Over the past few years I have read some fascinating nutrition books that discuss the essential ingredients required to live a long and healthy life. I finally woke up to the reality that we are what we eat, not so much for my own health as for the growing baby in my belly. One of my first thoughts when I saw that positive test (after OMG) was I need folic acid! Since I was in Mexico at the time and about to sail across the pacific, I had only enough time to run into Walmart and buy a pre-natal multivitamin! I had no idea what I should be eating whilst pregnant – except that I was eating for two, woohoo! Beyond my awareness that folic acid was somehow important, my nutritional knowledge was fairly limited (I ate sushi whilst sailing, which apparently isn’t very wise). I knew I should eat less cakes and more vegetables, and had the idea that lean chicken breast was better for you than bacon, but I equated that more to calories than anything else.
About a year into motherhood, having exhausted all there was to read about breastfeeding and attachment parenting, I happened to see a friend of mine reading Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet
and bought myself a copy. I was less than half way through the book before I decided I must become a vegan. It was the only sane choice for the planet and instant health and vitality for me and my kids (I was pretty sure that my husband would be less than keen – breakfast for him was either 4 eggs with butter and salt or nothing). So I started presenting the family with tasty risottos and experimental couscous concoctions, stocking up on tahini, miso, tofu burgers and soy milk. I even resorted to trying vegan cheese, which went immediately in the bin with a small bite out of it, bleurgh! After a few weeks of successfully refusing animal products and trying to think of new and interesting ways to cook lentils, I discovered a book called Real Food, by Nina Planck. Call me fickle and easy swayed, but this made a lot more sense! Nina grew up on a farm in Virginia, eating piles of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, along with plenty of fresh raw milk from the family cow. She opened the first farmer’s markets in London and tempted by England’s finest producers of roast beef and raw milk cheddar, she wondered about the advice most Americans get about diet. After what she describes as some dutiful, dull, and unhealthy years in the vegan, vegetarian, and non-fat wilderness, she came back to real food.
It made me think back to a holiday I went on with my parents to Normandy, northern France when I was maybe 10 years old. My sister and I learned our first words of french as we went to the farmer each morning and asked for ‘un litre de lait s’il vous plait’. The milk was thick and creamy and usually still warm, a delicious treat. I also remember that as a kid we used to have to shake our glass milk bottles when they arrived from the milkman because the cream would rise to the top. These days the pasteurised, homogenised milk available in the supermarket is barely recognisable and we’re all encouraged to buy the lowest fat milk we can tolerate if we haven’t already switched to almond, soy or rice milk.
Nina Planck’s book inspired me to shop at our local fortnightly farmer’s market in Stamford, Lincolnshire which had a raw milk & cheese seller as well as a couple of local meat farmers offering grass-fed beef and pork products. They were more expensive than Tesco of course, but very tasty, great quality products. Before we moved to the US, I was trying to incorporate these items into our weekly shop, but convenience often prevailed as I resorted back to our weekly delivered supermarket groceries. Now that we live in Massachusetts, we have discovered other great sources of these products. Trader Joe’s have grass-fed ground beef and raw milk cheese, though I doubt we will see any raw milk offered in supermarkets anytime soon! We are lucky enough to have a fabulous raw milk dairy about 15 minutes from where we live and I must make more effort to get over there and buy it regularly.
The next book I read on my nutritional journey was Cure Tooth Decay. Here I discovered the work of Weston A. Price (1870-1948), a prominent dentist known primarily for his theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health, and physical health. In 1939 Price published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a book that details a series of ethnographic nutritional studies performed by him across diverse cultures, including the Lötschental in Switzerland, Native Americans, Polynesians, Pygmies, and Aborigines, among many others. In the book, Price claimed that various diseases endemic to Western cultures of the 1920s and 1930s – from dental caries to tuberculosis – were rarely present in non-Western cultures. He argued that as non-Western groups abandoned indigenous diets and adopted Western patterns of living they also showed increases in typically Western diseases, and concluded that Western methods of commercially preparing and storing foods stripped away vitamins and minerals necessary to prevent these diseases.
The Weston A. Price Foundation is a charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of the nutrition pioneer whose studies of isolated peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets. Dr. Price’s research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats.
Kaayla Daniel (aka the Naughty Nutritionist) writes for the Weston A. Price Foundation. “As to the vegan myth that animal foods cause the diseases of modern civilization, you gotta be kidding! The 20th century saw a decline in the consumption of meat, dairy and butter but a sharp increase in the consumption of sugar, corn syrup, white flour, liquid and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial flavorings, preservatives and other known health hazards of processed, packaged and fast foods. All health problems associated with animal products — as well as cruelty to animals and threats to the environment – are the result of factory farming and other commercial and non-sustainable farming practices. In other words, The Naughty Nutritionist is not recommending factory farms or supermarket products.”
You can find the full version of Kaayla’s latest blog post at: