The Low Down

The human body is a metabolic marvel comprised of dozens of little systems connecting to create one complex system. Food is the fuel, the input, for the systems. Our metabolic machinery evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to function optimally on select fuels. These fuels were the original, Primal foods of the human organism. Over these hundreds of thousands of years our Big Game Hunting, small prey capturing, scavenging, foraging, gathering, opportunistic ancestors accumulated experience and wisdom about nourishing themselves. The learned to preserve and predigest foods to maximize the quality of their metabolic fuel. Eventually they learned to cook foods without destroying the important nourishing properties of the food, and then they learned to heal the human body with food. Only recently in the human evolutionary experience, have we abandoned all these hundreds of thousands of years of accumulated epicurean genius. Now we fuel our marvelous, complex metabolic machinery with crap invented to create profits for agribusiness. We have become dumb eaters. As we regain our eating intelligence it doesn't make sense to move back to the savannah and put out our fires or climb into our cave and pretend there is a glacier next door. It makes sense to fuel our bodies with all the primal human foodstuffs, prepared and preserved with accumulated ancestral wisdom and served up for the undeniable desires of the human taste buds. Primal, paleolithic food choices, handled according to ancient food ways resulting in outrageously good food.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Definition of an adult

Within the Paleo community and the traditional food ways community there is an on-going "conversation" regarding dairy. Strict Paleo followers obviously do not include dairy. In general, I suggest to my clients that they avoid dairy with the exception of butter/clarified butter which is an incredibly valuable, rare source of the short chain saturates. I also am intimately familiar with the work of Dr. Weston A Price and his nutrition research as well as the experience of thousands of present day families and individuals who have introduced raw dairy into their diets with profound health benefits. Where does that leave us with regard to what to do with dairy? It leaves us in the usual position when it comes to our food. How do you respond to it? How do you feel, behave, perform, look? How is your health? How is your body composition? What happens to you when you leave dairy out of your diet completely for six weeks? Be ruthless in your assessment. Don't make excuses for yourself. For example, dairy is impactful enough on my 12 year old son's acne that even he has begun to turn down ice cream on occasion. He doesn't say to himself "Well I'm a pre pubescent adolescent boy, I'd have zits anyway."

One thing is absolutely certain about dairy. If you are going to eat it you must consume it in it's original, nutritious form. Raw, alive and complete. No pasteurization, no homogenization, no skimming, no heating or cooking. You can culture it (raw cheese, raw sour cream and raw kefir). If you can't get your dairy in this form, DO NOT EAT IT.

Dr. Tom Cowan, M.D. is the author of The Fourfold Path to Healing, a brilliant look at many common illnesses with the adherence to Ancient Food Ways (although not Paleo ways) as one of the four healing paths. He likes to tell the following story: One day his son asked him, "Do you know the definition of an adult?" "What is it?" asked Dr. Cowan. "A person who likes vegetables" replied his son. Dr. Cowan uses this story to illustrate a vital point about nourishing a growing body-namely that human beings likely possess an intuitive sense about nutrition to which most of us have lost our connection. In the case of vegetables as fodder for children the issue of the necessity for fat-soluble nutrients is raised. When we reach adult hood our metabolism becomes more proficient at turning plant nutrients into forms usable by humans. As children, or when we are older, or if we have a metabolic deficiency, we are not proficient at using plant nutrients for our requirements. Dr. Cowan encourages parents (or those of us who are older or who have illness) to derive excellent nutrition by running the vegetables through a cow first!! Raw cream, butter, organ meat, bone broths come out the other side. For all you muscle-adding athletes out there you should think of yourselves as growing children. A child's body is in the process of building proteins, collagens, connective tissue, hormones, bone and muscle just like yours. All the original strong men knew this too. They ate raw cream, raw whole milk and raw beef and eggs (WITH THE YOLK).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Red Palm Oil

Red palm oil has not had the rebirth that coconut oil has been fortunate enough to experience. It may be that the taste is more unfamiliar to westerners and a little stronger. Red palm oil is a nutrient dense fat. It is loaded with beta-carotene (hence the color) as well as coenzyme Q10 and other benefits. You can read the story of red palm oil here.

There is a legitimate concern amongst folks who take environmental stability and sustainability into account when they chose their food supply that the Paleo diet is not an earth-friendly diet. In its correct form, the Paleo diet should be the MOST sustainable diet. Including a variety of foods that are produced in marginal ecological zones where conventional agriculture is not possible should be a desire we all have as Paleo eaters. Red palm oil needs to be on our radar. You can read more about it here. I think that African cooking is not on our radar at all! It doesn't have the cache of Asian cooking or the popularity of other ethnic cuisines. We miss out on some very Paleo food concepts if we don't look at many of the food traditions of African nations. I purchase my red palm oil at our international grocery store in Tucson and it is very affordable. In the pictures is the brand I found, and the nutrition label.

A study from right here in our own home state, looked at the dietary intake of red palm oil and its effect on the nutrient intake of breastfed babies: "Dr. Canefield of the University of Arizona in the US discovered that mothers who nursed their babies provided their babies with more vitamin A and carotenes by pre- paring their food with red palm oil than the control group which took beta-carotene capsules."

For a recipe that includes red palm oil and is derived from several African traditions sign up for the mailing list at!! This month's recipes coming soon...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Family Food traditions - The Pea

Green peas aren't really Paleo. They are legumes. But in my personal nourishing food universe, I try my best to eat freshly shelled peas once a year. My uncle makes fun of me, "You have to pay extra to get the peas that you have to do the work of shelling! Why not just buy the frozen ones?" He is right about the price actually, but I still don't care, because he didn't mention taste and effect on the soul. These days, if I get to New England at the right time of year, I take some money to Crossroads Farm and get a big bag of peas in the pod. Peas in their pod are a powerful reminder of the fact that there are some foods that just cannot be available all year around. There are only a couple weeks where gardens produce peas in their pod. As a kid we ravished the pea vines in my grandparents' garden gobbling them up right there in the row. We had to take turns shelling the peas on the front porch with my mother, grandmother and aunts so that they could be blanched and frozen. It was one of those tasks that was sort of boring, yet reassuring and peaceful. It was kind of a test to see how big a pea could get before, upon popping it in your mouth, you realized it had turned bitter instead of sweet. Eating peas from their shell once a year is a reminder to me that growing food is special, seasonal food is special, local food is special and family food traditions can be special. This past summer I wanted my sons to experience what I felt. The picture is my oldest son, shelling peas with my grandmother at her kitchen table. Eating green peas once a year may not be strictly text book Paleo, but it encompasses so many important aspects of eating well that I'm not throwing that baby out with the bath water just yet!!