A New Twist on Our Ideas About Health, Food and Nutrition
Note to Wise Traditions readers: The intention of this article is to provide a resource for those who are more experienced with traditional foods to share with friends, colleagues and family members who may be dabbling with thoughts of a traditional foods lifestyle but have trouble seeing the big picture and a practical starting point.
When you think of traditional foods, what pictures come to mind? Little children running around a homestead pulling eggs from under chickens as in Little House on the Prairie? Grandma skillfully rolling out pie crusts made with lard? Or perhaps the booths at the local farmers’ market bursting with the colors of the spring harvest?
Simply put, traditional foods are those in their most natural state, unadulterated and unrefined. It is these real, whole, nourishing foods enjoyed for generation upon generation that provide the cells of our bodies with the necessary fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients needed for vibrant health. This state of well-being is characterized by a quiet and strong digestive system, superior brain function, blissful sleep, sturdy bones, calm mind and an immune function that prevents infection.
Yet, even the idea of making these traditional foods a reality day in and day out in your family life can seem overwhelming, especially to those dependent on the ease of processed foods or limited by tight schedules.
But by taking the right steps, the process of transitioning yourself and your family to a more nourishing way of life can be easier than you imagine. This piece is a starting point—a priority list, if you will—of actions that will ease your family into nutritional shape, at your own individual pace.
Table of Contents
Nine Dietary Rules
Three Minute, Three Step Salad Dressing
Cod Liver Oil for Kids
Initial Investment, Long Term Gains
Slow Cooker Porridge
Lower Your Pesticide Load
Whole Foods Market: Slow to Learn
Weston A. Price Primer: Our Food Blueprint
With food fads and gimmicks blurring our food-intuition, the meaning of “good nutrition” is often muddled. Fortunately, it can be quite simple: just think back to a time before factories and industrial chemicals had a place in food production; before industrial processing. As societies have moved away from their traditional food fare and practices passed down from generation to generation, our health and happiness have suffered greatly.
A number of factors influence one’s vitality: sleep quality, rest, companionship, physical activity, chemical exposure, and more. Yet food remains the key player for nourishing the body’s every cell. The body’s genes are constantly communicating with the nutrients we take in through food; in fact, seventy-five percent of our health is dependent on what we have done to our genes throughout life, instead of what our family genes do to us.1 In other words, food either feeds or poisons a cell. And this is a powerful concept when one considers that cells make tissues, tissues make organs, and organs make us—our brains, our bones, our reproductive organs, our joints.
Here is the most wonderful news: you have a choice! Yes, health is a choice: a decision to make good food a priority; to slow down and breathe; to consider meal preparation a joy; and to make every single bite you serve yourself and family a powerful influence on your lives. Let’s look at where it all started so you can get a clear picture of how to make true vitality a reality.
To understand the meaning of true nutrition, this story begins with a visionary dentist by the name of Weston A. Price. “What does dentistry have to do with nourishing my family?” you ask. More than you might think!
Back in the 1930s, Dr. Price noticed a troubling pattern developing among his patients: those with the worst teeth typically had the worst health problems elsewhere in the body. To satisfy his curiosity as to the cause of this unhealthy trend, Price traveled the globe for ten years to study the effects of modern foods on dental health and physical development. His research is detailed in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, first published in 1939. Dr. Price’s findings were remarkable indeed. The correlation between diet and physical health and development was incontestable. Among the many indigenous cultures he visited, the differences between those who had remained with their ancestral diet from birth and those who had succumbed to the temptations of the western cultures—namely sugar, white flour, and soft drinks—were undeniable!
Price found that the native groups eating their traditional wholesome diet had less than one percent of their permanent teeth decayed. You may be thinking, “They must have brushed their teeth day and night!” In fact, these cultures never used a toothbrush. The good doctor concluded that the state of one’s teeth was an excellent reflection of the state of one’s overall physical and mental health. Moreover, those consuming nutrient-dense foods produced offspring with beautifully round faces, and jaws wide enough to accommodate all their teeth with proper spacing, few or no cavities, and broad heads to allow for proper brain development. No one needed braces in societies consuming traditional foods!
