On to Grow On

Understanding how food production impacts ourselves and our world

29: Superfoods IV – Bok Choy, Wheat Germ, Ginger and Seaweed Transcript

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Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production that confuses a lot of people and try to get Hallie to explain it. This week we’re focusing on superfoods and we got a song.

[Superfoods song playing].

Hallie: I love it.

[Laughter].

Chris: Hallie just knocked her mic over.

Hallie: That’s how much I love it.

Chris: It’s such a great song. We’re so happy.

Hallie: I’m so excited for this song. It was made for us by a friend of mine, KC, who is an incredible scientist and science communicator out of Nashville. You can find more info about where to hire her in the show notes of this show and I am just so excited for this new song we have.

Chris: It is great. Usually, when you get a song by someone out of Nashville, you think, oh they are a musician. I want to go live in Nashville and play music. You don’t think, oh, they must be a scientist which I didn’t know.

Hallie: Yeah, she works in astronomy.

Chris: Oh, that’s so cool.

Hallie: I remember one time you were taking an astronomy class at UT when I was a child and I was a pretty young child and one time you came home and I was, dad, how was your astrology class? You got so mad at me. [Laughs].

Chris: That sounds like something I would be mad about for sure.

Hallie: Should we start the episode?

Chris: Yes, what are we talking about today?

Hallie: We’re talking about superfoods. You already said so.

Chris: I know that, which foods? Okay. I’m looking at the list now.

I see bok choy and I see note about China.

Hallie: Actually before recording this, I ran these foods by producer Catherine and spoiler alert, one of them is an actual probably cape worthy food and I asked Catherine for her perspective on which one she thought would be cape worthy and I’m gonna tell you right now, she got it wrong.

Chris: Oh, okay. What does that have to do with China?

Hallie: Oh, I forgot to put that in the outline.

Chris: [Laughs].

Hallie: You can probably cut all that stuff out.

Chris: Not going to happen.

Hallie: I wanted to quickly note. I noticed after I did all this research that three of the four foods we’re talking about today are from China and have been eaten in Eastern Asia for thousands of years and I think that’s just important to remember and notice when we talk about things that are like “superfoods”, oftentimes they are Orientalized or for some reason, exotic in ways that have a lot of racial undertones and we should think about that when we think about our food system.

Chris: Or even romanticized in some way that’s completely unrealistic.

Hallie: Yeah.

Chris: These are just foods that people eat. So people eat bok choy.

Hallie: People do eat bok choy. It’s also called Chinese cabbage. Technically, it’s a kind of Chinese cabbage. There’s other kinds of Chinese cabbage. This is one kind.

Chris: Are they all related to the cabbage that we know?

Hallie: Yeah, they are. Bok choy is Brassica rapa. The cabbage we eat is a different kind of brassica. What?

Chris: The Brassica is a rapa. Got to be some cabbage. Eat too much, you’re going to do some damage.

[Laughter].

Hallie: Keep going.

Chris: That’s all I got right now.

Hallie: That’s all you got?

Chris: Yeah.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: Does it taste bad or does it taste good? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a superfood.

Hallie: That is not even a straight line.

Chris: [Laughs]. Food and good that’s [inaudible].

Hallie: Absolutely not in New Orleans.

Chris: It’s even spelled the same. They both have ood except one of them is odd, food, good. I don’t know. Whatever. They’re close enough, come on.

[Laughter].

Hallie: You’ve knocked my wheels off of the track. Where were we?

Chris: Brassica rapa.

Hallie: So other Brassicas are in the Brassica genus.

Chris: Go on. You can do it. I believe in you.

Hallie: There is broccoli and brussels sprouts and cabbage are all a different kind of Brassica. Brassica rapa also is home to turnips. They are also basically the same species as bok choy as are rapeseed, which I think is where rapa comes from. It’s from rapeseed.

Chris: The unfortunately named.

Hallie: Yes, it’s also called canola. Technically, canola is a subset of rapeseed, but we generally call all things canola now because no one wants to put rapeseed on a can. Chinese cabbage is similar to mustard greens, both physiologically nutritionally, generally closely related, very similar to mustard greens. Originally, Brassica rapa was actually classified by the big doc himself, Carl Linnaeus.

