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Why foraging is a healthier way to eat

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

With all the new trends in eating, from veganism to paleo to keto, there’s one that many people overlook as they try to find a healthier way of living: foraging.

What is foraging?

Ever heard of foraging? What about ‘locally sourced’ and ‘seasonally sourced’? What exactly do they mean? And how do they relate to each other? Foraging is simply looking for wild plants, fruits, and vegetables that can be eaten. It's been around since humans began walking upright. We've been harvesting wild foods that grow in our backyard for centuries.

Foraging is becoming increasingly popular as a way to have more access to locally and seasonally sourced foods. Local restaurants that get their ingredients from nature are on the rise. But why do we need to know that our food is sourced locally, and what are the nutritional benefits of foraging? This blog explores these topics, and looks at some really good reasons why foraging should be a way of life.

Foraging is NOT a new trend. Foraging is part of our evolutionary history as humans. It's only been very recently in our evolution that we have cultivated most of our food, so foraging is a natural way to obtain food. We are genetically adapted to eat foods that grow wild in nature. Foraging is one of the most ancient, and instinctive ways to find food. Animals in the wild have always been foragers, and though we as humans have attempted to domesticate ourselves, our ancestors still had to hunt, fish, and gather.

Foraging for food is a practice that's making a comeback among hipsters, locavores, and eco-conscious eaters of all stripes, with people returning to their ancestral lifestyles and discovering the many nutritional, environmentally friendly and economical benefits to be had from doing so.

Foraging can be done anywhere, from your own backyard and neighbourhood to parks, beaches, empty unoccupied plots, mountains and forests. You can forage for fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and mushrooms. Foraging is free. There’s no better way to feel connected with nature than by finding edible plants in your local environment.

Foragers often develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of their surroundings, learning how every plant grows, when it flowers and seeds, and how best to harvest them for food. You'll never see the world in quite the same way again.

The nutritional benefits of foraged foods

“Foraging for food is the original healthy eating plan,” says nutritionist and personal trainer Dr. John Briffa in his book Escape the Diet Trap. The wild food source is often more nutrient dense than cultivated foods. This is because wild foods have not been domesticated to increase their palatability or shelf life.

The nutritional value of wild foods has been well established, with a broader range of vitamins and minerals being present than in your standard supermarket vegetables. As well as this, locally sourced wild foods are generally seasonal, utilising plants and fruits that have grown locally during their natural growing season. This seasonality means food can be harvested at its freshest and peak ripeness, resulting in flavour that simply can't be beaten! Some people think it’s weird to eat weeds, but it as a choice that makes us healthier and more in tune with nature.

Foraged foods have developed their own natural defences against predators and have evolved to grow in the most nourishing environments possible. A wild food source has a strong root system that draws nutrients from deep within the earth and extracts minerals from the soil more efficiently than cultivated crops. Wild foods are also packed with antioxidants, which help to protect against environmental stressors such as pollution, UV light, pesticides and herbicides. Antioxidants also play an important role in preventing chronic diseases like cancer by fighting off free radicals that cause cell damage.

Research tells us that there is a significant decline in vitamin and mineral content as the fruit and vegetables are transported from their farm of origin to the supermarket. This is sometimes called the “depletion effect”. For example, vitamins C and E of fresh fruits degrade by over 50% within 24 hours after harvest. A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that seasonal food has up to 40 per cent more nutrients than food that’s been stored or transported over long distances. Seasonal food also has better flavour and texture, as these are naturally optimized by nature. Consuming foraged foods can benefit your skin, reduce the risks of diseases like cardiovascular disease or hypertension.

Eating seasonally means eating what grows in your area during a specific time of year. This practice is becoming increasingly popular as a way to get fresh, local food and support your community. In addition to providing produce at its peak, seasonal eating promotes biodiversity by encouraging farmers to rotate crops on their land each year rather than planting the same thing again and again.

Some advantages of foraging:
*Foraging allows for opportunities to make ourselves healthier -- the best foods are those that are least-processed, locally-sourced and full of nutrients.
*Foraging is a great way to get more vegetables into your diet. Not only are you getting the health benefits of fresh vegetables, but you can also supplement your diet with wild herbs and plants that you may not find in the grocery store!
*Foraging isn't just good for you, it's also good for the environment and overall community health.
*Foraging is an adventure that can bring families together in a meaningful, fun way. Learning how to forage is educational and empowering.
*Foraged foods are also less likely to have been exposed to artificial fertilisers and pesticides, as these are rarely used in wild areas where foragers collect plants.
The next time you take a hike through your local park or go on a run through your neighbourhood, keep an eye out for edible plants; chances are you’ll find some! 

Come join us at El Domo on a trek to nearby hilly sites and we will see what we can find in the wild. We have a camping site, early morning treks, and good for a day out as well. There is a lovely fast growing Miyawaki Forest and some Amazing Architecture Dome Houses to discover in this wild setting as well.

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