Monthly Archives: October 2010

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Real Food

What Are Traditional Foods?

www.mypicshares.com

You may hear the term traditional foods and wonder, “what exactly does that mean?”

When you think about traditional foods, do you think about hunter-gatherers of long ago? They did everything by hand and from scratch. Or do you think about the pioneers living out on the prairie or edge of the forest who began to cultivate and produce their own food after finding a homestead and settling in one place? These are indeed some examples of the ways traditional foods were produced, harvested, prepared and eaten.

By contrast, the way we eat today is vastly different.

We have grown so accustomed to food being produced the way it is, we often don’t think beyond the package or the can. Since the advent of mechanization and processing techniques developed during the time around the Industrial Revolution, our food has become increasingly removed and modified from its natural state.

The effect these processes have had on our health has been profound. To the average person, the notion of eating healthy or nutritious food has been been translated into something which powerful companies are now able to employ effective marketing strategies by which to sell products. Notice how you will rarely see an ad on television or in a magazine for a whole, organic food.

Ads are persuasive and successful tools that sell products – but they rarely sell health. The good news is, you do have a choice. With a little information, you can become empowered to take charge of your own health instead of letting an advertisement tell you what’s healthy. One of the best ways to take control of your own health is to eliminate processed foods from your diet and start eating traditional foods.

For some, the idea of changing ways of eating is very challenging. Maybe you buy a lot of convenience foods and feel as though you simply don’t have time or desire to cook, or maybe you don’t have the energy to plan ahead and think about meals in advance.  Changing eating habits may not be easy, but perhaps you have some health issues motivating you to do something about – problems you’d like to eliminate but haven’t had success in treating with conventional medicine.

What are traditional foods?

Traditional foods are those eaten by people over the longer course of civilization and which have supported health – cultivated, produced, and harvested from the earth and out of nature – foods which are wholly unaltered and organic, and contain the highest levels of nutrition or are nutrient-dense.

These foods have been eaten for millennia by people around the world. They are not processed or packaged and sent all over the planet, so in many cases traditional foods are also those found in your local community.

Some examples include using real fats for cooking such as butter or lard instead of vegetable oil – which is a modern, industrialized fat, or meat and poultry from humanely-raised animals or birds living out in the open on green pasture. We have been taught to believe many of foods we eat are from natural healthy sources, but the reality is that most of what is bought and sold on the market is as unnatural as can possibly be.

Traditional foods, as described on The Weston A. Price Foundation web site:

“It is these real, whole, nourishing foods enjoyed for generation upon generation that provide the cells of our bodies with the necessary fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients needed for vibrant health. This state of well-being is characterized by a quiet and strong digestive system, superior brain function, blissful sleep, sturdy bones, calm mind and an immune function that prevents infection.”

Some of the most penetrating research into the effects of a traditional diet on health was conducted by Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist in America during the early part of the 20th century. “Back in the 1930s, Dr. Price noticed a troubling pattern developing among his patients: those with the worst teeth typically had the worst health problems elsewhere in the body. To satisfy his curiosity as to the cause of this unhealthy trend, Price traveled the globe for ten years to study the effects of modern foods on dental health and physical development. His research is detailed in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, first published in 1939. Dr. Price’s findings were remarkable indeed. The correlation between diet and physical health and development was incontestable. Among the many indigenous cultures he visited, the differences between those who had remained with their ancestral diet from birth and those who had succumbed to the temptations of the western cultures—namely sugar, white flour, and soft drinks—were undeniable!

Price found that the native groups eating their traditional wholesome diet had less than one percent of their permanent teeth decayed. You may be thinking, ‘They must have brushed their teeth day and night!’ In fact, these cultures never used a toothbrush. The good doctor concluded that the state of one’s teeth was an excellent reflection of the state of one’s overall physical and mental health. Moreover, those consuming nutrient-dense foods produced offspring with beautifully round faces, and jaws wide enough to accommodate all their teeth with proper spacing, few or no cavities, and broad heads to allow for proper brain development. No one needed braces in societies consuming traditional foods!”

Why eat traditional foods?

  • The most critical reason is for health, as traditional foods by their very nature contain the highest levels of nutrition available because they are grown with sustainable methods which increase nutrient content and without chemicals and other dangerous substances which have been found to diminish nutritional value. To achieve wellness, the body needs nutrients from real food. Eating traditional foods helps to avoid many health issues including allergies, asthma, digestive and cardiovascular health issues, obesity, and auto-immune disorders like lupus, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and even Diabetes.
  • Traditional, real food possesses taste that is vastly different from conventional and processed foods. Traditional foods are full of flavor, texture, and aroma.
  • Eating traditional foods supports smaller, family farms and food-producing operations. When you eat traditional foods, you are also helping the environment by using your dollars to support sustainable methods of food production.