Women of childbearing age had hips wide enough to give birth to a baby with relative ease. In contrast to these robustly healthy people, those who had switched to a more “civilized” diet of processed foods, sodas, and other westernized products soon began to manifest modern diseases and produce offspring with narrow jaws and crowded teeth, and more narrow faces. Diseases virtually unknown prior to exposure to processed foods, including cavities, set in at early ages, and mental unrest was common.2,3
Current research confirms Dr. Price’s extraordinary findings regarding the relationship between nutrition, health and physical development. As you can guess, the foods these cultures consumed were real, whole, natural and fresh, untouched by industrial processing or other technology. For us today, this means to eat like our grandparents, or perhaps great grandparents, ate. Lucky for us, their diet wasn’t bland and fat-free. They enjoyed rich and delicious butter, cheese, cream, eggs, and meats; whole grains, legumes and nuts; along with seasonal vegetables and fruits.
Also on the menu were some foods less commonly eaten today, such as liver and other internal organs, fish roe, and bone marrow, which are indeed super foods with a nutrient profile unparalleled by most others.
The methods our forebears used to preserve and prepare these foods enhanced the nutritional package—methods such as fermenting, as in sauerkraut; culturing, as in kefir or yogurt; and soaking grains, nuts, and legumes to jump-start their digestibility. (If at this point you are feeling overwhelmed, relax—these things will be added into your life gradually, as your energy and desire grow.)
What Does this Mean For Your Family Table?
When it comes to assessing your own kitchen prowess, you may marvel at the depth of a friend’s talents to prepare gourmet meals or envy another’s commitment to serving everything homemade—but you just aren’t ready to make the leap. Everyone has her own timing. The more you dig, the more questions you ask, the further you will go into your traditional food journey. The further you go, the less daunting these seemingly overwhelming traditional food practices will become. So where do you begin? What if your current lifestyle doesn’t allow for food extremes? Let’s examine four action steps that will get you started nourishing yourself and the ones you love to the best of your abilities, right now. Do what you can, make the improvements that are possible with your current circumstances. Remove any guilt for not being able to incorporate everything; growth in any area is a process. We will begin with the easiest first (and ironically the most important) and progress to the more energy-intensive steps.
1. COD LIVER OIL
That’s right, add cod liver oil to the family’s daily routine. Cod liver oil is the elixir that has stood the test of time. In Johanna Spyri’s beloved novel Heidi, first published in 1880, Clara, Heidi’s sickly companion, regains her health on cod liver oil, raw goat’s milk and fresh mountain air! Oh, if only we could all live on a mountainside and frolic in the sun and grass all day, right? Not surprisingly, Dr. Price regularly gave cod liver oil as part of a regimen to heal his patients. You may even remember stories about your parents being chased around the house with a distasteful spoonful of cod liver oil that was mandatory medicine. Cod liver oil is still critical for healing from chronic or acute illnesses, and health maintenance. And fortunately for us, today’s cod liver oil is more palatable, and flavored varieties can make it go down much easier (refer to www.westonaprice. org for brand recommendations).
Recall the ten traditional food principles: vitamins A and D were the very nutrients that Price found to be ten times more abundant in our ancestors’ diets than in ours today. Not only does vitamin A help preserve the freshness of the cod liver oil itself, but it also is critical for vision, healthy skin, maintaining cell membranes (particularly the surfaces of the respiratory and intestinal tracts), and strong immunity.4 Vitamin A is also intimately involved in the development of a healthy fetus.
Vitamin D from cod liver oil has a strong connection with cancer prevention, not to mention bone health, mineral absorption, immunity, insulin production, proper growth, healthy skin, brain function and even feel-good chemicals.5 It is estimated that moderate time in the sun, which stimulates vitamin D production in our skin, would prevent 30,000 annual cancer deaths in the United States.6 However, studies show that our vitamin D levels today are desperately low.7,8
We can only make vitamin D from sunlight during the summer months; the rest of the time we need to get vitamin D from food.
2. GOOD BUGS
Get some “good bugs” every day. Is your family hit with a continuous string of ear infections? Or every cold that comes along? How about digestive upset, focus and attention issues, asthma, or allergies? Gut bugs, or our intestinal ecosystem, are a major part of the puzzle. Our digestive system houses trillions of microorganisms. While some of the estimated 500 species are harmful, most are essential to our health and often referred to as probiotics, which means “for life.” An overabundance of the bad guys, also called dysbiosis, results in gut inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. And a leaky gut leads to unwanted food particles entering the bloodstream that often become allergens, causing even more trouble with inflammation and immune system reactions. Essentially, your bacterial ecosystem is your first line of defense against illness and disease.10, 11, 12 So if you want fewer trips to the doctor’s office, more vibrant health, and better assimilation of every food that passes your lips, revive your family’s gut flora.
