Wild Foods Consumption
People considerably underlook wild food consumption when addressing the poor health epidemic. Lack of biodiversity in modern diets, especially the diets available to those living in poverty, is the main reason people have too few micronutrients and other key nutrients in their diet, which leads to an unnecessary number of preventable diseases and death.

The Maya nut is one of the lesser-known wild forest foods. Found in Ramón trees native to the rainforests of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Maya nut is extremely versatile in its uses and benefits. The Maya nut receives praise for its nutritional value, but people also stigmatize the wild food due to it once having been a staple food in severe times of poverty. Regardless of the association, what is important to note is that the Maya nut is a wild superfood with massive nutritional and health benefits for all people regardless their class status.

Versatility and Sustainability

Some of the micronutrients that one can find in the Maya nut in abundance include calcium, fiber, potassium, iron and zinc; these are all crucial and critically nutrients lacking in most diets across the globe. A nutrient-dense diet is even less accessible to those living in poverty: a propeller of the cycle of poverty when considering that a poor diet is the leading cause of future health issues.

People can consume the Maya nut in a variety of ways, such as fresh, dried or even roasted. The entire plant is useful in that the sap is medicinal, people can eat the seed or pit or they can mill it into flour (similar to the avocado). Individuals can also chop the branches into firewood. Unfortunately, less than 5 percent of the modern diet of local communities includes the Maya nut because communities do not support it.

Wild Foods and Forest Conservation

Research shows that an increase in the consumption of these types of wild forest foods could be a mutually beneficial enterprise with respect to forest conservation and the people that inhabit those communities suffering from deforestation. Satellite evidence shows that communities that are cultivating the threatened plant species are experiencing lower deforestation rates than areas that are not accessing and consuming the versatile Maya nut. The leading cause of deforestation in the world is food production and the practices by which humans manufacture food, so this is a great place to start when analyzing the world’s environmental crisis. Environmental benefits of the consumption of the Maya nut include the planting of trees, as opposed to their removal.

How to classify the Maya nut in terms of its wildness is controversial since it is notably a wild food but growers have since started to grow it intentionally. Wild edible species are technically plant groups that people do not cultivate willfully. While some grow it deliberately (the Maya Nut Institute is responsible for much of this), the Maya nut does continue to grow without human intervention in certain rainforest areas; just not enough to keep it from being on the verge of extinction.

Looking to the Future

One Ramón tree has the ability to produce up to 200 kg of food per year. Living for more than 100 years, this plant has the potential to outturn upwards of 20,000 kg of food in its lifetime. And not only that, but the Maya nut can last up to five years (if dried and stored properly) and will maintain its nutrient properties in full value. In terms of world hunger, wild foods can only help improve current circumstances. Wild food consumption could be a part of the solution to help reduce global poverty, hunger and deforestation all at once.

The protection of wild foods, wild foods consumption and overall accessibility to wild foods in poor communities is a global issue that people must address. Emphasis placed on education, awareness and accessibility could help increase wild food consumption. Others should make the indigenous people in areas where the Ramon trees flourish and provide ample food for the community aware of the plant and its benefits.

– Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr


Working with indigenous and small communities to obtain eco-friendly, organic and healthy superfoods for their clients is Essential Living Foods’ goal.

This company works directly with farmers around the world in order to get the quality products it offers to its costumers. At the same time, the company is bringing sustainability to its farmers.

Essential Living Foods’ global trade partnerships support farmers’ sustainability and development. The company donates one percent of its profits to the communities and farmers that supply them with superfood products.

According to the Essential Living Foods website, the company’s mission is to “improve the health of the planet, its people and their communities.”

Dedicated to fair and ethical business practices, Essential Living Foods also works to maintain a healthy work environment for its partners and employees.

Part of its vision of a healthy and sustainable environment is to have eco-friendly packaging that produces zero waste in its products. This packaging goes hand-in-hand with the company’s mission to improve the planet, people’s lives and communities’ health.

