This post has been tumbling around my brain for ages now… and I’m not sure why I haven’t been able to get it out. Perhaps because the whole subject of eating and one’s own food philosophy are such emotional and personal topics for so many. I’m not looking for a heated brouhaha here. (Wow, I always wanted to use that word in casual conversation. Excuse me while I go check that off of my bucket list). Nor am I looking to slyly judge anyone who may be reading (“Hey you! with the box of KD and can of pepsi! You suck!”… or not). Rather I would just love to share what I’ve been learning, and how it has affected me and my family. I would also *love* to hear your thoughts and experiences too! So, here we go…
I’ve been learning a ton lately on the subject of health as related to what we put into our bodies (ie. food). Rather unsurprisingly, what we eat has major effects on our health. More so than most people realize, in fact. Our Western culture is fond of thinking that most diseases are simply a result of random chance, and there’s nothing that you can really do to prevent them. I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about so-and-so’s uncle who ate healthy/exercised/didn’t smoke/didn’t drink excessively but still got cancer/heart disease/diabetes/crohn’s disease/celiac disease/mental illness/etc. and died/lived life permanently sick/felt awful. I’m not denying the tragedy and truth of those stories… I’m simply not ready to say that there is absolutely nothing we can do to help prevent it/fix it, at least in some (many?) cases.
Through my forays into the internet blogging world, I’ve been introduced to the Weston A. Price Foundation. I’ve also bought the book “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats“, one of the most referred-to books in the Real/Traditional Food movement. This article from one of the blogs I follow is one of the best concise explanations of Traditional Foods that I’ve come across as of yet.
I’ve also recently ordered a new book from amazon, which I am really looking forward to reading before Baby Ricci 2.0 arrives in July. The author, Nina Planck, is highly recommended by the nutritional bloggers I follow, and her food philosophy is similar to Michael Pollan, whose book In Defense of Food I very much enjoyed reading last fall (I’d love to get a copy for myself, as well as Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his other recent books… and guess who conveniently has a birthday coming up! hint hint, dear family).
So what does all this mean? Well, I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. The journey to Real/Traditional Food involves many baby steps, a ton and a half of learning, and a few pretty big steps too.
Here are a few of the things that I can think of off the top of my head that we have changed:
1. No more evil margarine. Butter is full of healthy fats, plus it tastes WAY better! Also, avoid trans-fats like the plague!
2. Reduce/eliminate all processed foods. Anything that my great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Anything that would never rot due to all the chemicals and preservatives (fun science experiment, anyone?!). Anything in a box or package with a list of ingredients including things you can’t pronounce or identify. I’m not perfect at this when cravings hit, but I am getting WAY better, and am definitely more aware of what I’m consuming. I’ve been making my own for a lot of things, like bread, tortillas, sausage, salsa, breadcrumbs, crackers, etc. I’m planning to try making croutons, salad dressings, yogurt, etc. (Making my own also helps offset the higher cost of some things, like organic grass-fed meats).
3. Reduce processed sugar consumption. According to Donielle from Naturally Knocked Up (along with countless others), sugar is pretty terrible for us. She lists several reasons in her guest post at Kitchen Stewardship: 1) It’s addictive 2) It affects our fertility 3) It feeds cancer 4) It lowers our immune system 5) It causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Yikes! And from what I’ve read and researched, there are many more reasons to consider. I am trying to have only natural, unprocessed sweeteners, like honey, maple syrup, and sucanat. Read more about the dangers of sugar here,
4. Consume only healthy, traditional fats. Avoid unhealthy, invented ones. Did you know that the top 5 fats consumed at the turn of the 20th century are all different, except for one, compared to the top 5 fats consumed at the turn of the 21st century? The top 5 in 1900 were butter, coconut oil, lard, tallow (beef fat), and olive oil, most of which have now been framed as “unhealthy” due to being high in saturated fats. As Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship points out: “If sat-fat is the cause of heart disease, one would think heart disease would be decreasing by leaps and bounds, but it’s doing the opposite”. Interesting. Check out the link for a great article on how saturated fats are actually good for us.
5. Switch to full-fat dairy. No more low-fat/zero-fat sour cream for me, baby! Everyone knows full-fat stuff tastes better, and what is no-fat sour cream anyway? It’s supposed to be cream for goodness’ sake… you know – the fat that is in the milk. How many chemicals do they have to add to make it the same consistency as actual cream? That’s just gross. This applies also to cheese and milk too. We only have whole milk in our house. I’d love to have raw milk, but it’s illegal to sell in Canada, and that’s another post for another day.
6. Buy only grass-fed, organic meats. So far, we’ve found a source for grass-fed, organic beef through the Calgary farmer’s market, and we picked up our first order last week. In case you’re wondering, it actually tastes significantly better, too! We bought some pastured bacon from here, also at the Calgary market.
Well, this is pretty well the longest post I’ve ever written, as well as the most links I’ve ever had in one post… so if you’re still reading and still with me, then congratulations… and we should totally sit down for coffee so I can pick your brain on what you think about all of this!
Whew! Two “controversial” posts in a row! Is anyone ready to disown me yet? 😉
04/28/10: Edited to add: I’ve linked this post up to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival. Check it out for yourself!