The reason most of us are in such dire need of replacing these valuable bugs is that many common lifestyle choices lead to their demise. The most obvious gut flora nemesis is antibiotics (literal translation means “against life”), either overdosing through prescriptions or the residual remaining in the meats and dairy products from commercial farming practices. Chemicals found in our food and water supply, along with contraceptive pills and most other prescription drugs used today have a detrimental effect on gut flora. Finally, a diet laden with sugar and processed breads is perfect for tipping the scale toward the unfavorable species of intestinal critters.13
So how can we get more of these “for life” bugs? The easiest way to get started may be to supplement with a live culture probiotic (ask for assistance at your local health food store). However, even better than popping a pill is regularly consuming cultured foods that are teeming with a wide array of species, such as yogurt, kefir, and fresh (unpasteurized) sauerkraut. Culturing foods (which is accomplished through the process of fermentation) is one of the oldest and most economical methods of preserving foods and was widely used before the time of fridges and freezers. Fermentation is simply the predigesting of a food, which is more accurately called lacto-fermentation because the process involves lactobacilli (lactic-acid-producing bacteria). The lactobacilli convert the natural sugars and starches in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products into lactic acid. The lactic acid then goes on to preserve the food, enhance its digestibility, and encourage growth of good bacteria throughout the digestive tract while discouraging the bad.14 Finally, when consumed with other foods, the enzymes found in cultured foods improve digestion of the entire meal.
Cultured foods are easy to consume and small amounts will make a dramatic impact on your health. Cultured veggies, such as kimchee or sauerkraut, make a zesty garnish with almost any meal, kefir (a yogurt-like drink) makes fantastic bases for smoothies, and kombucha is a tangy, thirst-quenching beverage. Making cultured foods in your own kitchen is easy; however, raw, unpasteurized varieties of many of these foods are now available at your local health food stores or online. When you are ready to learn more about making your own, read Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (www.newtrendspublishing.com), The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates (www.bodyecology.com) and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz (www.wildfermentation.com). Many recipes and directions abound on blogs and websites as well.
3. GO FOR NUTRIENT DENSITY
Replace common ingredients with more nutrient-dense options: Although swapping out the type of meat or produce you buy may be simple, procuring these higher quality foods will likely constitute the biggest effort. To most palates, higher quality foods simply taste better— cleaner, sweeter, and richer. Therefore, replacing feedlot ground beef from the supermarket with pastured ground beef from the local rancher will usually either go unnoticed or be a welcome change. And tossing out the alternative “spread” and using real, organic butter in its place will mostly definitely be appreciated. Most important, simply opting for higher quality choices of the foods your family already enjoys will make a big dent in their nutrient intake. Peruse through the details outlined in the section titled Nutrient Dense Eating, starting on page 73. Take on the choices that are most doable first and then progress.
4. TAKE IT SLOW!
Revamp one meal at a time: First, if you and your family dine out regularly, opt for fresh produce, non-fried options, salad with olive oil-based dressing, or seafood sautéed in real butter. Skip the fillers—chips and breads—served early in the meal. Ultimately work towards eating out less frequently and making more meals at home. A happy side benefit is that as you revamp your meals, you will find more nourishing choices replacing the less desirable ones in your pantry— sodas, chips, sports bars, puffed cereals, and packaged items. When you embrace the traditional foods lifestyle, label reading becomes fairly moot. Your most nourishing choices are package-free whole foods: produce, meats, fish, bulk nuts, grains and seeds, fats, and oils.
Breakfast is a great place to start revamping. Refueling first thing in the morning with nutrient dense foods is critical for setting yourself up for hormonal balance and a clear mind. Your morning meal can be simple; soaked oatmeal topped with butter or coconut oil, chopped nuts and berries is hardy and filling (See Slow Cooker Porridge, page 72). Eggs (cooked any way you like) are quick and nourishing. Remember, choose pastured when possible. Smoothies are a nice way to start the day, especially during the warmer months of the year. For a satisfying, enzyme-filled breakfast smoothie, blend together two cups almond milk, kefir, yogurt, or coconut milk and add in a handful of berries (fresh or frozen), half a cucumber, half a chopped apple, and a pastured, raw egg yolk or two.
Take your time to rethink every meal of the day and eventually overhaul each one. That might mean scouring cookbooks to find those “go to” recipes, brown bagging it to work or school, or getting up a half an hour earlier each morning to toss a meal into the slow cooker before work. Slowly make these transitions; you want these changes to become lifelong habits.
