You may wonder why I, as someone who does not consume milk, would care about The Raw Milk Revolution. But this book has important implications for anyone who eats outside the mainstream. While I do consider raw milk a relatively risky food, I think it should be up to individuals to make the choice whether to consume it or not. As far as the argument that children can't make that choice, are we going to prosecute every parent that feeds their child potentially deadly food? I don't think the government has enough money to go after all the parents who feed their children massive amounts of sugar. Besides that, this book makes the point that illness from raw milk is very very uncommon. Why is the government spending massive amounts of money going after small farmers and not the large companies that poison millions every year?
- Charcuterie: producing good sausages is hard unless you have lots of money because it has to be made in licensed commercial facility with an approved recipe. Some lucky people are able to get it illegally.
- Lungs and thyroid tissue. I ate these foods in Central Europe and they were nutritious and delicious. They are illegal despite the fact that there are methods of slaughter that completely mitigate the risks associated with them.
- Wild game, well unless you know a hunter. The venison at the store is farmed and often fattened on grains. You can buy true wild game from Scotland, where it is legal to sell, from D'artagnan. Sweden also allows the sale of wild game and it's not like wildlife has disappeared there.
If you think of any more, please email me at mgmcewen @ gmail . com
Last night I heard a lecture by Jennifer McLagan, author of the book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient With Recipes. The audience members were mostly foodies, who have really embraced fat in the past few years, but Jennifer gave an impassioned lecture on why they should embrace even more fat and throw out industrial oils. She talked about how the government, lobbied by industry, encouraged people to substitute "healthy" oils and margarine for animal fat, but how our health since has gotten worse, not better.
She revealed how many vegetable oils are so highly processed that you can't even tell if they are rancid or not, and she said most of them are. It makes sense, as in processing they are exposed to heat, and then stored in clear bottle so they are exposed to light. Heat and light are the agents of rancidity. Consuming rancid oils is highly linked to inflammation and to make the deal worse, most of the oils are high in omega-6, which is also inflammatory. She told us to use animal fats from pastured animals, which hold up well to cooking and have a ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 appropriate for humans.
Jennifer talked about the least appreciated animal fats, suet and tallow, and how we are missing out on hearty flavorful foods featuring them. Personally, I just discovered tallow and it's harder to cook with than lard because of its strong flavor. However, when used in a way that accents and offsets that flavor, it is absolutely delicious.
I was shocked to hear that milk laws in Canada, where she lives, do not allow for the production of artisan butter! Jennifer talked about the wonderful complex flavors in grass-fed butter and how much our health has declined since we have discarded it in many baked goods for oil and more sugar to offset the loss of flavor.
What can we do to bring fat back? Jennifer said we all have to lose our irrational fear of animal fat and start cooking with it. She said the loss of home cooking is what has really destroyed our diets, making us serfs of companies that simply use whatever is cheapest. Most people don't know what tallow is and they certainly don't know how to use it.
It's a little distressing in the paleo community how oil still reigns. Even if it's the healthier oils, coconut and olive, they still wouldn't have been a part of our ancestor's diets. Learning how to render and use these fats is something everyone on any diet can benefit from. Her cookbook is a wonderful resource for overcoming fat-phobia. It's also wonderfully appropriate as a gift for friends. It's not preaching a diet, it's just celebrating the wonders of fat.
What's also true is that E. coli only showed up so prolifically in the guts of cows since they've been fed corn in the last 50 years or so. A starchy food the grass-eaters didn't evolve to consume, corn produces an acidic mess in their stomachs that E. coli bacteria apparently loves.
I just realized today that you could totally rewrite that sentence and it would still be true.
What's also true is that E. coli only showed up so prolifically in the guts of human since they've been fed so much corn in the last 50 years or so. A starchy food the meat and vegetable eaters didn't evolve to consume, corn produces an acidicmess in their stomachs that E. coli bacteria apparently loves.
It's not just acidic stomachs of cattle that E. Coli love, it's acidic stomachs of humans too. The amount of food poisoning cases attributed to pathogens that aren't big fans of acid, like salmonella, has dropped. Well, except for in the other extreme end up acidity, which is the growing population treated with drugs like Proton Pump Inhibitors that reduce acid too much, thus leaving them susceptible to other nasty types of food poisoning.
All that is clear is that in the US our stomachs are a mess. We should make an effort to get them back to normal by elimating both grains and acid-reducing drugs.
Someone on a forum was going on and on about grains being A.O.K. because traditional societies like the Japanese or some of Weston A. Price's healthy cultures ate them and were not obese. I think he misses the point, but also underscores a very annoying misconception. Many of my friends have told me that they have no need for anything like the paleo diet because they are skinny and always have been.
But last time I checked skinny does not equal healthy. There are all kinds of health problems a skinny person can have and new studies show that within a single person insulin sensitivity may vary. Skinny programmers chugging Mountain Dew might be lucky enough to have belly fat tissue that is not insulin sensitive, but they might still be damaging other organs.