Chris: Oh, I remember that name from plant taxonomy.

Hallie: Well, you should and also all taxonomy of all species.

Chris: Okay. Cool.

Hallie: Yeah, he’s great and he’s a big doc. We talked about him in an episode called plant taxonomy.

Chris: Right.

Hallie: He got a portrait commission of himself and his favorite flower.

Chris: That’s nice.

Hallie: No, he was just a big doc. I love talking about Carl Linnaeus, but anyways, it’s been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Originally, it is from the China region from Eastern Asia. Nutritionally in 2014, there was a CDC study that scored 47 different vegetables on nutritional density and bok choy came number two after watercress, which is the worst. I hate watercress so much.

Chris: But bok choy is high in nutrition.

Hallie: I mean, after watercress, it was a lot of different leafy vegetables. It is quite nutrient dense as is every other leafy green vegetables. It’s certainly good for you, but not as good for you as watercress.

Chris: Well, hey. Do we know of the claims around it?

Hallie: I mean, it’s a superfood, so there’s a lot of different claims. A lot of them are around like heart, which it is. All leafy greens are going to be good for your heart.

There are some claims around anti-arthritic benefits. It’s generally a superfood. We’ve seen a lot of the similar claims throughout all of the superfoods.

Chris: Anti-inflammatory.

Hallie: Yes, anticarcinogenic. It is a food that is good for you and that’s what we know.

Chris: Like all other leafy greens, moral of the story eat your salad, eat your leafy greens.

Hallie: Eat some vegetables. They have good nutrients, good minerals, lots of good folic acid.

Chris: Like all of the leafy greens, a good part of your diet not necessarily cape worthy.

Hallie: That’s what I would say.

Chris: Okay. Cool. Eat some bok choy or some spinach or some mustard greens. Go crazy or kale. That’s in the promo.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: Alright. So bok choy sounds good. It’s good in stir fry. What about wheat germ? I like that in my yogurt with fruit and chia.

Hallie: Do you know what wheat germ is?

Chris: It’s the germ of the wheat.

Hallie: Can you be more specific?

Chris: It’s the part that the wheat grows from.

Hallie: Yeah, kind of.

Chris: That’s what I got.

Hallie: [Laughs]. A wheat seed is technically called a caryopsis in differentiations of what a fruit is and caryopsis have different parts, so there is the brush, the bran, the germ and the endosperm.

Chris: That was a lot of words.

Hallie: The brush is the outside bit. Usually, brushes are developed to help carry a seed in the wind or to have it stick to an animal or something like that. Usually, we don’t really ever eat those or deal with them. They’re just kind of like hairs on the outside of the seed that carry it through so it can be planted somewhere else.

Chris: Alright.

Hallie: We have the bran, which we also do eat wheat bran. The bran itself is the outer seed coat.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: We then have the endosperm. That’s mostly what we eat, right? That’s the starchy goodness and then we have the wheat germ, which is the embryo. So that’s what a wheat germ is.

Chris: Alright. It’s baby wheat.

Hallie: We eat bran. You can buy a raisin bran. You can buy a bread with bran in it. You can buy whole grain bread, which is all of the three. We take the brush off, but it’s the other three components are all included. White bread is just made with just the endosperm. So the germ and the bran are not included.

Chris: Oh, okay.

Hallie: Is this news?

Chris: Yes, I didn’t know that.

Hallie: What did you think white bread was?

Chris: I don’t know. Just not whole grain bread. I didn’t know what whole grain bread meant necessarily. I just thought white bread was made from flour that was crushed up more than wheat bread.

Hallie: The different parts of the seed have different things in them. Right? The bran has lots of fiber. That’s why it’s good for things like raisin bran, which is touted for keeping you regular because it’s got lots of good fiber and that’s because that bran, that outer stuff, it needs a lot of fiber to protect the endosperm and to protect the germ. What? You give me a face. What is that?

Chris: Sorry. I’m thinking about wrapping vegetables.

Hallie: Oh my God.

Chris: [Laughs].