Healthy snack foods are particularly important if you have growing kiddos at home. Check out the Nutty Snack Bar recipe (www.westonaprice. org/Packing-the-Perfect-Lunch-Box.html). Another useful resource is Family Meal-Planning Strategies (www.westonaprice.org/Family-Meal-Planning-Strategies.html), which is chock-full of useful tidbits on ways to make the most of your time in the kitchen.
Before you know it, each meal you are serving or sending off with your family will be nourishing their bodies and brains.
Modernizing your new traditional food lifestyle can be summed up with two rules. Rule one: enjoy your food! No more fat-free, calorie-counting “diets.” Relish the fact that the most nourishing foods are also the tastiest. Dig into a grass-fed buffalo roast (use the drippings to make gravy and enjoy with sauerkraut), spread a thick layer of real butter on your fresh sourdough bread to go with your homemade tomato soup, enjoy your salad with homemade olive oil-based dressing, and whip up some raw cream to top your organic berries for dessert. Whole, natural, real food is thoroughly satisfying on its own; don’t ruin it by taking out the good parts or adding fake additives and ingredients.
Rule two: give yourself a big heaping dose of grace. No matter what you may have served your family in the past or the slip-ups you might encounter in the future, be gentle with yourself. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Our life lessons are all part of a bigger picture and it is through our unique experiences that we can grow and learn to better ourselves in our own time and style.
NINE DIETARY RULES
Here are ten dietary habits practiced among healthy non-industrialized peoples. The cultures consumed different specific foods, but the patterns among these different peoples were easy to identify.
All traditional cultures . . .
1. Consume some sort of animal protein, including organ meats and fat, every day.
2. Consume foods that contain very high levels of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K2 found in seafood, organ meats and animal fats).
3. Consume some foods with a high enzyme and probiotic content.
4. Consume seeds, grains, and nuts that are soaked, sprouted, fermented, or naturally leavened in order to neutralize a portion of the naturally occurring anti-nutrients in these foods.
5. Consume plenty of natural fats but no industrial liquid or hardened (partially hydrogenated) oils.
6. Consume natural, unrefined salt.
7. Consume animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
8. Provide extra nutrition for parents-to-be, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and growing children, to ensure the health of the next generation.
9. Do not consume refined or processed foods, including white flour, refined sweeteners, pasteurized and lowfat milk products, protein powders, industrial fats and oils and chemical additives.
Three -Minute , Three -Step Salad Dressing
Homemade dressing is one of the simplest ways to make a significant improvement in diet and infuse your family with more high quality, nourishing oils, while reducing the damaged oils found in most store-bought varieties. Below is a slight variation on Sally Fallon Morell’s Basic Dressing recipe from Nourishing Traditions. This simple recipe provides a wonderful base from which to experiment.
Step 1. Dip a fork into a jar of mustard (either Dijon, yellow, or your favorite variety) and scoop out about one teaspoon worth. Place the fork in a small bowl.
Step 2. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar—wine, balsamic, or apple cider—to the mustard and mix well.
Step 3. In a thin stream, add 1/2 cup olive oil, all the while whisking the ingredients with the fork to form an emulsion between the oil and mustard mixture.
Once you have gained confidence with this basic formula, have fun and add different herbs and spices (fresh or dried), grated fresh ginger, a touch of lemon or lime juice, or raw cultured cream. Replacing a portion or all of the olive oil is another way to add variety; walnut and avocado oils are lovely and sesame gives a delicious Asian flare.
COD LIVER OIL FOR KIDS
Here are guidelines for cod liver oil dosages for children. For more on cod liver oil and recommended brands, visit http://www.westonaprice.org/Cod-Liver-Oil-Basics-and-Recommendations.html. The best way to give cod liver oil is with an eye dropper (for infants) or mixed with a small amount of water or fresh juice.
• Children age 3 months to 12 years: A dose of cod liver oil that provides about 5000 IU vitamin A and about 500 IU vitamin D daily, obtained from about 1 teaspoon of regular cod liver oil or 1/2 teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil.
• Children over 12 years and adults: A maintenance dose of cod liver oil that provides about 10,000 IU vitamin A and about 1000 IU vitamin D daily, obtained from 2 teaspoons of regular cod liver oil or 1 teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil.
