Health Impact News Editor Comments: We welcome today KerryAnn Foster, a veteran author and publisher on the subject of Traditional Foods. KerryAnn has the Internet’s longest running traditional foods menu mailer program that can save you time, money, and energy by subscribing to menu plans and recipes based on traditional foods. Today she introduces us to the topic of Traditional Foods.
Today, many people are looking to return to the natural diet of our forefathers to relieve or prevent poor health. That search is leading many to the work of Dr. Weston A. Price. Price was a dentist in the 1920s and 1930s who was interested in discovering the nutritional reasons for poor oral health, narrow dental arches and cavities. He visited many groups of people around the world who were still consuming their native diet in his search for answers. He visited group after group, yet he found extremely low cavity rates combined with wide dental arches, wide faces and no dental crowding or the need for braces, even among societies that did not brush their teeth. Price looked for common links in their food intake for the answers. He found that all the societies he studied went to great lengths to find foods that were nutrient-dense and high in fat-soluble vitamins, believing those foods were necessary for producing strong bodies and healthy children. On average, Dr. Price found that these societies consumed ten times the fat soluble vitamins and many times the vitamins and minerals as the American diet in the 1930s. He returned to the United States and found remarkable results improving the dental health of children by diet changes and the use of a small supplemental dose of cod liver oil. Since the rise of industrial foods and bad fats, the American intake of vitamins and minerals, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and their co-factors, has continued to fall in our culture due to fat-phobia and the love of processed carbohydrates displacing healthier foods. In our modern world, a nutrient dense diet can be achieved by consuming traditional fats, pastured meat and eggs, limited amounts of natural sweeteners, leafy green vegetables and bone broths.
Nutrient-dense fats are the cornerstone of a traditional foods diet. Naturally occurring fats consumed by traditional societies included coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, lard, tallow, ghee, butter, schmaltz (poultry fat), olive oil, flax seed oil, unrefined sesame oil and cod liver oil. Saturated fats and a balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio rule this list. Fat was a critical part of traditional diets. The animal fats in this list can contain Vitamin D when consumed from pastured animals. Cod liver oil that has not been refined supplies vitamins A and D, two nutrients typically lacking in modern diets, along with critically needed Omega-3s. Native diets had many times more omega-3 and much less omega-6 than our modern diets. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are excellent for providing lauric acid, known for having anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. They both store well at room temperature and are excellent for cooking and baking. I buy coconut oil by the five-gallon bucket and use it as my family’s main fat. I use tallow for frying. To replace shortening in recipes, I use a healthy palm shortening. Because olive and sesame oils have lower smoke points, I do not cook with them unless they are combined with a heat-stable fat such as coconut oil. Instead, I use them in unheated recipes like salad dressings, along with flax in small amounts. Refined oils such as soy, canola, peanut and other refined vegetable oils are unsaturated, modern oils high in omega-6. Many are hydrogenated, adulterated or processed using high heat, extreme pressure, hexane and other solvents and chemicals that can have negative health effects. For the most nutrition, consume enough traditional fats to help you feel full and satisfied but not heavy or bloated after a meal. For my family, that means cooking meat dishes in 2-4 Tbs of coconut oil for each meal, as well as the liberal use of salad dressings and even fat-based desserts such as peanut butter cups or even peanut butter bean fudge.
Pastured Meat and Eggs
Pastured meat and eggs also provide many of the nutrients lacking in modern diets. Pastured meats are known to be higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants without exposing you to hormones and antibiotics that are rampant in the feed-lot industry. Grass-fed beef contains two to four times the omega-3s and three to five times the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an anti-carcinogen, than feedlot beef. Pastured eggs can have three to twenty times the amount of omega-3s and two to three times the Vitamin E as battery eggs from the grocery store. You have the added peace of mind knowing that the animals have been fed a species-appropriate diet devoid of pesticide-containing seed meals such as cottonseed and soy that create meat high in omega-6 and low in CLA. They are not confined, instead roaming on pasture and getting plenty of sunshine. We regularly enjoy pastured meat in our diet. Pastured eggs contain a golden to orange yolk, depending on the time of year, creating beautifully-rich looking dishes for breakfast and lunch. Simple meals with roasted chicken, beef or bison roasts or steaks please all members of the family. Grass-fed meat has a broader and richer flavor than its feed-lot counterparts and the meat has a better consistency. Our family has found that despite the increased cost of pastured meats, it takes less meat to make us full, saving money in the long-run. Bison is rising in popularity in the United States, but most of it is grain-fed or grain-finished. Tropical Traditions is one of the few sources of truly pastured bison. I use ground bison or ground beef in our Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joes, a favorite lunch dish for my children.
