Dr. Daphne Miller’s new book, The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest Diets from Around the World—Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home, makes a case for a simple, limited diet. Miller introduces readers to the some of the world’s healthiest cuisines—traveling to Iceland, Okinawa, Crete, rural Mexico, and Africa. While these cuisines vary, Miller explains that they’re rich in “slow-release” indigenous foods, which makes them “antidiabetic.”
Nutritionist and blogger Monica Reinagel noticed something else about the cuisines mentioned in The Jungle Effect: They’re all composed of very few ingredients. “A unifying concept that Dr. Miller didn’t mention is that all indigenous diets are composed of a relatively small list of foods. In most cases, about two dozen foods provide 95% of the calories—in some cases, fewer than a dozen!” she writes.
Reinagel believes that there are advantages to a varied diet—such as the increased range of nutrients it provides and the limited exposure to toxins in certain foods—but she also sees Miller’s point: “[S]ome of these indigenous cultures remain in enviably good health on a diet of two or three vegetables, one source of protein and one or two kinds of grain. It makes you think, doesn’t it?”
Well, it’s making me think about my deliciously varied dinners this week, a sampling of Egyptian, Italian, French, Vietnamese, and Moroccan fare. Plus, I’m cooking up some Southern food for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, and I’m hoping that the birthday party I’m attending on Sunday will have a Cinco de Mayo–inspired Mexican menu.
Certainly, a diet that involved nothing but my 24 favorite ingredients would make food shopping easier, but would it feel like a huge sacrifice? I can’t help but contemplate Reinagel’s question, “If you had to choose just two dozen foods to make up your entire diet for a week, what would they be?”