Eat What We Grow

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.

More from Jackie Johnson
  • kevin

    truer words can’t be spoken… My heritage comes from the root family, the potatoe… but in a culture where we were literally raised on hamburgers for a quarter and Pop as ‘The Real Thing’… change is gonna take some doing to get back to our ‘roots’.

  • Heladio Hernandez Jr.

    Hi Jackie! Saw the newscast today @ 5 & 6 pm. & couldn’t help but respond to the fact that you & Laura are gonna enter the “run” that she got you to agree to. Good for you. Also, kudos, on your piece on the Caribbean vacation…very informative. Keep us all informed on your progress as you gear up for the big event (the “run”). As Kevin, above, mentioned changes that need to be made must first be presented in a format that would not be psychologically intrusive or overly foreign to the American psyche, but that’s just my opinion…as changes go. Anyhoo, C-ya!

  • Vince

    Must have been a good vacation. Looks like you came back engaged :( I’m heartbroken…

  • Lawrence

    When you travel outside the U.S., away from the commercialization of food, suprisingly what you eat is 10 times healthier for the simple fact that it is fresher and that meat, especially beef, is too expensive for most of the world. Also, when food becomes industrialized it becomes more of a packaged product like everything else in the western world, rather than a purposeful life activity equivalent to breathing. Yes you encounter people who seem simple with a lot less of “stuff”, but what they really have is a lot more then you expect, which you have come to realize.They are happier, loving, caring, healthier, slimmer, and outlive people without the healthcare system we are trying to ratify. Moreover, healthy food should not have to cost more and be bought at expensive “green grocery store” or overpriced pretencious farmers markets.(Don’t get me wrong, there are good ones out there though that care about fair prices and their customers.)

    Simply put, although we may be the richest country in the world (sinking quickly as we speak) we probably have the poorest health! Look around you when your out and out of ten people, count how many are obese around you. Sad.
    Keep up the godd work JJ.

  • drillsetc

    I have to agree with you. Dominica is a beautiful island with great, natural tasting food.

  • Vanessa

    This post took me back to my undergrad years. I did a summer abroad program in Antigua and visited Dominica. I agree with everything you wrote and I never looked so good and felt so healthy as I was in my 35 day stay in the West Indies. It was a simple, predictable diet that burst with flavor. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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