Natural sweeteners are enjoying a revival in popularity. Sweeteners such as raw honey, molasses, rapadura and grade B maple syrup are once again popular and even gourmet. They are excellent for use in any application you would use white sugar or corn syrup. They are as sweet with a more complex flavor profile but because they are unrefined, they contain trace minerals. However, even natural sugars are a source of unneeded carbohydrates when consumed in excess, which can lead to health problems and weight gain. In using natural sweeteners, I replace one cup of corn syrup with a half-cup of honey and one cup of white sugar is replaced with a half-cup of rapadura for most recipes. If your family is new to natural sweeteners, working to gradually make the swap will produce the least resistance. In a recipe calling for one cup of white sugar, I begin the transition by taking a three-quarter cup measuring cup and placing two tablespoons of rapadura in the bottom. I then fill the cup with white sugar. Gradually, over a period of several months, you can increase the amount of rapadura while reducing the overall amount of sugar until you are only using a half-cup of rapadura for every cup of white sugar called for in a recipe. I use rapadura in our family favorite, cake-style chocolate donuts. They’re a great way to sneak coconut flour, coconut oil and plenty of pastured eggs into a dish the kids think is a treat!
Leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Generally speaking, the darker the leaf, the more nutrition it contains and the more intense the flavor. Greens can contain phytonutrients, a variety of B vitamins, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron and more. As a Southern girl, for many years I refused to try cooked greens, having grown up with over-boiled and under-seasoned collard and turnip greens poked at me throughout my childhood. It wasn’t until I switched to a traditional foods diet and reduced the sugar consumption in my life that my taste buds came to accept and even enjoy these flavors. Now kale, chard and spinach are staples in our home when in season, with salad greens being eaten regularly when it’s too warm for our favorites to grow well. If you’re new to greens, start with the colorful salad green available in many stores, avoiding the iceberg lettuce. The salad greens are easily flavored with homemade dressings using traditional fats, giving your palate time to adjust to their flavors. Then you can move to the middle flavors- spinach, chard, kale and cabbages. Finally, the deep and complex collard, turnip and mustard greens can be tried without rejecting their flavors. My favorite way to fix kale is to de-stem and shred it then saute it in coconut oil until bright and barely tender. Then I add salt, a pressed clove of garlic and a tiny bit of chicken or beef stock and allow it to simmer gently until tender, about ten more minutes. Finally, I add a small dash of an acid such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and serve it immediately.
Bone broths are what I term ‘found food.’ They are created out of foods normally thrown away- bones and scraps of vegetables. When I roast a chicken, I save the bones and make stock using the odds and ends pieces of onion, carrot and celery most cooks throw away. Properly prepared bone broths contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, along with gelatin, a well-known healing food. Bone broths aid in the digestion of food by attracting digestive juices to the food particles consumed with them. You can make it with any type of animal bone, including chicken, beef, bison, fish and much more. Click here for directions to make chicken stock in a crock-pot and click here for beef stock in a roaster. In folklore bone broths are known to be soothing and restorative to the digestive tract and a valuable aid in fighting a variety of illnesses. The blessing of this found food is that it contributes greatly to the flavor of finished dishes, making them taste, smell and feel rich. I make my bone broths in large batches, gently cook them down to make storage space less of an issue, then freeze in ice cube trays. When they’re completely frozen, I pop them out of the trays and place in freezer containers. Any time I need to add a little stock, it’s quick and convenient without needing to wait for a large brick to thaw. Stocks aren’t just for soups and they’re easy to hide in a wide variety of foods. You can use them in any savory dish instead of water. For example, I cook my rice in stock instead of water for dinner dishes. In recipes calling for a small amount of water, I use stock instead. When I make taco meat, instead of adding water when I add my spices, I add three stock cubes and cook the dish until it is only slightly moist. This is the equivalent of getting about one cup of stock into the dish, but without the soupy texture. My favorite soup recipe using bone broth is Curried Pumpkin Soup and my favorite sneaky way to hide stock is the rich and saucy French Chicken.
If you’re new to traditional foods and you like the concept of nutrient-dense eating but you don’t quite know where to begin, our Classic Menu Mailers can help. Our focus on nutrient-dense meals that require less than thirty minutes of hands-on time with family friendly fare that has been tested and approved by my own kids. We incorporate all of the above and much more into a menu plan including five dinners, one breakfast and one dessert each week. Your shopping list is already done for you and a preparation reminder schedule is included so you don’t have to try to remember when you thaw your meats or soak your beans. All of our menus are gluten and dairy-optional for those with food intolerances and sensitivities. If you are new to food intolerances and find yourself trying to eliminate gluten and dairy, our Gluten and Dairy-Free Traditional Foods eCourse can help you get on your feet. We have kept a gluten and dairy-free household since three of our family members were diagnosed as having celiac disease in 2006. Our website, Cooking Traditional Foods, has recipes, information and a blog about traditional foods and how to make implementing the diet as easy, family-friendly, budget-happy and manageable as possible. You can also connect with us on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.
About the Author
KerryAnn Foster blogs at Cooking Traditional Foods and has authored multiple books and eBooks. She writes the longest running traditional foods Menu Mailer available, now in its fifth year. KerryAnn founded Nourished Living Network, a network for traditional food bloggers, in 2011. KerryAnn has ten years of traditional foods experience. Read about KerryAnn’s journey to health through celiac disease, food allergies, obesity, adrenal fatigue and heavy metals.