• Pregnant and nursing women: A dose of cod liver oil that provides about 20,000 IU vitamin A and about 2000 IU vitamin D daily, obtained from 4 teaspoons regular cod liver oil or 2 teaspoons high-vitamin cod liver oil.9
To defray the cost of your monthly bottle of cod liver oil (good things don’t come cheap), find little ways to save during the week. How about cutting back on dining out for lunch? Or drinking sparkling water instead of expensive lattés or sodas?
Initial investment , long -term gains
It’s a sad truth that the more processing a food endures, the less strain it places on your pocketbook—at least initially. It seems backwards that a feedlot meat burger loaded with fillers from the corner drive-thru costs less than a buck, but a pound of properly raised, grass-fed beef can go for more than five dollars. Government subsidies and simple supply and demand are at the crux of this cost conundrum. For a better understanding of the cycle, watch Food, Inc., a documentary that sheds a much-needed light on our nation’s food industry, exposing how our food supply is now controlled by a select few corporations that put profit ahead of consumer health.
It is the hardworking, tenacious farmers who pour their hearts into growing chemical-free produce and raising pastured meats who deserve the portion of our budget slotted for food. Small, local, family farmers are few and far between but are slowly making a comeback, not only for the sheer joy of being involved in the cycle of growing and raising food, but also because such food is necessary for our survival. It is these folks who are paving the way for a brighter, cleaner, more nutrient-dense future.
Bottom line: sure, the initial investment in these high-quality foods may be more than stopping off at the local fast food joint, but the long term benefits are unquestionably worth every penny. Fewer illnesses, happier demeanors, reduced medical bills, no medications, better productivity at work. Do you want to fill the cells of your body with white flour, trans fats, and artificial colors? If the answer is no, then put your money toward your most prized treasure—your family—by nourishing their bodies through traditional foods.
Ways to cut costs while eating traditional foods: Buy in bulk, on your own or in co-ops. Once you find you can’t do without that perfect pastured roast or your favorite coconut oil, buy big and save. Invest in a second freezer and buy a half or whole butchered cow, buffalo, hog or lamb. Make more things from scratch. As time goes on, traditional food preparation becomes less intimidating—fermenting homemade sauerkraut, culturing milk with kefir grains at home, or even baking your own loaves of sourdough bread. All these little extras will save money in the long run.
Slow Cooker Porridge
2 cups Irish or Scottish oatmeal
2 tablespoons yogurt or lemon juice
2 cups coconut milk (freshly made or canned)
4 to 8 tablespoons butter, preferably organic, cut into cubes dried apples, cut into little bits with kitchen scissors
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half or thirds
The hardest part about this recipe is remembering when to get it started, because it only takes about five minutes to prepare. To make the oatmeal more digestible, it is ideal to soak it for about twelve to twenty-four hours before you start cooking. So the morning before you want to eat this hardy breakfast, soak the two cups of oatmeal in a bowl of warm water with two tablespoons of yogurt or lemon juice. Before you head off to bed, drain the oatmeal and give it a good rinse. Place the soaked oatmeal, coconut milk, butter, apples and cinnamon, along with 4 cups filtered water, in a greased slow cooker, turn on low and cook overnight (approximately eight hours). Try making different varieties. For example, omit apples and cinnamon stick, but once the oatmeal is done, add vanilla and fresh fruit or your favorite nut butter and a dribble of maple syrup. Also vary the grains used; try short-grain brown rice, amaranth, and quinoa.
UNREFINED SALT vs . REFINED IODIZED SALT
Unrefined salt is an excellent, traditional source of nearly 80 trace minerals. In fact, this natural bacteria-inhibiting preservative can be considered a mineral “supplement” that is essential to life. On the other hand, pristine white refined varieties are heated to excessive temperatures (some up to 1200 degrees F), stripped of all nutrients, and combined with a myriad of undesirable substances, such as aluminum, sugar and anti-caking agents. Replace these over-refined varieties with mineral-rich, properly harvested salts, such as Celtic, Himalayan, Real-Salt and Lima. They offer an abundance of healing qualities and their high moisture and trace mineral content are evident by their subtle grey to pink mineral hues.15 Most health food stores stock one or more of these selections.