Cardboard, glass, tin and plastic are some of the materials that the company uses to package its products. For example, its cardboard boxes are made of 100 percent recycled materials. It also uses recyclable and resealable bags that keep the freshness of its superfoods, as well as reusable tins made from recycled steel that help maintain the company’s powdered products.

As if that were not enough, in order to label its products, the company uses soy, vegetable and water-based inks that help make the packaging recyclable.

As mentioned before, Essential Living Foods donates one percent of its profits to the indigenous communities that provide them with their products. This is done through the “One Percent for the Planet” organization membership, in which each member donates at least one percent of their annual profits to different causes.

A member of One Percent for the Planet since 2008, Essential Living Foods has collaborated with this cause to improve lives and protect the environment, expand and support their philanthropic causes and continue providing its customers with quality superfoods.

Among the products that Essential Living Foods offers are cacao bars, goji berries, smoothie mixes, trail mixes, protein concentrates, peanut butter and almond butter.

Customers can shop Essential Living Foods products by ingredients, by function or by nutrients. Ingredients encompass cacao, berries and fruits, nuts and seeds, oils and butters, salt and olives, among others. For function, the company divides its products into sections such as energy, cleanse/detox, balance, skin, immunity, appetite/metabolism, healing and rejuvenation. Some of the nutrients offered to clients are antioxidants, fiber, protein, magnesium and selenium, among others.

Besides providing healthier and organic superfoods products for their costumers, Essential Living Foods is a company that is also dedicated to creating and improving the health of the planet, the people and communities around the world. It does this through fair and ethical business practices as well as donations that help improve lives and protect the environment.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Essential Living Foods 1, Essential Living Foods 2
Photo: The Appropriate Omnivore

New Brazilian Superfoods Fight HungerRIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Ten years ago Brazil began working towards food security improvements, specifically providing Brazilians with biofortified “superfoods”.

Today, this work has come to fruition with eight biofortified foods accessible in fifteen municipalities as part of a pilot study.

The project originated from the need to prevent micronutrient deficiencies with the government taking appropriate action. Ailments of nutritional deficiency include anemia, blindness, and fatigue, among other symptoms.

What nutrients will cure these ailments? The micronutrients that the project aims to condense include iron, zinc, and vitamin A. These nutrients are lacking in Brazil, much like the rest of Latin America. According to Marilia Nuti, a biofortification coordinator, “Iron is key. Half of Brazil’s children suffer from some degree of iron deficiency.” Iron deficiency can also impair child development, both physically and cognitively.

In place to mimic the average Brazilian diet, the superfoods consist of rice, beans, black-eyed peas, cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and wheat.

In order to create more nutritious foods scientists must choose seeds that display traits most important for nutrition. When a seed demonstrates its benefit it will be used to breed stronger food with the best possible qualities.

So what makes these new foods superfoods? The iron content of beans nearly doubled from 50 to 90 milligrams of iron per kilogram. Beta-carotene, the most important carotenoid of vitamin A, jumped from 10 micrograms (mcg) per gram to 115 mcgs/g. In rice, a major staple crop, the zinc content was increased from 12 milligrams to 18 milligrams per kilo.

Yet, after all this biofortification, Brazil is still in its trial stage and what happens in the municipalities determines the path that food security policy will take in the future.

Itaguai, one of the municipalities, must prove the health benefits of the biofortification within the pre-school lunch program. For this particular municipality sweet potatoes are grown and are incorporated into the 13 preschools in Itaguai, reaching 8,000 students.

At the height of the project, local farmers will be trained and integrated into the program, providing students within the municipality more nutritious meals.

But the country isn’t looking to drastically improve Itaguai; the project is instead aimed at Brazil’s poorest municipalities. If the results come back positive, implementation will begin in the areas needing the most help.

To understand if the pilot was a success, the country will begin assessing its impact next year by measuring and comparing the health of those who consumed superfoods with those who did not.

Michael Carney

Sources: The Guardian, International Atomic Energy Agency

Photo: Flickr