The Power of Wild Foods: A Review

No matter what foods you are looking to consume for nourishment and medicinal purposes, you will never find anything more nutritious than a food grown in the wild. What you find in the wild are often smaller and may not be as attractive. I assure you if the goal is to find the real and original food, the wild is the place to go. So much of what you see in the grocery store is not necessarily the original foods from nature. They are often the hybrid versions that may have a more appealing look and pleasant taste. You can mark my words, 100 years from now we’ll still never know or understand the complexity of phytochemistry in whole foods.

I believe there are 2 areas that food science has allowed us to have a greater understanding for what makes wild foods so essential to achieving optimal health. It is strongly believed, the synergy of these 2 categories of compounds are what may help to support the a wide range of healthy healing responses.  

The 2 areas are

  • Polyphenolic compounds
  • Essential Fatty acids

The power of Anthocyanins & Polyphenolic compounds

The one fact science has concluded is that every colorful berry has a highly nourishing amount of polyphenolic compounds which play a powerful role in their mechanisms of action. Their ability to support healthy tissue and blood vessel function provides the potential for a cascade of powerful healing effects. Flavonoids are the largest family of polyphenolic compounds.

According to a paper published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 2002, polyphenols are the most abundant of the 3 classes of antioxidants in the human diet. Known as “reducing agents” and with the help of other dietary agents referred to as antioxidants they “Protect the body’s tissues against stress and associated pathologies”. (1) Foods that contain these powerful compounds have been extensively studied for supporting cardiovascular and neurological health through their ability to support a healthy inflammation response. (2)

In a research review titled “Berries: Emerging impact on cardiovascular health” it was stated “The principal mechanisms of action underlying the potential cardio-protective effects of berries include counteracting free radical generation, attenuating inflammatory gene expression, downregulating foam cell formation, and upregulating eNOS expression; through these effects, progression of atherosclerosis is slowed and normal vascular function and blood pressure are preserved.” (3)

Black Currants

Flavonoids

Flavonoids are the largest family of polyphenolic compounds. Anthocyanins are a subclass of flavonoids and one of the key players found in black currants. The flavonoids found in black currants belong to one of two classes: the anthocyanin class or the proanthocyanidin class and black currant also contain the four main anthocyanins. Plants produce flavonoids as a protection against parasites, injuries, and harsh climate conditions.

Fatty Acids

One of the unique constituents found in black currants is a nourishing fatty acid profile. Black currants are a quality food source of GLA an omega 6 fatty acid known to support a healthy inflammation process. The oil from black currant seeds contains the following fatty acid profile.

  • 14.5% alpha-linolenic
  • 12.6% gamma-linolenic
  • 47.5% linoleic
  • 2.7% stearic acids

In a review done on blackcurrant studies titled “The health benefits of blackcurrant,” it was stated, “modern laboratories have demonstrated the potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of blackcurrant constituents on a myriad of disease states”. “The properties of the blackcurrants are conferred from its biochemical constituents, some of which include anthocyanins (specifically delphinidin-3-O-glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside), flavonols, phenolic acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids”. (3) It seems that the inflammation modulation effects of blackcurrant are directly associated with its essential fatty acid and antioxidant profile.

 

Wild Salmon

You dad was right when he told you to eat your fish because it will make you smarter. What your dad didn’t know was that fish like wild salmon which, are high in essential fatty acids (omega 3&6) do a lot more than just make you smarter. Eating fatty fish 1-2 times a week (as suggested in the Mediterranean diet) has been shown to support healthy blood flow, support blood vessel health and a healthy inflammation response (just to name a few).  

In one study discussing the importance of diet and blood vessel health, it was stated “ Broader adherence to recommendations for daily intake of fruit, vegetables, fish and fatty acid composition may take away as much as 20-30% of the burden of cardiovascular disease and result in approximately 1 extra life year for a 40-year-old individual. Promotion of a healthy diet should be given more emphasis in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.” (4)

In a review of dietary fatty acids and the aging brain, it was stated: “increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids including marine long chain omega-3 and DHA in particular, appears to offer some protection against unhealthy brain aging leading to dementia”. (5)

Finally in a paper titled “A fish a day, keeps the cardiologist away! – A review of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the cardiovascular system” it was concluded, “In view of the potential benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids on CV health, a dietary approach to increasing Omega 3 fatty acid intake is preferable.”

(6)

Sea Buckthorn

If you are under the impression that omega 3 & 6 fatty acids are the only players in this “game of health”, you are dead wrong. A very powerful fatty acid that seems to be overlooked is the omega 7’s. While there are only a small selection of foods that contain the omega 7 fatty acids (also known as palmitoleic acid) like certain fatty fish and macadamia nuts, sea buckthorn is a real superstar in this department. Sea buckthorn brings to the table not only a unique fatty acid profile (as it also contains a nice balance of omega 3,6 and 9 fatty acids) but, also naturally contains close to 200 different nutrients and bioactive substances including vitamins, phenolic compounds, fatty acids and free amino acids.

Based on the potential that omega 7 fatty acids have on metabolic function, the Cleveland clinic performed a randomized controlled human study using a purified supplement form of the omega 7’s. The purpose of this study was to see if daily supplementation could improve lipid profiles and reduce specific inflammation markers over a 30 day period. The subjects were adults with existing risk factors (overweight/obese, low or moderate levels of inflammation and abnormal lipid profiles) for both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The subjects got 220 mg of omega 7’s once daily with food or a placebo and blood work was taken at both the beginning and end of the study.

