Characteristics of traditional diets

Delicious  portion of  fresh salmon fillet  with aromatic herbs,

From the Weston A. Price foundation.

Characteristics of traditional diets

  1. The diets of healthy, non-industrialized peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or lowfat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; synthetic vitamins; or toxic additives and artificial colorings;
  2. All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal food, such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed; muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred;
  3. The diets of healthy, non-industrialized peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and Activator X, now thought to be vitamin K2) as the average American diet;
  4. All traditional cultures cooked some of their food but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw;
  5. Primitive and traditional diets have a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lactofermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments;
  6. Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid;
  7. Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids;
  8. Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids;
  9. All traditional diets contain some salt;
  10. All traditional cultures make use of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths;
  11. Traditional cultures make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.

Why organ meats belong in your diet

Instant-Pot-Chicken-Liver-Onions

There a few foods that actually deserve the title of “superfood”. Liver, along with many other organ meats like kidneys and hearts are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. 

Our bodies evolved to eat these foods and to draw nourishment and energy from them. We didn’t spend millennia gulping down multivitamins and sports supplements.

Once a popular and treasured food source, liver, along with other organ meats, have fallen out of favour as nutritional staples.

The reality is that our palates and routines have evolved far from some of the foods we most need for optimal health. Instead, people are chasing the regular sugar highs that come with more modern, overly processed and hyper palatable “foods”.

Organ meats have an excellent nutrient profile. High in protein and low in calories, some of the key nutrients that are important to optimal human function are found in organ meats such as liver, include:

  • Retinol. The active form of vitamin A, which is crucial for healthy skin, fertility and pregnancy, vision, and immune health;
  • Choline. Critical for DNA synthesis, brain function, and a healthy nervous system;
  • Iron. Another essential nutrient that helps carry oxygen around the body. The iron in liver is heme iron, the kind most easily absorbed by the body;
  • B12 and folate. These nutrients are crucial for methylation, which affects everything from gene expression to the production of neurotransmitters to detoxification;
  • Zinc and copper. Zinc and copper work together to influence immune function, metabolism, and the nervous system. A single serving of liver provides enough copper for an entire week.

Sadly, most people today don’t like the taste of liver, and beef kidneys and heart aren’t high on the list either.

How to get more organ meats into your diet
Here are a few ways to get more organ meats onto your plate:

  • Pan fried. Liver goes well when fried with onions;
  • Bolognese sauces. Liver and other organ meats can be chopped or minced and then mixed with regular ground beef and added to pasta or vegetable dishes;
  • Burger patties. As with Bolognese sauces, chop or mince organ meats and mix it with ground beef to make highly nutritious burgers;
  • Adding lots of spices. By adding lots of herbs and spices, you can use strong flavours to help disguise its taste.
  • Soaked in lemon juice. Prior to cooking will reduce the strong flavour.

The bottom line is that liver and other organ meats like kidneys and hearts are a greatly underrated food source. Naturally nutrient dense and low in calories, they make a truely valuable addition to any nutritional strategy.

How to get more fat in your diet

a heart shaped butter pat melting on a non-stick surface

Most foods that we eat today have some amount of fat content. 

Fat is an amazing flavour enhancer. It makes everything taste better.

Many people are starting to accept that fat is not all bad and have started to make the shift into lower carbohydrate diets. The thing is, when you lower your carbohydrate intake, you will need to increase one of the other macro-nutrients, protein or fat.

From a nutritional perspective, humans have evolved eating mostly protein and fats. In fact, it was the shift into eating more fatty tissue and organ meats that made cognitive revolution occur. This is also known as the development of the human brain.

More recent times have led to the vilification of dietary fats, however it’s not all bad. Additional to providing flavour, dietary fat from whole food sources provides the necessary intake of valuable fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K.