ORGANIC PRODUCE vs . CHEMICAL DEPENDENT:
Buying organic is in vogue these days, and for good reason. With more nutrients and fewer chemicals, why not buy organic whenever possible? A study published in 2001 The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found after 1,240 comparisons of 35 vitamins and minerals in organic and conventional produce that the organic versions contained higher amounts of most vitamins and minerals—27 percent more vitamin C, 29 percent more magnesium, 86 percent more chromium and 375 percent more selenium. The chemical-free foods were also lower in cancer-causing nitrates and toxic heavy metals.16
Another powerful study published in 2003 Environmental Health Perspectives evaluated the levels of pesticide metabolites in the urine of two groups of children and found that children eating organic fruits and vegetables, consuming organic milk and drinking organic juices had levels of pesticide metabolites six to nine times lower than children eating conventionally grown food.17 Bear in mind, pesticides are up to ten times more toxic to children than adults, due to their smaller body size and developing organ systems, so it is especially important to minimize their exposure whenever possible during the growing years.18
Purchasing organic doesn’t have to be all or none; pick and choose, evaluate your budget, the price of items, and re-organize your meals to include more seasonable organic choices, which will be more reasonably priced. (See the side bar “Lower Your Pesticide Load,” to use your organic dollars more wisely.)
RAW DAIRY PRODUCTS VS. CONVENTIONAL PROCESSED DAIRY PRODUCTS: Raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized whole milk from pasture-fed cows is what has been and continues to be consumed in healthy traditional cultures throughout the world. The safety of this milk became a problem only when farmers began to grow too big too fast, with cows fed rations unnatural to their physiology and kept in overcrowded and dirty conditions. The result is that today we have created a dangerous pattern of milk production with these modern methods, which require pasteurization for ostensible protection from pathogens.
Raw milk has the perfect balance of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E, minerals, and good “bugs,” including Lactobacillus varieties. Also, the fat in dairy products is not only nourishing but is imperative for the absorption of the residing minerals, including calcium. This means those who drink skim milk for bone health are in fact doing very little to improve their calcium intake. Furthermore, the taste of raw milk is sensational; it is fresh, flavorful, and smooth. Sometimes people accustomed to reduced-fat milk milk will find full-fat raw milk too rich—simply water it down, although, more often than not, after your first sip of this heavenly nourishing food, you won’t want to go back to commercial store-bought in any form—even a pasteurized organic variety.
The high temperatures of pasteurization denature the milk’s proteins and destroy the inherent enzymes that aid in its digestion. Often synthetic nutrients are added to replace what was removed. Pasteurization is completely unnecessary when a dairy farmer raises his animals with integrity and respect for careful practices. Small raw milk dairies are popping up all over the country and those who consume raw milk are thriving! Even those with lactose intolerance can frequently consume raw milk because it is a live, enzyme-filled food. Go to www.realmilk.com to learn more about the safety of raw milk and the availability of raw milk in your state.
Grass -fed beef and buffalo vs . feedlot raised :
Meats can offer nutrition only as good as the feed the animals consume. The meat of cows roaming on pasture, munching away on their natural diet of fresh grass have approximately four times the amounts vitamins A and E as their commercial grain-fed, feedlot cousins.19,20 By design, cows are meant to eat fibrous grasses, plants, and shrubs, which give their meat a nutrient profile similar to healthful wild game, like antelope, deer, and elk. A leisurely life on pasture also keeps cows disease-free from such bacterial contamination as E. coli and Campylobacter, unlike their feedlot cousins who have a much higher risk of contamination.22
Sad feedlot cows are raised on genetically modified grain and soy because it speeds growth and bulk quickly.23 To help further cut feed costs, producers include other “add-ins,” such as municipal garbage, stale pastry, chicken manure and feathers, as well as candy.24 This backward diet causes the animals to suffer various disorders such as bloat, liver abscesses25 and acidosis.26 Jo Robinson, author of Pasture Perfect and owner of the online resource www.eatwild.com, tells us that “Cattle with subacute acidosis kick at their bellies, go off their feed, and eat dirt.” Poor things.
On top of an artificial diet and confinement, modern methods of raising cattle also involve considerable amounts of hormones, steroids, and other chemicals. Approximately twenty million pounds of antibiotics are given to animals each year—most to prevent disease and promote growth.27 Antibacterials, topical antimicrobials, and insecticides are also used in the feed, living quarters, and directly on the animals themselves. Subjecting animals to this chemical abuse is terrible, and the ramifications to your family are also significant.
