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Foods of the “New World”

By Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES October 9, 2015Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Columbus Day is October 12. Do you remember the song we learned in elementary school about Christopher Columbus coming to America? “The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria were sailing vessels three…” Although Christopher Columbus was not the first European to cross the Atlantic Ocean, he is often contributed with discovering the “New World,” the Americas, as he searched for a western passage to India. 1492 is often marked as the beginning date for the European exploration, settlement, and colonization of the Americas. These are probably the things you think about on Columbus Day. Something you may not think about? Food!

Columbus’s voyage led to the introduction of many new foods to Europe! When Columbus reached the Americas, the “New World” was already populated by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. These peoples ate many foods that Europeans had never seen corn (maize), tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pineapples, chili peppers, and cocoa. These foods are all native to the Americas. Before 1492 Europeans did not eat these foods.

Let’s think about that some more. Prior 1492, Italian pizzas and pastas wouldn’t have had tomato sauce. Irish meals wouldn’t have included potatoes. Swiss chocolate wouldn’t have been a sought after dessert. Foods that are now staples of European cooking didn’t exist in Europe until after Columbus’s voyage.

Not only are these foods delicious, but they are also nutritious. Here are some of the vitamins and nutrients that these foods provide:


Vitamin A, Vitamin C

White Potatoes:

Vitamin B, Zinc, Fiber


Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Potassium, Fiber


Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Fiber

All of these foods are used frequently in modern American cooking as well. Think about what you’ve eaten for your past few meals. Chances are one of these “New World” foods made it into a dish or two. This Columbus Day celebrate the native foods of the Americas by enjoying some of your favorite foods: pizza, chili, cornbread, sweet potato fries, hot chocolate, or a pineapple smoothie.

Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Author Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

Nutrition Educator Margaret Martin is a Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist in the State of Tennessee as well as a Certified Diabetes Educator. Margaret graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and received her Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science & Public Health from the University of Tennessee. With more than 10 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition, Margaret has also worked in the insurance industry with WellPoint Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield providing telephonic nutrition consultations, service assistance, and web-based nutrition education. In her free time Margaret volunteers with the American Lung Association’s annual “Lung Force Walk" in Middle Tennessee. She belongs to the Oncology Nutrition & Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Groups of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

More posts by Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDCES

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