More and more research is proving that the real enemy is excessive carbohydrate and processed “food” consumption, combined with an overstressed, sedentary lifestyle, that is causing the explosions in obesity and chronic “diseases of lifestyle” that are so common in present day populations.

Here is a bunch of ways to get more fat into your diet:

Use whole, full-fat ingredients
It’s time to remove all of the low-fat or lite food products from the pantry and refrigerator.

Look for full-fat dairy products. Milk (if tolerant), butter, cream, yoghurt and cheeses. Add in avocados and some pastured eggs. Try to add natural fats rather than avoid them entirely.

Fatty cuts of meat can be more flavourful, and are often cheaper than leaner cuts. Wild salmon and sardines contain high amounts of important omega-3 fats and make valuable additions to the dinner plate.

Cook with fats
Cook your vegetables, meats, fish and eggs in natural fats like butter, ghee or coconut oil.

Use a variety of natural fats for flavour
Different fats can provide different flavours to your food. This will create variety to your meals without too much complication.

Try experimenting with these fats and oils:

  • Butter and ghee;
  • Lard, tallow, duck fat, or any other animal fat;
  • Coconut oil;
  • Olive oil;
  • Macadamia nut oil;
  • Avocado oil.

Top your dishes with butter or oils
A drizzle of oil. A dollop of sour cream. Melt some butter. You can top off almost any dish with some health promoting fats.

Garnish with high fat foods
Avocado. Cheese. Olives. Nuts and seeds. All of these high fat foods are packed with nutrients and important fat-soluble vitamins, so add these to your meals when available.

Eat more cheese
Cheese is a simple addition to any meal. It can even work as an appetizer. It goes with just about anything and can be eaten at anytime of the day. Packed with both protein and fat it makes a perfect addition to any meal or gathering.

If you are sensitive to dairy products, you may be able to tolerate hard cheeses such as Parmesan, Cheddar and Gouda as they have generally low amounts of lactose that most people will be able to manage small to moderate amounts.

Cheese is often served as dessert in my house.

Blend fats into your coffee or tea
Adding coconut or MCT oil to your morning coffee or tea is quick and easy. Full-fat cream works just as well and will give you that milky flavour with very little lactose content.

The combination of caffeine and MCT’s will provide you with some mental clarity, make you feel more alert and focused, as well as reduce the typical caffeine crash.

It will prime the body to shift from glucose to fat as a fuel source which will also keep your appetite suppressed for longer.

Why you should be eating Eggs

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Eggs are a versatile and highly nutritious food, though their precise nutritional content can vary greatly depending on how the chickens that produced them lived and what they  were fed. For example, chickens that have been able to feed on open pastures often have higher levels of important Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

Once considered a nutritional no-no due to dietary cholesterol, eggs have now been exonerated and have found their way to superfood status.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • A complete protein source;
  • High in vitamin B12, riboflavin, choline, phosphorus and selenium;
  • Good source of vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid and iron;
  • Good source of Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (in pastured eggs);
  • One only a few foods that naturally contain vitamin D.

Healthy evidence
This review article published in 2009 discussed the health benefits of choline, a compound that was only added to the list of recommended nutrients in 1998. The authors noted that eggs are one of the best sources of choline, which is vital in numerous metabolic functions.

For example, choline may help prevent atherosclerosis, neurological disorders and liver disease.

It has also been shown to help reduce the effects of short-term alcohol misuse, also known as a hangover. Choline is so important for alcohol metabolism that it can even protect fetuses against maternal alcohol ingestion (not that you should be consuming alcohol whilst pregnant).

Composition of an Egg
The composition of an egg is usually defined in two parts. The egg white and the yolk. The white is approximately 87% and 13% protein, and contains both vitamins and minerals.

The yolk is approximately 50% water, 33% fat and 17% protein. Similar to the egg white, it also contains both vitamins and minerals.

The nutrients available in an egg are distributed fairly evenly between the egg white and the yolk. This distribution of nutrients is a common characteristic of whole, natural foods and it is one of the main reasons why you should consume the entire egg.

