:

  • Daphne is a US-based doctor who after years of seeing countless cases of chronic illness and weight gain decided to try to get to the dietary root of these illnesses instead of just treating them with the latest drugs
  • Part travelogue, part nutrition advice, part cookbook, Daphne is a curious soul, passionate about unearthing the meanings behind cold spots i.e. places where illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and depression are disproportionately low
  •  She embarked on a world tour to discover where these cold spots are and what the key ingredients, recipes and cooking methods of the locals are
  • From Copper Canyon in Mexico to Cameroon in West Africa, Iceland to Ireland, her research showed resolutely that local diet plays a key role in these cold spots. She recycles the indigenous diets into advice that is practical and palatable and a lifestyle that is cool and comfy
  • She dispels the notion that genetics play a significant role in our weight and our likelihood of getting certain diseases and she claims there are four common features of all successful diets around the world:
  1. Consuming local grains
  2. Using spices
  3. Eating fermented foods
  4. Communal eating
  • She suggests also that foods are more than the sum of its parts, that each dish is symbiotic so you must eat the entire foods, cooked in a certain way and not just certain elements. Olive oil for example is a super food only when combined with a true Mediterranean diet … which, by the way, is not oil-laden antipasti from the deli but rather Cretan oils, local cheeses and wild greens

Miller is the Sherlock Holmes of healthy eating and this book is a fascinating romp that takes you around the world and enables you to embrace the dietary secrets of these cold spots to minimise your risk of countless diseases.

Of course, the greatest error a reader might make is to misinterpret her advice in our worlds of fast-food, trans fats and home delivery and believe that the benefits of a Mexican diet can be sought at the local Taco Bell or by sipping mojitos on Ladies Night. Unfortunately this is not the case!

Instead, learn from Okinawa, Japan to reduce the risk of cancers and include shiitake mushrooms, yams and soy in its natural form.

Learn from Cameroon, West Africa to reduce the risk of bowel cancer by eating high-fibre plantains and maize.

Look to Iceland, where depression rates are astonishingly low and see that their diets are hugely high in omega 3 intake …

The list goes on and on but you get the idea.

Read and digest … at worst it’s just an enjoyable yarn and at best, it might just save you from destination disease.

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