Hallie: Do you want to continue talking about that?

Chris: I don’t, but I’m just thinking of a guy in a jacket with a microphone saying, yo, I’m wheat germ.

Hallie: [Laughs]. That’s nothing. That’s not even anything. The wheat germ is the embryo of the wheat seed.

Chris: Okay. Why do people think it’s a superfood?

Hallie: I mean, seeds are good for you. It’s got lots of fatty acids. People will say the things that we’ve heard. They say that it’s anti-inflammatory, they say that it’ll help protect your heart. All the things that we hear in every superfood episode. It’s got fatty acids. It’s got zinc, magnesium, folic acid, lots of nutrients all that stuff as do other seeds. Seeds generally, nut seeds, vegetables, they’re all good for you.

Chris: Seeds are good for you.

Hallie: Eat seeds. Wheat germ is part of a seed and it has some things in there that are not bad for you.

Chris: Are we going to put a cape on them?

Hallie: Personally, I wouldn’t. I mean, it’s good food, but you can eat sunflower seeds. You eat pumpkin seeds. There’s lots of things that you can get zinc from. Folic acid is in spinach. It’s really not bringing extra stuff. It’s definitely healthy. Go for it. Eat it. Eat as much as you want. Maybe not as much as you want, but eat it.

Chris: Just don’t expect miracles.

Hallie: That’s not miracles.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: It’s not bringing anything really revolutionary to the table.

Chris: What you should do is put some yogurt in a bowl, put your chia and your wheat germ and leave it overnight, along with some fruit and that’s good stuff.

Hallie: It’s such good stuff.

Chris: We know some superfoods are kind of fake, but you know what? It’s time to go into the break.

Hallie: [Laughs].

[Background music].

Chris: That was a better rap than some of the presents that I got.

Hallie: Oh my gosh. Well, today is New Year’s Eve. It’s a new year, new friend.

Chris: New year, new friend that you can share the podcast with.

Hallie: If you can think of someone, anyone in your life that you think would enjoy the things that we talk about here, the things that we do, the raps that dad makes.

Chris: Just say, hey, check out this one podcast. I think you’re really like it. Maybe you’re talking about podcasts anyway and it’s more organic and you’re talking about all the ones you love like reply all or science versus or whatever that you listen and you’re like, oh, also there’s this one called One to Grow on. I think you’ll really like it, especially if you care about where your food comes from and you’re really interested in the history of the chestnut.

Hallie: We would also like to very much think our starfruit level patrons, Lindsay, Vikram, Mama Casey and Shianne.

Chris: Thank you all so much and to all of our other patrons for all of your support, we really appreciate it. There’s so much we can do with your support, like hosting and we’re going to do transcripts soon and all this great stuff, so thank you very much.

Hallie: We’ve got a lot coming up and your support really has meant the absolute world to us. Back to the episode.

[Background music].

Hallie: Okay. Dad, do you have a nature fact for us?

Chris: Yes.

Hallie: Hit me with it.

Chris: As we all know, there is a rapper named M&M.

Hallie: This is really showing a peek behind the curtain because we broke for the break and then I said, dad, do you have a nature fact? You said, no, I forgot. I said, okay, why don’t you look one up real fast before we record the second half of the episode?

Chris: There’s also a candy called M&M’s. M&M’s originally came in cardboard tubes. You knew that?

Hallie: Yeah.

Chris: How did you know that?

Hallie: We talked about it on the podcast.

Chris: On our podcast?

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: Wait, was this a Catherine episode?

Hallie: Yeah, we talked about it in the process food episode because we talked about how the military invented M&M’s.

Chris: I mean, they were popular with the soldiers.

Hallie: No, they were invented for the soldiers because the soldiers wanted chocolate. No, for the soldiers because they needed the candy coating for the chocolate.

Chris: Tara-tarara, nature fact. Behind the curtain nature fact. But next on the list is one of my favorite Gilligan’s Island characters ever, Ginger.

Hallie: Is that a show?

Chris: Gilligan’s Island? What do you mean is that a show?

Hallie: Is it a book?

Chris: Yes, it’s a show. I’m like 90% positive we showed it to you when you were a child.

