A story to learn from

By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach

In this first article of the year, I want to share a true story I heard many years ago, which, to me, beautifully sums up why our diet must first and foremost comprise fresh natural produce.

In the remote Australian outback of the 1960s, a newly graduated doctor found himself serving the indigenous people on an Aborigine reserve. Despite his best efforts, a mysterious ailment afflicted the children in the community, leaving him haunted by the inability to work out what was wrong with them.

The young patients presented with alarming symptoms - unexplained bruising, severe swelling, and untreated wounds that suggested abuse. Tragically, each case ended in heartbreak as the children succumbed to the mysterious illness. Frustrated and disillusioned, the doctor decided to abandon his medical career, seeking refuge in the rugged opal mines.

Life in the mines was harsh, and he found himself an outsider among the gruff miners who distrusted his academic background. One night, the miners, fueled by resentment, unleashed their frustrations, beating him senseless and leaving him for dead.

In a twist of fate, an Aborigine woman stumbled upon the battered and unconscious doctor. Nursed by her skilled hands and a concoction of traditional bush medicines, he gradually regained his strength. It was during these moments of recovery that the woman shared a profound revelation with the once-devastated doctor.

She spoke of the detrimental impact that the arrival of white settlers had on the indigenous people's health. Along with a change in lifestyle, they became more reliant on Western foods, losing that deep connection to the land and its resources. Aboriginal people previously thrived on a diet rich in native bush foods, including Kakadu plum, quandong, bush tomatoes, and finger limes - foods without which the doctor later understood lead to a widespread deficiency in vitamin C.

This understanding came when the doctor returned to the Aborigine reserve, and serendipity intervened. Another doctor, well-versed in the ways of nutritional medicine, happened to be in the area when a young child arrived at the practice with the familiar symptoms. Consulting with the visiting doctor, they decided to administer a vitamin C injection. The child responded positively to the treatment, recovering from the debilitating symptoms that had claimed the lives of others before her. It was a breakthrough - scurvy, a condition once thought to be confined to the pages of history, had resurfaced among the indigenous children due to the drastic change in their dietary habits.

The doctor's discovery not only uncovered the vital role of vitamin C in the health of the indigenous community but also serves as a poignant reminder of the broader implications for our modern world. In a world where processed foods and dietary imbalances are prevalent, the importance of consuming a vitamin C-rich diet echoes loudly.

We often find ourselves surrounded by convenience foods that lack the nutritional depth necessary for optimal health. The consequences of this dietary shift can be seen in rising rates of various health issues, ranging from weakened immune systems to chronic diseases.

Vitamin C, a powerhouse antioxidant, plays a multifaceted role in maintaining our well-being. Its immune-boosting properties are particularly relevant in today's global landscape, where infectious diseases pose ongoing challenges. A robust immune system, fortified by an ample supply of vitamin C, is better equipped to defend against infections and illnesses.

Moreover, the collagen synthesis facilitated by vitamin C contributes to the health and resilience of our skin, a feature of paramount importance in an era where environmental stressors and lifestyle factors can accelerate the aging process.

While we may not face scurvy as a prevalent threat, the lessons from this doctor's journey underscore the significance of maintaining a balanced diet rich in vitamin C. In addition to better-known Vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, plums, and kiwi fruit, we can increasingly find Australian bush foods, like Kakadu plum, finger limes, and lemon aspen.

My story today transcends time and culture, serving as a poignant reminder that the quest for optimal health begins with nourishing ourselves with the right nutrients. Good health doesn't end with foods rich in Vitamin C but it's a good place to start, and one of the best places to find these foods is with your local greengrocer.


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