The well-intentioned objective of Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Ph.D., is to reintroduce readers to a Real Food nutritional approach by promoting and educating us on the importance of going back to our ancestral roots of eating. Sally references Dr. Weston Price’s study and documentation, from the 1930’s, of primitive civilizations untouched by our modern processing of foods. He observed those populations less influenced by our current diet remained healthier and had little incidents of cancer, dental decay, diabetes, and mental illness. Those studied by Price were spread across the world living in varied environments and climates, their diets were by no means identical. However, what he noticed as a common thread aside from the absense of processed foods and sugar, were liberal amounts of fats (from meat and seafood sources) and a healthy amount of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and unrefined grains.
In America, one person in three dies of cancer, one in three suffers from allergies, one in ten will have ulcers and one in five is mentally ill.
Sally debunks the myth of fats being bad for us and cites many statistics that show evidence to support this revised nutritional thinking. When Americans migrated to low-to-no fat diets our health as a nation continued it’s rapid decline despite the thinking at the time that fats, particularly saturated fats, were the root of our ailments. Prior to the 1920’s coronary heart disease was rare, now it causes at least 40% of deaths in the United States. We ate meat and fats via butter and raw dairy since we’ve been hunter and gatherers. However, we haven’t eaten processed and refined carbs—and foods with added sugar—in the quantities we do today. It’s these foods that are the majority cause of our epidemic of poor health and disease. Sally distinguishes between the good fats and the bads fats, making a case for the benefits of saturated fats that are found in meats, butter, raw dairy products, while warning about over consumption of the polyunsaturated fats found in less stable vegetable oils by which much of our fast food and processed foods are processed.
Sally isn’t promoting a high fat low carb (HFLC) modeled nutritional approach, rather a real food and balanced nutrient guideline. Carbs aren’t the enemy, sugar and refined carbs are the guilty culprits. The book advises a 30-30-40 macronutrient ratio breakdown, with 40% being healthy carbohydrates. Healthy carbs can be derived from fruits, vegetables, and properly prepared legumes and grains. She warns against the common high heat and pressure processing of grains and advocates they should be consumed only if prepared as we had in ancient times; via processes such as soaking, sprouting, and fermenting.
In the view of the author, proteins from meat sources are important as they tend to include more of the necessary healthy fats, essential amino acids, and the important fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is important, as with all your food, to attempt to get it from the best organic sources possible. So, in the case with meats, look for organic grass-fed beef, lamb, chicken, as well as wild caught deep water fish. Additionally, wild game and bone broth are good options.
Aside from a strong overview of the science and dietary importance of the macronutrients, Nourishing Traditions provides details on vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, listing out each along with it’s primary function and food sources options.
The bulk of this 600+ page book is full of recipes and cooking techniques that can help us regain vitality and eat more like we were intended to eat. I’ll be exploring some of these in the coming months and may share some simple options I find sustainable and appropriate for my lifestyle.
Before I conclude, let me make quick but important comment on the macronutrient breakdown mentioned above; it should be viewed as a starting reference point. Each of us has an individual biochemistry influenced by both our genetic ancestry and epigenetic influences that may have been passed down over many generations. Personally, I have a hard time digesting grains and this could be due to years, and perhaps a lineage, of eating poor grain options in the form of large Italian family dinners of mostly processed pastas and quick and easy before school and work breakfast cereals. Frankly, I hadn’t even heard of terms such as soaking, fermenting, and sprouting until the last few years. I’ve also had some adrenal issues in recent years that may contribute to my poor digestion of certain foods. So, my macro breakdown is less on the carbs and higher on quality fats. I mention this to free you, the reader, from viewing this nutrition advice as hard-and-fast authoritatively dictated rules of eating. I believe we’ve suffered from enough of this type of mandated thinking, or unthinking. Instead, view it as a starting point with basic guidelines. Listen to your body—and brain—and take notice of the direction they are pointing you. Patiently absorb the information—and food—and make adjustments to fine tune your fueling.