My sister-in-law, Jessie, introduced me to the book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon a couple of years ago. Since then I have referred to it often and have encouraged others to read it as well. I have many future posts dedicated to the ideas expressed in this book. Here are Jessie’s thoughts:
This isn’t meant to be a book review – more like a book recommendation. My sister Annie got me “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon for my birthday three years ago and I’ve been singing its praises to everyone with ears ever since. Technically, it’s a cookbook. But it’s also so, so, so, so much more. I was describing it as something of a textbook before I realized that it IS often used as a textbook for nutrition and naturopathic courses. It’s meticulously researched and has completely changed how I think about food.
Since the book is almost 700 pages long, there are multiple themes. First and foremost, almost ALL modern processing techniques destroy the quality of our food. Second, truly whole and healthful foods can offer up even more goodness if you only take the time to prepare it properly. As the title suggests, the traditions of our ancestors should serve as the model for food preparation.
The book decries the convenience food trend, the heavy processing, the use of antibiotics and pesticides and preservatives, and all those things we already know are awful, BUT! It actually explains WHY, on a molecular level, these things are bad for us. And conversely, why some other things we’ve been trained to believe are BAD for us actually aren’t. (Egg yolks! Butter! Cholesterol!)
I’m not going to get into the science of it all, I’m just trying to pique your interest. Some of it is kind of heavy (like the entire chapter on organ meats), but you can take what you want from it. I’m not going to serve brains for Thanksgiving dinner, but I CAN make my brown rice more nutritious by soaking it for several hours before I cook it. (Same with oatmeal – in fact, Quaker oats used to include presoaking in the directions on the canister, but once the convenience food trend took over, that step was removed from their labels.)
Some of my favorite key points, in my own words:
– The food industry can basically label and market things however they want. Anything can be called “healthy” – there’s no panel of people who determine how things are allowed to be presented to the public. If there’s an ingredient (like MSG) that they’d rather not disclose, they can group it under “other flavorings” or “seasonings.”
– Think about cows. Why do they have a four-chambered stomach? Because they’re herbivores, that’s why. They only eat grass and leaves and hay. And throughout the digestion process, they continue to extract nutritional goodness from their grass. A mouthful of grass STILL offers up nutrition even hours after it passed through the first or second chamber of their stomach. Now think about us. Because we eat meat as well as grains, our digestive tracts can’t take their sweet time like an herbivore’s or else the meat would go rotten in our gut. We could get so much more out of our grains and greens if things didn’t have to be moved along so quickly, which is why fermentation was such an important preparation technique to our ancestors. Each culture has some sort of fermented dish – kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, fafaru, etc. And how fascinating is it that even thousands of years ago, separate cultures on different continents understood the basics of food preparation better than we do now? We’re only just beginning to realize the science behind why these things are good for us, but our ancestors knew all along. They valued animal fats. They soaked their grains to begin the fermentation process. They cooked foods slowly. The book suggests a “mysterious infallible instinct that guided primitive man to the foods he needed to keep him healthy and strong” – a thought that sort of gives me chills, in a good way.
– Low-fat stuff! Guess what! When you take the pure, natural fat out of stuff, it doesn’t taste good anymore and it looks like sludge. The crap they add in to make it palatable again is garbage.
– Margarine! Wait til you see what margarine is!! Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s a slimy gray byproduct of the vegetable oil hydroginization process. “Dyes and strong flavors must then be added to make it resemble butter. Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in blocks or tubs and sold as a health food.” (pg 14)
– There was a study where one group of rats was fed cornflakes and the other was fed the cardboard box that the cornflakes came in. ALL the rats eating the cereal died before a SINGLE rat that was eating the cardboard did…in fact, they died sooner than the third group of rats that were eating NOTHING. I know studies like this aren’t concrete but, still. INTERESTING.
Buy it here. It’s only 16 bucks.
(I still eat cereal, for the record. I can only change so much.)
Post written by: Jessica Jensen.