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Eat What We Grow

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(credit: Jackie Johnson/CBS)

(credit: Jackie Johnson/CBS)

(credit: CBS) Jackie Johnson
Jackie Johnson joined CBS 2/KCAL 9 in October 2004. She serves as...
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On my summer vacation to the Caribbean, I got a very good reminder about nutrition and how important it is to eat natural foods.

I stayed a few weeks on an Island called Jumby Bay, right off Antigua….a beautiful tropical paradise in The West Indies. When I asked for coconut water, they would cut a coconut out of a tree, chop a hole in the top, stick a straw in it and viola, I was drinking coconut water. Everything I ate was like that. I swam in the clear, warm waters and rode my bicycle everywhere. Relaxed, read a book. It felt like pure health.

But my most important lesson was learned when we took a 2 day, Eco Adventure side-trip to The Nature Island, Dominica. We stayed in a tree house in the jungle. No tv or ac. Hiked the rainforests. Swam in The Emerald Pool. Ate the local food and made friends with The Caribs.

This beautiful, mostly untouched island, was so lush with green vegetation. Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs growing everywhere. All growing in chemical free, nutrient rich volcanic soil. Most everyone walked instead of driving to their destinations. Rivers were clean enough to drink from, and the air so clear. It was breathtaking.

I started to learn a lot from our very knowledgeable Dominican guide, Grenage Lanquedoc. He is a native of Dominica, and spoke 4 languages. He was a wealth of information….excited and proud of his land, as he should be. He told me that they are trying to get Dominica recognized for having the oldest person to ever live. Elizabeth (Ma Pampo) Israel was considered to be 128 years old when she passed away. Dominica (also known as The Isle of Longevity), has an extremely high rate of centenarians per capita. That means a heck of a lot of people live to be at least 100. Along with being a happy, active, loving and stress-free sort of culture, they are obviously doing something else right…. they also have an extremely low rate of people seeking medical care.

When I asked the guide what he thinks their secret is, he quoted their oldest woman, Ma Pampo, who said “We eat what we grow”. Simple. So well said. Something that should be common sense, but so easy to forget.

Everywhere I looked on their island, there was something growing that was healthy to eat or useful for healing or enhancing your senses. There were fields of lemon grass growing in the sunlight. And like everything on the island, something as simple as Lemongrass has so many uses. It can be rubbed onto the skin as a natural astringent and/or bug repellent. Simply smelling it can relieve nausea, headache and motion sickness. Boiling it in water and drinking it as tea can help settle the stomach, relieve stress, cure colds, help with weight loss and aid in digestion, just to name a few. Many studies are now suggesting it could even be a major player in the fight against cancer.

It seemed everywhere I trekked on this island, there was a leaf or a tree that can be used as a food, drink or all-natural cure for just about everything. I loved tasting all the fresh fruits and vegetables, learning about their culture and just being immersed in nature. And it helped me bring back that important reminder I can share with you all: Eat what we grow. Our bodies and land will thank us.

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