How to choose your eggs
As stated above, the nutrient quality of an egg will depend largely on what living conditions and food available to the chickens that produced the eggs.

Just like all other animals, chickens that are able to express normal behavioural patterns, both socially and physically and are able to eat an optimal diet natural to the species will produce a higher quality egg.

Pastured eggs
Chickens roam freely outdoors, usually alongside cattle or llamas for protection and paddock sustainability. Constant access to sunlight, grass, seeds and bugs, which in turn leads to an excellent nutrient profile. The Gold Standard.

Free range eggs
Are produced by chickens that “may” be permitted outdoors, and have reasonable access to sunlight, grass and bugs resulting in a good nutrient profile.

The term “free range” may be used differently depending on the country and independent laws. In Australia, this means 10,000 hens per hectare in outdoor grazing areas where suitable.

Cage free eggs
Chickens that live indoors in large areas with some sun exposure and are often grain fed. However, the high stocking densities greatly restricts the chickens ability to move freely and conduct normal behavioural patterns, resulting in a lower nutrient profile.

Cage eggs
Chickens live en mass in what is known as battery cages with little to zero room to move about and conduct normal behavioural patterns causing massive amounts of stress. Nil outdoor access and commonly fed a grain based diet, resulting in the poorest nutrient profile.

The bottom line
Eggs are a nutrient dense, highly bio-available whole food. They’re relatively cheap, easy to prepare and can be combined with almost any other food.

Eat them often. Several studies have shown that eating three eggs per day is perfectly healthy. Is there an upper limit? There is no evidence to suggest that eating more is harmful to your health. It just hasn’t been studied enough.

In general, eggs are one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat. They are one of nature’s most complete foods.

Why you should be eating Garlic

 

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Garlic is native to the Mediterranean and Syria, although it is Central Asia where it is grows most abundantly today. Writings from Babylonia, China and India have indicated that garlic was well-known as a superfood in ancient times.

It has always been known as a medicinal plant. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that it conferred protection and strength, and throughout the Middle Ages it was widely used as a medicine in Europe and Asia.

Throughout history, garlic has also been surrounded by many superstitions, most likely due to its odiferous nature. It is best known for the protection against vampires, and many years prior to that belief, midwives in ancient Greece would string garlic around the necks of newborns for protection against evil spirits.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in manganese;
  • Good source of vitamins B6 and C;
  • Contains numerous phytochemicals.

Healthy evidence
Garlic contains several important phytochemicals, including thiosulfinate allicin, and S-allycysteine, which act as antioxidants and have other functions that help fight disease.

This 2001 study found that daily garlic supplementation reduced the number of colds by approximately 65% when compared to placebo. The average length of the cold symptoms was also reduced by 70%, from five days in the placebo group to just one and a half in the garlic group.

Several studies have also found that garlic supplementation can have a significant impact in reducing blood pressure in people suffering from high blood pressure.

This study found that between 600 mg and 1,500 mg of aged garlic extract was just as effective as the drug Atenolol at reducing blood pressure over a six month period.

The amount required to achieve the desired benefits are equivalent to about four or five cloves of garlic per day.

Making the most of Garlic
The key to making the most of garlic is consistently and variety. Use it often, in a variety of dishes to receive all of the benefits. When roasting, cut cloves into slices to release the phytochemicals.

The evolution of the human diet

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The human diet has changed quite dramatically throughout our history. From opportunistic scavengers, to traditional hunter-gatherers to the postindustrial age.

There have been obvious advantages with the evolution of modern society, however the majority of changes in the human diet that accompanied both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, affected the general health of modern humans, and not always in a good way.

Let’s have a look.

The Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago – 10,000 years ago)
As hunter-gatherers, the general diet was varied due to differences in geographical location and season, however they all consisted of wild animal and plant sources.