Hallie: Why?

Chris: It’s a TV show.

Hallie: No, I mean, why do you have that memory? I don’t have that memory.

Chris: I don’t know. Maybe we didn’t.

Hallie: I don’t think so.

Chris: It’s just one of those things that I assume everyone knows about because it’s such a thing.

Hallie: I don’t know about it.

Chris: Wow. Okay. We got to fix that.

Hallie: How do you feel about ginger as a food?

Chris: I love it. I load it in my cookies. I love it in my bread. I love it in my stir fry and I love candy ginger. Ginger is good stuff.

Hallie: Do you know what ginger is?

Chris: It’s a root.

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: Buying it fresh is kind of a pain because I got to peel it or cut the peel off somehow and cut it up, but that’s all I know about it.

Hallie: Technically, it’s a specialized modified stem that is underground. It’s a storage tissue called a rhizome. The most famous rhizomes are in grasses. Grasses have rhizome. If you ever have a grass in your yard and you can go in and pull it up and it pulls up the whole little line of grass pulls up, you know what I’m talking about? That’s a rhizome.

Chris: I had no idea that it was a rhizome. I thought that was grass.

Hallie: It’s like these little runners that run along the top of the ground and this is what ginger is. We eat it. It contains gingerol.

Chris: That’s very cleverly named.

Hallie: I know. I’m assuming they named it because Ginger is the thing it appears in, but maybe the ginger name came second. Probably not. There’s several gingerols in ginger. I think there’s three. There might be more than that. I don’t know, but Gingerol-[6] or [6]-Gingerol. I don’t know the naming convention for the gingerols. It’s the main one that I was reading about. There’s a lot of different claims. Again, similar to what we’ve read in the past, anticarcinogenic, stimulates brain function, anti-inflammatory, protects your heart from heart disease.

Chris: The one I always heard about ginger was it’s good for an upset stomach.

Hallie: Yes, I’ve definitely heard that it’s good for an upset stomach. I’ve heard that it boosts your immune system.

Chris: Which is nonsense. Those are nonsense words. Do not ever believe those words unless you’re taking steroids.

Hallie: In 2014, there was a paper that was a review of [6]-Gingerol. This is where I got a lot of the information. It was a very highly cited paper and it was basically just a literature review going through and summarizing a lot of the different things that people have found with [6]-Gingerol. It has been found definitely to help soothe upset stomachs.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: Yes, it has been shown to have some small anticancer benefits that said these were animal studies, not in humans, so there is no evidence in humans. It is also known more generally to have anti-inflammatory benefits and anti-oxidation properties. The paper also had this lovely sentence that said it was a potential therapeutic agent for the prevention and or treatment of various diseases.

Chris: That sounds pretty broad though.

Hallie: I mean, the paper specifically talks about this has been an herbal medicine in East Asia for thousands of years and we’re now finding that it does in fact have general benefits for anti-inflammation. That’s generally helpful for a lot of different diseases like maladies, whatever is going on. If you’re less inflamed, it’s generally helpful. It seems quite conclusive that like, this is not a medicine. To be clear, it’s not a medicine, but it does seem like it is a food that does help the human body in ways that we don’t really have anything else with this gingerol in it that has these properties that’s able to do these things.

Chris: It’s something that normal foods don’t do. I guess that makes it cape worthy.

Hallie: I would say so.

Chris: You know what? We got a song for that too.

[Superfoods song playing].

Chris: I love that song too.

Hallie: She’s so good. Everyone should go follow KC on Instagram because she does science song Mondays where she does Instagram questions and you can send your question to her and then she’ll write a little song about the answer and it’s the cutest thing ever. It’s really, really, really, really good. Best content out there. You guys should definitely go follow KC on Instagram.

Chris: I’m going to do that.

Hallie: It’s so good, dad.

Chris: Also, Joanna, if you’re listening, start cooking with more ginger. Take care of your arthritis.

Hallie: That’s my sister.

Chris: [Laughs]. Alright. Seaweed, which is one of those things I’ve heard about being generally healthy.

Hallie: Do you know what it is?