Non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in agriculture have created what can be called “super-bugs,” bacteria that have adapted to the overuse of antibiotics over the years and become stronger, more virulent. When researchers tested ground chicken, turkey, beef, and pork bought in supermarkets, they found that 20 percent of them contained Salmonella. Even worse, 84 percent of the contaminated samples were resistant to at least one antibiotic and more than half were resistant to at least three.28,29,30
Finally, hormone residues in meat and dairy products can disrupt our body’s natural hormone balance. Many experts suspect that consumption of hormone-treated beef and dairy products may contribute to girls reaching puberty earlier, thus making them more susceptible to hormonal conditions later in life.31 Interestingly, the European Union has banned the use of hormones in livestock for fear they pose a health risk, and refuses to import hormone-treated Canadian and U.S. meat.32
PASTURED CHICKENS AND EGGS vs . FEEDLOT RAISED:
Chickens allowed to forage for bugs and grass and soak up sunshine in the great outdoors produce eggs with greater amounts of vitamin E and vitamin A than their commercial, cooped up, pellet-fed counterparts. The extra nutrients available in the pasture-fed eggs are obvious by the color of the egg’s yolk. The more yellow/orange the yolk, the higher the level of carotenoids.33 Eggs from pastured hens also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio of approximately 1:1, unlike commercial eggs, which average an unhealthy 1:19!34 Similar to caged cows, battery chickens are squeezed into small cages or sheds, often windowless, and overrun with their own droppings. There is no room for them to do what chickens do—graze, root, dust themselves, or roost, let alone sit.
UNREFINED OILS AND BUTTER vs . REFINED OILS AND MARGARINE:
Weston A. Price found that butter was a staple for many vibrantly healthy native peoples.35 The groups he studied particularly valued the deep yellow butter produced by cows feeding on rapidly growing green grass in the spring and fall. Butter began to lose favor in the early 1950s when margarine, the new kid on the block, took the spotlight. The food industry capitalized on its ability to turn cheap liquid vegetable oils into solid fats, with a process called partial hydrogenation, to supply cheap fats and oils to the budding fast food and snack food industries.
Partial hydrogenation turns liquid oils (like soy, corn, or cottonseed), into hardened fats for margarine and vegetable shortening, which are used in almost all processed and packaged foods. Not only is the original oil severely damaged through the process, but a worse side effect is the production of abnormally arranged molecules known as trans fatty acids. When trans fats are incorporated into cell membranes, they inhibit a wide range of biochemical reactions, such as enzymes and receptors.36
Mary Enig, PhD, Vice President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and expert in the chemistry of fats, first warned the public about the dangers of these fats more than twenty years ago. Yet her warnings fell on deaf ears in the scientific community—much to the public’s misfortune—due mostly to the ties between the vegetable oil industry and big-money corporations with their government subsidies. See more on this fascinating topic in the article The Skinny on Fats by Dr. Enig and Sally Fallon Morell (http://www.westonaprice.org/The-Skinny-on-Fats.html). The article dispels the premise that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease and sheds light on the positive research about saturated fat and why it is actually necessary and healthful to consume.
How a fat is processed helps determine whether it is a good choice to eat. Most commercial oils are processed by crushing the oil-bearing seeds and exposing them to extreme heat (often up to 450 degrees F). In addition to excessive temperatures, the oils are also exposed to high pressure, light, oxygen, and solvents (usually hexane). This creates an undesirable food that has been bruised and battered—especially so for the less-stable polyunsaturate-rich vegetable oils. This is why most commercial oils become rancid, full of harmful free radicals, before hitting the grocery store shelves,37 including canola and soybean oils, which are often marketed as healthful. When the oils are heated for cooking, more rancid free radicals are formed.
The types of fats historically consumed by our ancestors were the most easily extractable—butter and other animal fats such as tallow and lard, coconut and palm oil, olive oil, sesame oil, small amounts of flaxseed oil and fish liver oils. Back in that day, extraction was achieved by slow-moving stone presses or rollers. Only a handful of today’s companies maintain these traditional methods, referred to as “expeller expressed” or “cold pressed.” These gentle approaches preserve the integrity of the fat molecules and the natural preservatives many oils contain, which preserve their stability.38 These unrefined oils will remain fresh for quite some time if stored in the refrigerator. Finally, if accessible and affordable, organic sources are ideal, as they are free of pesticides and contaminants that ordinarily concentrate in fat. (See Three- Minute, Three-Step Salad Dressing on page 69.)