Macronutrient distribution was approximately:

  • Protein: 19-35%
  • Fat: 28-58%
  • Carbohydrate: 22-40%

Other characteristics of hunter-gatherer diets included:

  • Low glycemic load;
  • High antioxidant capacity;
  • High micronutrient density;
  • Equal Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio;
  • Close to equal Sodium to Potassium ratio.

Did hunter-gatherers eat grains and grasses? Probably. Did they eat them often? Unlikely. The effort required to consume unprepared grains or grasses would have been too taxing on the digestive system, which would have likely led to decreased performance and not enough of an energy return to warrant regular consumption.

As a result, hunter-gatherers were generally lean and strong, with dense bones and broad dental arches. Health biomarkers such as blood pressure and cholesterol were generally normal into advanced age.

Evidence suggests that the incidence of diet related disease was low.

The Agricultural Revolution (about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago)
Archaeological data indicates that the domestication of various types of plants and animals started happening in separate locations worldwide around 12,000 years ago.

The transition from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, made larger populations possible. This however, greatly narrowed the diversity of foods available, resulting in a downturn in human nutrition.

Grains and dairy products from sheep started to become dietary staples at the expense of larger wild animals.

As a result, common characteristics of early agricultural diets, compared to hunter-gatherer diets included:

  • Higher carbohydrate, diary fats, milk sugars and alcohol;
  • A decrease in protein intake;
  • A decrease in Omega-3
  • A decrease in antioxidants and micronutrients;
  • Higher overall caloric density;
  • Higher glycemic loading;
  • Higher sodium to potassium ratios.

The transition to an agricultural dietary pattern led to a decrease in lifespan, a reduction in height, an increase in dental health problems, iron deficiency anemia, and several bone mineral disorders.

These health issues can be still seen today in hunter-gather communities that have only recently been exposed to post-agricultural diets.

The Industrial Revolution (about 250 years ago) and Modern era (the last 50 years)
The introduction of novel foods with the industrial revolution altered several nutritional characteristics of human diets, which has had far-reaching adverse effects on human health.

Extensive evidence shows that the consumption of westernized modern era diets adversely affects gene expression, immunity, gut microbiota and increases the risks of developing cancer, heart disease, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and a plethora of other chronic health conditions.

Common characteristics of industrial and modern era diets, compared to hunter-gatherer diets include:

  • Higher carbohydrate, alcohol, trans-fats, sodium & omega-6;
  • Lower in fiber, antioxidants, protein and omega-3;
  • Higher glycemic load;
  • Higher energy density;
  • Lower micronutrient density;
  • Higher sodium to potassium ratio.

Even with the advances in medicine and technology, it has been estimated that the next generation will be the first in over one thousand years to actually have a shorter lifespan average than the current generation.

Many of the diet related diseases of the modern era can be reversed by increasing daily physical activity and modifying diet by eliminating known inflammatory foods. The issue however, is figuring out how to implement these changes at population-wide levels.

Why you should be eating Swiss Chard

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Particularly popular among Mediterranean cultures, Swiss Chard or Silverbeet is actually a member of the spinach family. It is however, more substantial and much greater in nutritional value than regular spinach. Generally inexpensive at the grocer, it makes an excellent bang for you buck.

Why it’s a superfood?

  • High in vitamins A, C, E and K, fiber, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron and antioxidants;
  • Good source of calcium and copper.

Healthy evidence
The high levels of antioxidants, found in Swiss Chard, have been shown to prevent cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. Several studies have reported that higher dietary intakes of potassium lowered the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Making the most of Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard packs a lot of nutritional density for bone health. A single serving provides approximately seven times the daily value for vitamin K.

The best way to retain the nutrient density is to sauté. Stems will take slightly longer to cook, so allow extra time and cook with a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil and some chopped onion. Once the stems are tender, add the leaves and cover until the leaves are also tender. To enhance iron absorption, add some acidic juice to finish, like lemon.