Chris: It’s seaweed. It’s weed that comes out of the sea and maybe lakes I don’t know. I’m going to make a prediction here and say that we’re going to say it’s roughly about as healthy as bok choy.

Hallie: So seaweed is an algae.

Chris: Wait, what? Seaweed is an algae?

Hallie: Yeah.

Chris: That can’t be right.

Hallie: Why?

Chris: Because algae is the stuff that blooms on the top, not the stuff that grows from the bottom that you wrap around your sushi.

Hallie: That’s green algae that you’re thinking of. I’m speaking of brown algae.

Chris: Mind blown.

Hallie: There’s green algae, brown algae and red algae. There’s a lot of different subspecies of these three algaes. I mean, we eat all three of them. The one that we eat the most of, I would say is brown algae. It was really hard for me to find disassociated data that talked about brown algae versus green algae, which is wild because they are not that closely related. They’re quite different, but generally the seaweed green, red, and brown have all been eaten in East Asia for millennia for a long time. There are generally very broad claims that they are good for you in all the similar ways we’ve been talking about. Good for your heart, anti-cancer benefits. There are some specific claims that it helps your thyroid to function.

Chris: Interesting.

Hallie: What I found and again, I could not find a lot of desegregated data, so there might be a species or a type of seaweed out there that really is a superfood. I was not able to find one. I did find generally they have lots of good iodine as does salt, so not really very special there. No offense to seaweed.

Chris: Or salt.

Hallie: The seaweed generally also does have tyrosine, which is good for your thyroid. True. It is an amino acid that you do find in most dairy products.

Chris: So if you eat what? Cheese.

Hallie: Yeah, cheese has a lot of tyrosine. So seaweed’s not going to be bringing a ton to the table on that one.

Chris: Okay. Maybe it’s a healthier alternative for tyrosines than some other things or it sounds fine.

Hallie: Maybe. I couldn’t find any data that was confirming that the seaweed that you buy would definitely have tyrosine because there are so many different like sub species and species and genuses and families of seaweed between the three different types.

So I don’t know if all seaweed has tyrosine. I don’t know if the seaweed you’re buying definitely does have tyrosine. It seems like it’s generally healthy. It’s got lots of good minerals in it because of being in the ocean, it’s got good vitamins. It’s pretty good for you. It’s got the yummy antioxidants, which everybody is all about. They’re great, great for you.

Chris: So go eat some seaweed. Unless it’s really expensive, in which case eat some cheese.

Hallie: There was something called fucoidans, I think is how you pronounce it. It’s F-U-C-O-I-D-A-N-S. That was something on some specific species of brown algae that looked quite promising, but there was not a ton of evidence, but it looked generally promising similar to what we were talking about with ginger, where it looked like it was generally like a healthier option for specific things in terms of feeding this human flesh body that we carry around with us. Honestly, there’s not a ton of very specific data on seaweeds, so maybe possibly a cape pending, but most of it is not desegregated by species or even by genus.

Chris: We don’t get to use the song again.

Hallie: I know. Definitely not on seaweed. Seems like it’s generally a good food.

Chris: That’s super. Okay.

Hallie: I mean, it might be super, but we don’t have a lot of info talking specifically about the different kinds of seaweed and what’s in them.

Chris: Bok choy, wheat germ seaweed, all good foods, nothing super special about them, but good stuff nonetheless and ginger.

Hallie: Get you some.

Chris: Going to go get me some ginger.

Hallie: Get you some of that good stuff.

Chris: Put it in my everything.

Hallie: Some tea. Get you some in like a stir fry. That would be good. Just get it all over the place.

Chris: Play a little song. Alright. Well, that wraps it up for this superfoods.

Hallie: Send us on a rap, dad.

Chris: Okay. Yeah, Ginger, see we got German bok choy. You can eat them if you’re a girl or a boy. Going to have a salad. Going to have a stir fry. I don’t know. I’m a burger kind of guy.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: That’s going into the outtakes.

Hallie: No, absolutely not. That’s the end of the episode. Absolutely, that has to be the end of the episode.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Katherine Arjet and Hallie Cassie.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke for Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups, and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].