A paleo diet is about avoiding diseases of civilization. Obesity is just one of those diseases. I think well-planned veganism can do wonders for improving weight, cholesterol, and other basic measures of metabolic syndrome, but I do not believe it is the diet that brings out the best in the human body. I did raw grain-free veganism for time and like many people I initially felt good, probably because of all the wheat and dairy I wasn't eating, but eventually I just felt diminished. I alternated between fruit-induced sugar highs and extreme fatigue. I mainly just felt hungry. I realized that vegetables just don't have many calories and you have a choice of eating massive amounts of sugar from fruit or massive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids from nuts. I feel the paleo diet has the optimal amount of nutrients, in the best ratios, and in forms that are easily utilized by the human body (bioavailable). That's important, because many of us have damaged our bodies with junk and we need to do more than avoid obesity, we need the nutrients to repair.
Many other raw vegans, including The Raw Model, a popular raw blogger, have found that their health has improved dramatically since they added animal products.
Societies like the Japanese avoided many problems by eating a diet low in total calories, but they did not reach their potential for height and bone development until fairly recently (incidentally as consumption of meat and fish has increased). It's the same with many agrarian societies: they aren't obese, but they aren't completely healthy either. There is plenty we can learn from peasant diets, but we can do better than peasants who worked a backbreaking day on very little in the way of calories.
I think a sugar-free vegan or agrarian diet is certainly a step in the right direction and an agrarian diet can be made optimal with the careful addition of small amounts of meat and fish and by the fermentation of grains, dairy, and legumes. But the animal component of the diet has to be foods like liver and sardines, not skinless boneless chicken breast.
In the end people can go on and on about fruits and vegetables, but that's not where the calories are. The big question is where you are going to get the calories and whether you want to burn sugars or fats. Plants might enhance your health, but your fuel is going to make a bigger difference. I encourage anyone who hasn't read Good Calories, Bad Calories to get a copy or at least check out the detailed notes.
Interested in seeing the blogs of Swedes eating paleo, I did a search for stenåldersmat, which roughly translates to Stone Age Food. A good word to know in case you have to explain your diet to a Swedish person for some strange reason.
Chicken meatballs, eggs, mango, avocado
I found this blog, the pictures are really lovely and even if you don't know Swedish, the meals look great. The title of the blog in English is Wellness with Stone Age Food.
Sweden is home to both Paleo diet researcher Staffan Lindeberg and low-carb maven Dr. Annika Dahlqvist. Annika is like the Swedish Dr. Eades and you can read her blog in weirdly translated English here. Incidentally, she has also used the diet to treat IBS.
Swedes discuss the paleo diet at www.paleodiet.nu
Sweden also has a large population of celiacs, so gluten-free (gluten-fri) is well understood by most restaurants and every grocery store has a wealth of gluten-free products. While soy and oat milks are popular, almond and other nut milks are unheard of.
This blog discusses the major obstacles to eating paleo in Sweden: godis (mixed candies, typically gummies and licorice), fried snacks, and the popularity of carby alcoholic drinks.
I misplaced my camera, so I drew this on MS Paint. It's probably better than the pictures I take anyway.
I won't lie, I have trouble following recipes. There is always some ingredient that I don't have and some ingredient that I want to add to see what happens. I apologize to the people who have eaten some of experiments over the years. Eventually I do get things right though. I have made numerous squash soups and most of them have been atrocious. Thankfully, I have managed to figure out a method that I think gets optimal nutrition with paleo ingredients.
First, the squash. While pumpkin has many positive associations, it is actually a pretty inferior squash and most canned pumpkin is actually hubbard squash. I like Hubbard, Red Kuri, Kabotcha, and Butternut squashes because they have non-stringy texture and plenty of flesh. Yes, you can put squash in your crock pot and it turns out great. You don't even have to cut it up, just stick it in there on low, go about your business and when its soft you can add it to things without even peeling it, just cut and scoop out the flesh.
Second, the stock. I usually make soup when I have leftover bones lying around. The longer you cook those bones, the better nutrition you get from them, including calcium, which is hard to get in non-dairy diets. The stock can also be made in the crock pot, of course. An hour before I am going to make the soup, I put the stock in a pot and add some seaweed, an important source of iodine and other minerals, and some dried mushrooms. I simmer that and sometimes it smells not so delicious, but in the end it tastes fine. After that I add the soft squash and some spices and simmer it 10 minutes more.
After that, my mission is to make it creamy by getting rid of the stringy parts of the squash and adding some creamy fat. I used to use coconut milk, but because of the BPA problem I use it less and less. Tonight I used homemade nut milk. I blended just a few walnuts until I got a creamy liquid and strained the nut pulp out. You could also use the flesh of a young thai coconut. If you tolerate dairy well, just use cream...because it uh, makes things creamy pretty well.
