TRADITIONAL EATING HABITS
In past societies, eating habits were vastly different from our modern diets in industrialized countries with our concentration now on: huge quantities of refined sugar and flour; processed meat from obese animals; and pesticided, processed fruits and vegetables. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats * is a fascinating book that addresses these differences. The principal author is Sally Fallon, MA, who has wide knowledge of traditional and ancient cooking methods and is a member of the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Advisory Board, along with Pat Connolly, also of the Price Pottinger Nutrition Foundation, and NOHA speaker Mary G. Enig, PhD.
The original inspiration for this new book stems from the work of Weston Price, DDS, who investigated numerous isolated and diverse societies fifty years ago and found vibrant health among the people who adhered to their traditional diets, but many signs of illness among those relatives, obviously with the same genetic heritage, who had adopted the Western diet of refined and processed foods. Quoting from the introduction:
From the new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, issued in the form of a Food Pyramid, the authors praise only two recommendations: to eat less sugar and to eat more fruits and vegetables. On many points the authors disagree heartily with the new guidelines, which "imply that everyone can eat the same foods in the same proportions and be healthy." For example, grains are pictured as the principal ingredient for everyone’s diet. However, "many people do very poorly on grains." Also, "the new guidelines perpetuate the myth that fats, carbohydrates, and proteins have equal nutritional properties no matter how much or how little they are processed. The experts make no distinction between whole grains and refined, between food grown organically and those grown with pesticides and commercial fertilizers; between raw milk and pasteurized; between fresh and rancid fats; between fresh and processed fruits and vegetables; between range-fed meats and those raised in crowded pens; between foods that nourished our ancestors and new-fangled products that dominate the marketplace"
"Politically Correct Nutrition . . . spares the highly profitable and powerful grain cartels, vegetable oil producers, and food processing industry; . . . it gives lip service to the overwhelming evidence implicating sugar as a major cause of our degenerative diseases but spares the soft drink industry; and it raises not a murmur against the refining of flour, the hydrogenation of vegetable oils, and the adulteration of our foods with harmful preservatives, flavorings, and coloring agents."
"The Diet Dictocrats are strangely silent about the ever increasing trend toward food processing and the devitalization of America’s rich agricultural bounty. Food processing is the largest manufacturing industry in the country, and hence the most powerful"
In opposing the "Diet Dictocrats," the authors cite many references indicating the excellent nutritional value of red meat, saturated fat, eggs, and butter. Cookbooks that follow the new USDA guidelines eliminate these foods and substitute margarine for butter.
Fascinating information on fats gives the reader a taste of the knowledge of Dr. Mary Enig. NOHA members will remember vividly her lecture for us, reviewed in NOHA NEWS, Summer 1992. Nourishing Traditions contains excellent information on the fatty acids in various foods; and describes how the essential omega-3 fatty acids have been destroyed in modern food processing because these fatty acids are fragile and easily become rancid. In regard to eggs, the authors point out that "organic eggs can contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio of approximately one-to-one; but commercial supermarket eggs can contain as much as nineteen times more omega-6 than omega-3." Eggs contain cholesterol. In regard to the controversy over cholesterol, the authors state:
On the question of margarine versus butter, the authors describe in detail the production of margarine by the drastic processing of the cheapest vegetable oils that are "already rancid from the extraction process." Hydrogenation hardens the oils, conveniently for the margarine manufacturers, and produces deleterious trans-fatty acids, which are almost never found in nature. Hydrogenation is accomplished with a toxic catalyst that leaves a residue, which cannot be completely removed. Trans-fatty acids "wreck havoc in cell metabolism. . . . In the 1940’s, [when] researchers found a strong correlation between cancer and the consumption of fat—the fats used were hydrogenated fats, not naturally saturated fats. (Until recently, the confusion between hydrogenated fats and naturally saturated fats has persisted not only in the popular press, but in scientific databases, resulting in much error in study results.) Consumption of hydrogenated fats is associated with a host of . . . serious diseases, not only cancer but also atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, low birth weight babies and birth defects, sterility, difficulty in lactation, and problems with bones and tendons, yet hydrogenated fats continue to be promoted as health foods. Margarine’s popularity represents a triumph of advertising duplicity over common sense. Your best defense is to avoid it like the plague."
The authors point out that butter was used in many traditional societies. Deep yellow butter came from the milk of cows eating fresh spring pasturage. This butter was particularly favored and we now know that it contains especially abundant fat-soluble vitamins.
In regard to meat, the authors describe some of the awful techniques that are used in modern cattle raising, including "steroids to make meat more tender and antibiotics that allow cattle to survive in crowded feed lots." For these reasons they recommend that we do eat meat but that we choose it cautiously. "Make an effort to obtain organic beef, lamb, and chicken. Better yet, try to find a source of buffalo and game. Buffalo and venison (deer, antelope, etc.) are raised on the open range and their nutritional properties, including their fatty acid profile, are superior." The authors point out that when Dr. Price studied the primitive tribes he found that they "especially valued certain high-vitamin animal products like organ meats, butter, fish eggs, and shellfish for growing children and for parents of both sexes during their child-bearing years."
In traditional societies some of the meat and fish was eaten raw. The authors point out the dangers from parasitic contamination, which is probably much greater now than in the scattered communities of our ancestors. They also point out that the raw protein contains beneficial enzymes. In many of their recipes they list raw meat that has been frozen for two weeks. They point out that freezing does not destroy the enzymes whereas cooking does destroy them.
However, as editor of NOHA NEWS, I have a major problem with their recommendation to eat raw meat, "frozen for 14 days." In Food & Nutrition Research Briefs, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, April 1996, there is an article on the research of Dr. Ronald Fayer entitled, "A Parasite That’s Not Stopped Cold," in which he points out that "Cold doesn’t necessary stop Cryptosporidium parvum."" Certain temperatures and certain times are required before the oocysts (egg-like forms of the parasite) die. "Cryptosporidium infection in humans can be triggered by as few as 30 oocysts." I was very much interested so I phoned Dr. Fayer. He returned my call and talked with me at length. I told him about Nourishing Traditions, in which research at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is cited on freezing meat for 14 days in order to "kill off all parasites." He made two related and exceedingly important points: First, all the tests with live cells by the USDA are made in WATER. Second, he explained that it would be impossibly complicated to test the viability of parasites in food because the various foods would present essentially an infinite number of testing conditions. He pointed out to me that in certain solvents some living cells can be frozen and remain alive indefinitely. In fact, they are preserved in that manner! Thus, I must warn all readers of Nourishing Traditions NOT to eat raw, frozen protein that can be contaminated with disease-causing parasites.
Nourishing Traditions contains a vast number of interesting recipes and the edges of the pages are filled with appropriate and informative quotations. My review has not even touched the fascinating recipes. Enjoy the book. However, remember my vital caveat.
BEWARE, do not eat raw meat, fish, or eggs!
*ProMotion Publishing, 3368 F Governor Drive, Suite 144, San Diego, CA 92122 (1-800-231-1776), 1995, soft cover, 618 pages, $22.95 plus shipping and handling.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XXI, No. 4, Fall 1996, pages 1-3.