WHOLE VS. REFINED CARBOHYDRATES:
To understand why to choose whole food sweeteners over refined, a little background is needed. Natural, simple sugars are most abundant in fruits, raw honey, maple syrup, root vegetables, squash, and milk. Common sources of refined simple sugars that we should avoid are brown and white sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, agave and yacon syrups. Naturally sweet foods are linked together with the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes needed for their digestion and assimilation by the body. In very moderate amounts in the context of a whole foods diet, these foods are healthful. But when the sugars in these foods are removed by refining, the sugars now exist separate from the nutrients. These “skeletonized” sugars work quite differently in the body, providing nothing but empty calories that drain the body’s nutrient reserves.39
Dr. Weston Price noticed that once white flour and white sugar were introduced to unsuspecting cultures, tooth decay, physical degeneration, and disease set in over the period of a single generation.40 Current evidence links excessive sugar and white flour consumption with the development of almost any health problem, including (but definitely not limited to) cancer,41 osteoporosis,42 heart disease,43 hypoglycemia, adrenal exhaustion, and parasitic and yeast infections.44 Sugar and refined flour also depress the immune system within minutes of consumption,45,46 which means more sniffles, allergies and gloomy moods. Oh, yeah, and if you have an interest in slowing down the clock, sugar is counterproductive to your efforts, as this non-food “food” also promotes wrinkles!
To replace refined white or brown sugar cup for cup, dehydrated cane sugar juice or coconut sugar works well. But as you might suspect, cutting down on sugar in general is always a good idea. Nevertheless, from time to time, we all want a sweet treat. When you do indulge, instead of a packaged pastry or dessert, try reaching for a piece of fruit or a fresh date. For homemade desserts and sweet beverages, use the whole-food sweetener choices—raw, unfiltered (preferably local) honey, molasses, dehydrated cane juice, coconut sugar, fresh juice, and maple syrup. When making homemade goodies, be sure to always include healthful fats—butter, egg yolks, cream or nuts—to help maintain blood sugar balance and stave off the blood sugar roller-coaster.
Lower Your Pesticide Load
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research organization, created the ‘’Dirty Dozen,’’ a list of the twelve fruits and twelve vegetables that consistently have the highest levels of pesticides. The findings are based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 through 2004. The Environmental Working Group discovered that one’s pesticide exposure could be cut by almost 90 percent by just avoiding the Dirty Dozen and emphasizing the Clean Fifteen.48 As a consumer, use this list to choose which items are most important to buy organic, or perhaps avoid if the price is too high.
|DIRTY DOZEN||CLEAN FIFTEEN|
|1. Peaches||7. Cherries||1. Onion||6. Asparagus||11. Papaya|
|2. Apple||8. Kale||2. Avocado||7. Sweet peas||12. Watermelon|
|3. Bell pepper||9. Lettuce||3. Sweet corn||8. Kiwi||13. Broccoli|
|4. Celery||10. Grapes (imported)||4. Pineapple||9. Cabbage||14. Tomatoes|
|5. Nectarines||11. Carrots||5. Mango||10. Eggplant||15. Sweet potatoes|
|6. Strawberries||12. Pears|
Other foods of concern:49
CONVENTIONAL ANIMAL FOODS (beef, pork, poultry, milk, butter and cheese): The EPA reports that meat is contaminated with greater levels of pesticides than plant foods, as many chemicals are fat-soluble and accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals. Also the hormones and antibiotics in non-organically raised animals are passed on to the consumer. Still, if you can’t obtain or can’t afford pasture-raised animal foods, beef, lamb, butter and cheese are still good supermarket bets. They contain nutrients that help protect you against pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
COFFEE AND TEA : Most coffee consumed in the U.S. is grown in countries with little to no regulatory standards on pesticide use. Non-organic tea is heavily sprayed.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET: SLOW TO LEARN
In spite of a torrent of emails generated by our Action Alert on Whole Foods Markets, (www.westonaprice.org/WHOLE-FOODS-PROMOTES-MILITANT-VEGETARIAN-AGENDA.html), the high-end grocery store is still pushing a lowfat, plant-based diet on its nutrition page (www.wholefoodsmarket.com/nutrition/). The plan promotes the books and private business ventures of Joel Fuhrman, MD, and Rip Esselstyn, both of whom worked with Whole Foods to formulate the new guidelines. Customers now receive a pamphlet urging them to adopt a lowfat, plant-based diet and to cut back or completely eliminate animal foods.
If your health has been harmed by a lowfat, plant-based diet, Whole Foods needs to hear from you; if you have already emailed the store, contact them again and ask them why they haven’t revised their agenda-driven, unscientific nutrition page. To submit a comment on Whole Foods’ company policy, go to www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/contact_submit.php.
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This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2010.