Remove the bone and the seaweed if you don't like it. I leave it in though and add everything to the blender along with the nut milk/cream and blend it. Voila! Creamy flavorful squash soup packed with nutrients.
I forgot to mention that this soup is also extremely soothing for upset stomachs. Kombu and squash are both prized for their ability to calm the digestive system.
In an ongoing series where I test out products obviously meant for vegans, not paleo weirdos.
This time it's Dr. Cow Cheese, made in Brooklyn for the indigenous vegan population and purchased at the local co-op, an ancient Brooklyn hunting and gathering ground guarded over by a tribe of ancient and bitter hippies.
Plenty of paleo dieters tolerate dairy well, unfortunately I am not one of them. Even if it's delicious raw grass-fed artisan cheese from France, it will make me sick. It's too bad because tangy cheese used to be one of my favorite ingredients in salads.
So when I discovered Dr. Cow Cheese, I was eager to try it. It is made from soaked nuts and fermented with probiotic bacteria. Nuts, particularly cashew nuts, and probiotic fermentation are contentious in the paleo community, but my philosophy is that nuts are OK in small quantities and many of us have taken antibiotics are are probably deficient in beneficial bacteria.
It's expensive and doesn't taste too much like cheese, but it has the tangy flavor I crave and a little goes a long way crumbled on salad. I have also had the "cream" cheese with smoked salmon and it's pretty delicious. Not a dietary staple, but definitely a delicious treat.
A strange instance of cognitive dissonance occured when reading the chapters on Eskimos and Native Americans. In the Eskimo chapter they note that diverticulitis is unheard of in those eating the traditional diet. In the next chapter they note that US Indians also have a low rate of this diverticulitis and credit it to their high fiber intake. If low fiber intake was to blame, you'd see extremely high rates in Eskimos.
The book also discusses the high rate of infectious disease in hunter-gatherers, which account for the low life expectancy in many of these population, but then also notes that it is likely most infectious diseases were introduced by agricultural civilizations.
While paleo dieters eat diverse diets that can include a wide variety of vegetables, the main dish is usually meat. While I think this diet is an optimal one, good meat is expensive and some people just don't feel comfortable eating lots of meat from an ethical, visceral, or spiritual standpoint. My father is a big proponent of paleo, but my mother has told me she doesn't want to eat so much meat.
This comment on Whole Health source got me thinking about those people:
To restore health, we move our nutritional approach back through time. First stop, Mesolithic. With the elimination of anti-nutrients (wheat, etc.) and the increased variety of food, nutrition becomes near optimal for most. Fat-soluble vitamins are at sufficient levels, either through the inclusion of specific foods (seafoods, organ meats) or supplementation.
This move to Mesolithic nutrition would likely resolve the vast majority of nutrition-driven health issues in the world today, essentially returning us to the lifestyle and health observed by Dr. Price in the 30's.
I have the limitation of illness, so my attempt to eat traditionally prepared grains and dairy products was not successful, but many people can thrive on this diet, which is espoused by the Weston A. Price Foundation.
For people interested in improving their diet this way, I recommend these books:
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is a seminal cookbook and textbook on the value of preparing grains, legumes, and dairy the traditional way, as well as getting an abundance of fat soluble vitamins. To get these you only really need to eat a very small amount of high quality animal fat in the form of organ meats, oily fish, and raw dairy.
Full Moon Feast by Jessice Prentice is another great cookbook that adds on spiritual, social, and local aspects to eating traditionally.
Real Food by Nina Planck is a book that does a great job of spreading the word that eating traditionally is vital for the health of future children.
Why Some Like It Hot by Gary Nabhan or anything by Gary really. He is a big proponent of traditional crop varieties and much of his work is about how devastating it has been for native peoples to lose their traditional diets.
These books provide a wealth of valuable information no matter what traditional diet you follow. I own them and use them often.
I looked in the mirror with dismay. Right on my left eyeball was a blood vessel that had swelled to the size of a small red lightening blot. I knew I had been spending too much time on the computer, working on server migrations and slogging though the process of learning PhP. The effects were written all over my poor eye.
I write this because this morning I read an article featuring Ray Mears, an expert on primitivist skills, chiding paleo dieters for "pigging out on meat and pretending to have hunted it." One of my goals in this site and in my actions as a co-organizer of the Eating Paleo in NYC meetup group is to get people beyond this. So many paleo dieters think of it as just a way to lose weight and end up eating a bunch of chicken breasts, steak, and coconut milk ice cream. They not only miss out on nutrients, but on the overall holistic benefits of thinking evolutionarily and rewilding not only the self, but the world around you. I want to exhort people to think harder about where their food comes from, how much is out there that we should be eating and we aren't even thinking about whether its sheeps eyes or wild nettles, and how they can be involved in actual hunting and gathering.