The results showed  “At 30 days, there were significant mean (95% confidence interval [CI]) reductions in CRP (21.9 [22.3 to 21.4] mg/L), triglyceride (230.2 [240.2 to 225.3] mg/dL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (28.9 [212.0 to 25.8] mg/dL), and a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (2.4 [1.5, 3.3] mg/dL) in the intervention group compared with control. These changes equated to 44%, 15%, and 8% reductions in CRP, triglyceride, and LDL respectively, and a 5% increase in HDL compared with control”. (7)

Because sea buckthorn oil contains an abundance of substances (around 200 constituents) unique to other plant based oils, this food has been researched for its ability to have multi-directional effects. A review published in the journal Lipids Health and Disease 2017, a review and breakdown was done discussing the nourishing benefits of the oils extracted from sea buckthorn. It was determined that sea buckthorn has a very unique fatty acid profile.

“Sea-buckthorn oil contains saturated fatty acids in the form of palmitic acid C16:0 (30–33 wt.%) and stearic acid C18:0 (<1 wt.%), and it has a wide range of essential unsaturated fatty acids (UFA), in particular so called PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) [12, 6163]. They include alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) C18:3 (30 wt.%), gamma-linolenic acid (omega-6) C18:3 (35.5 wt.%), linolic acid (omega-6) C18:2 (5–7 wt.%), oleic acid (omega-9) C18:1 (14–18 wt.%) and eicosanoic acid (omega-9) C20:1 (2 wt.%) [3, 12, 14, 15, 6163] (Table ​(Table2).2). Such a high content of unique gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) has a significant effect on the transport of nutrients”. (8)

Bilberries

Bilberries effects on inflammation

There are 2 specific anthocyanins (delphinidins and cyanidins) that seem to stand out in bilberry as being big players for why it may support a variety of healing responses in the body specifically on the inflammation cascade. Cyanidins have been looked at as being one of the most effective anthocyanin components as they have been shown to potentially have the greatest clinical significance of all anthocyanins. This subcomponent may also have the greatest uptake and lowest decay rate of all anthocyanins. Some of the suggested mechanisms bilberry has potentially shown to have on the inflammation cascade is possibly inhibiting proteasome activity (known to control the degradation of cellular proteins) and inhibiting nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) activation (which controls expression of genes involved in the inflammatory response).

One study on bilberries ability to reduce low grade inflammation levels with features of metabolic syndrome showed that bilberry is a food that can stand on its own. In this controlled diet intervention study the participants consumed a controlled diet or one rich in bilberries (around 400 g of fresh bilberry daily). It was found that the group who ate the bilberries saw a “decrease serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, IL-6, IL-12, and LPS concentrations” and it was therefore concluded, “Regular bilberry consumption may reduce low-grade inflammation indicating decreased cardiometabolic risk in the long term”. (9)

The food you put in your body is the fuel that drives you to optimum performance. A very common mistake that many people make is using foods which may be classified as “supplements” not like the food it actually is. If you take a stroll back in history, you will find that lost foods used by every culture on a daily basis were in fact incorporated into a person’s daily life as a part of their diet. This was the main factor that made these substances easy to use for a lifetime. People didn’t feel as if they needed to do something extra to consume them. To them it was as normal as brushing their teeth. This is exactly what I am suggesting to all of you. When you begin to use these powerhouse foods the way they were meant to be used, as food, this is when they will become a real part of your life.

By

Mike Stuchiner

Master Herbalist

References

1)Tapiero H1, Tew KD, Ba GN, Mathé G. “Polyphenols: do they play a role in the prevention of human pathologies?”. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy. 2002. Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/3/18

2)Blando F, Gerardi C, Nicoletti I. Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) “anthocyanins as ingredients for functional foods”. J Biomed Biotechnol. Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/3/18

3)Gopalan A1, Reuben SC, Ahmed S, Darvesh AS, Hohmann J, Bishayee A. “The health benefits of blackcurrants”. 2012. Pubmed.gov Sourced 7/11/18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22673662

4)Engelfriet P1, Hoekstra J, Hoogenveen R, Büchner F, van Rossum C, Verschuren M. “Food and vessels: the importance of a healthy diet to prevent cardiovascular disease.” 2010  Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/11/18   https://www.ncbi.nlm. nih.gov/pubmed/19593150

5)Greg M. Cole, Ph.D.,1,2 Qiu-Lan Ma, M.D. Ph.D.,1 and Sally A. Frautschy, Ph.D.1,2 “Dietary Fatty Acids and the Aging Brain” 2014 Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/11/18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019000/

6)Soumia Peter, Sandeep Chopra,1 and Jubbin J. Jacob. “A fish a day, keeps the cardiologist away! – A review of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the cardiovascular system”. 2013.

Pubmed.gov Sourced 4/11/18   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712371/

7)http://tersuslifesciences.com/aWmPb/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Journal-of-Lipidology.pdf

8)Aleksandra Zielińska and Izabela Nowak. 2017. “Abundance of active ingredients in sea-buckthorn oil”. Pubmed.gov Referenced 8/24/18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5438513/ 9)Kolehmainen M1, Mykkänen O, Kirjavainen PV, Leppänen T, Moilanen E, Adriaens M, Laaksonen DE, Hallikainen M, Puupponen-Pimiä R, Pulkkinen L, Mykkänen H, Gylling H, Poutanen K, Törrönen R. 2012. “Bilberries reduce low-grade inflammation in individuals with features of metabolic syndrome”. Pubmed.gov Sourced 7/26/18  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22961907