For those of you who missed last week, I am adopting my second grader’s assignment to read for 20 minutes a night. For accountability and because most of my reading is food-related I plan to blog about my reading once a week. I have to admit that I am not blogging about the book I am actually reading this week. I happen to be reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran but just can’t post my thoughts on this book the week before Thanksgiving. For something more appropriate, I  picked a book I read recently called The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller.

The Jungle Effect presents the value and wisdom of traditional diets around the world. Dr Miller chose certain areas of the world that seem to be “cold spots” for disease and examined their diets. Copper Canyon in Mexico was chosen as a cold spot for diabetes, Crete for extremely low incidence of heart disease, Iceland for low, low levels of depression, Cameroon for scant colon cancer and Okinawa as a cold spot for breast and prostate cancer.

It’s interesting to see the overlap in certain of these diets. Reading the book I also thought about my family’s traditions and the live-habits my children would adopt. Here are some of my “clippings”, as my kindle calls them, from the Jungle Effect:

“Food is a powerful medicine. After all, it is the medicine that most of us take willingly at least three times a day without skipping a dose.”
So many of us are concerned with what we shouldn’t eat. This book highlighted the foods to seek out and the importance of taking time and effort to obtain and prepare these foods.
“When cholesterol-lowering medications were compared head-to-head with a diet like the Mediterranean diet (plus 30 minutes of exercise four to five days a week) they both had similar benefits in terms of preventing heart disease.”
I don’t think many Americans would believe this to be the case. Dr Miller points out diet should at least me the first weapon used (before resorting to medication).

“Virtually every cold spot culture I discuss in this book places a huge emphasis on communal eating.”
This is so often overlooked as we fixate on what we eat, how we eat matters a great deal.

Countries with low fish consumption have highest rates of depression. Aim for 3 servings of low mercury fish per week or a fish oil supplement daily.

• Black and green tea contains numerous health benefits including anti-depressant capability. And with Thanksgiving looming have to point out potatoes are also mood boosters.

Fermented foods (such as miso and sauerkraut play an important role in many cold spot diets. Another group of foods worth considering are prebiotics. Foods containing prebiotics raise the amount of good bacteria in the gut. Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and chicory are all in this category.

The Jungle Effect also contains shopping lists from each country with native ingredients, recipes by region and cooking tips for working with some, perhaps unfamiliar, ingredients.

Learn more about the Jungle Effect at


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