This post covers part of the Introduction of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Opinions are mine unless indicated otherwise.
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…one out of five pregnancies ends in miscarriage and one quarter of a million infants are born with a birth defect each year…arthritis, multiple sclerosis, digestive disorders, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and chronic fatigue–afflict a significant majority of our citizens…learning disabilities…afflict seven million young people…extremely rare only a generation or two ago.
…chronic illness afflicts nearly half of all Americans and cause three out of four deaths in the United States…formerly the purview of the very old, [these diseases] now strike our children and those in the prime of life.
Isn’t that enough to give you a pause? Cancer and heart disease, so rampant in our country, were rare only a hundred years ago. Despite modern medicine. Despite modern technology and science. Despite ongoing new insights in nutrition. Despite growing an enormous amount of food in this land, and making numerous modifications to the food guide pyramid, our people are getting sicker and sicker.
If you Google ‘food pyramid’ an endless number of food guide pyramids come up. The ones recommended by the USDA invariably have grains as the base of the diet. This is truly fascinating because grains, if you know anything about the nutritional content of foods, and what our bodies need, are not a very nutrient-dense food. In fact, grains are usually refined or over-processed in the American diet, rendering them practically useless aside from giving us some calories. I don’t mean to bash on grains here–they do have nutrients we need, but placing them at the base of the diet doesn’t really make sense. Another big group in the second pyramid is dairy. Not only do many people have trouble digesting grains and dairy, but grains have a load of carbohydrates, and milk has a fair amount of sugar in it, too. They advocate lean proteins and low-fat dairy. What does this amount to? A diet that is about 10% fat, 20% protein, and 70% carbohydrate. I never really understood the reasoning behind a “low-carb” diet until I figured out those numbers.
Ever wonder who is coming up with these guidelines, anyway? According to Fallon, in 1923, a US Farmer’s Bulletin recommended that everyone eat a pound of sugar per week. Insane, right? But the government backed it! Fruits and veggies weren’t considered important foods for many years. Who are we trusting here??
When my son started eating solids, I wanted him to eat meats and veggies, a moderate amount of high-fat dairy and fruits, and not too much grain. I wasn’t following anyone’s food guidelines but my own–I wanted him to eat the foods that would provide him the best nourishment, and I felt the the need to focus as above. Partly this was due to what I have learned about food, and partly it was instinctual.
I really just want to throw out the food charts and eat instinctively. According to Fallon, people in very healthy traditional cultures consume an average of 40% of their calories from fats (mostly animal fats), 20% from protein, and 40% from carbohydrates. However, some people, like Eskimos, eat a diet where 80% of the calories come from fat, and very few from carbohydrates. The consensus seems to be that if you want to be healthy, eat lots of animal fat, get an adequate amount of protein, and don’t overdo it on the carbohydrates. Not exactly what the American Diet Dictocrats (I just love that term) tell us to do, now is it?