What are the results of consuming a diet with a lot of processed foods?

In Dr. Price’s travels, he noticed the appearance of various diseases and conditions in cultures who had began to eat processed foods. He observed that when populations consumed fell prey to modern processing and began consuming vegetable oils, white flour and white sugar they began to experience widespread physical degeneration: tooth decay and disease developed over the period of just one generation. Dental crowding and cavities were common to those consuming white flour and sugar, as well as problems in the digestion, skin, circulation, reproduction, nervous system, musculoskeletal/joint, and all areas of health.

Intake of excessive white flour and sugar has been connected to most major health issues including (but definitely not limited to): osteoporosis, cancer, hypoglycemia, cardiovascular disease, adrenal exhaustion, metabolic, endocrine, and reproductive disorders, parasitic and yeast infections. The immune system also lowers in function within minutes of consumption of sugar. A compromised immune system naturally leads to more flus, colds, sore throats, allergic reactions, depression, and irritability. In addition, the more sugar you consume, the faster you accelerate the aging process.

What types of foods are considered traditional?

Here’s a list of some traditional foods:

  • Sustainably-raised, grass-fed animal meats and poultry or game birds such as beef, lamb, venison, rabbit, pork, elk, chicken, turkey, pheasant, and other fowl. Cattle are ruminants and should eat grass, not grain, soy, corn, or any other feed. Other animals/birds should be given organic and/or non-genetically-modified feed in their diet.
  • Sustainably-raised, organic eggs from hens on pasture, allowed to roam and eat worms, grubs, and insects as well as plants.
  • Organ meats produced from healthy, grass-fed animals and birds
  • Organic or sustainably-produced whole fruits and vegetables
  • Organic, whole, sprouted, soaked, or fermented grains to neutralize nutrient-inhibtors (phytic acid) contained within the food
  • Raw, sustainably-produced dairy including milk, cheese, cream, butter, kefir, and yogurt
  • Raw nuts from sustainable sources that have been soaked and sprouted, again to neutralize phytic acid and make more digestible
  • Healthy, flavorful broths made from the bones and other parts of animal and birds
  • Healthy fats from traditional sources like butter from cows on pasture, lard and tallow from healthy, humanely raised animals and birds on pasture, extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, and palm oils from sustainable sources.
  • Real, unrefined sea salt with naturally-occurring trace minerals and nutrients

Eating traditionally does require some effort. But taking the time and effort to deliberately choose healthier foods to eat and avoiding processed, packaged foods will contribute positively to your health.

You can buy foods from others or hunt or raise and produce your own. With perseverance, research, and concern for health and the environment, you can change your eating habits from unhealthy to healthy by purchasing, growing, and eating traditional foods.

A good place to start

Your health food store or your farmer’s market are two excellent places to start on your traditional food quest. If you have never bought local meat or produce from a farmer or from your neighborhood health food store, today is the day to give it a try. Farmer’s markets are now available in most cities, and many local health food stores sell local meat and produce as well.

There is something very satisfying about developing a relationship with a person who produces the food you eat. It’s an experience you won’t find in Wal-Mart other chains, or even your city grocery store where everything is often quite impersonal, and knowing where your food comes from is invariably much more difficult. When you take the time to find out how your food is produced and get to know the farmers who raise and it, you will come to understand the satisfying results of eating real, traditional food for both improved health and environmental stewardship.

For more information on traditional and slow foods, visit The Weston A. Price Foundation site.

Recommended reading: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell

Cooking Traditional Foods

Slow Food USA

What’s in your kitchen? Here’s what’s in mine:

My Kitchen Staples – How I Keep My Family Healthy

More reasons to eat traditional and sustainable foods:

Food Recalls: Why They Could Mean The End of Real Food As We Know It
How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!

 

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Real Food Reviews

Sustainable Farming – Is It Practical and Can It Feed Us All?

www.mypicshares.com

I’ve had many conversations with a variety of people about the subject of sustainable farming and whether or not it is feasible on a large scale to switch over from conventional farming methods to non-petroleum, non-chemical methods, and eliminate the practice of concentrated animal feeding operations and factory farms.

Whether the idea of sustainable farming conjurs up in your head the picture of a horse pulling a metal plow through a field or you imagine tractors and columbines doing the work as many do on many modern farms (organic as well as conventional), the question of how we can change our farming practices to make our efforts more sustainable is on the forefront of the most pressing and critical issues in the world with regard to health, prosperity, and our future.

There’s always someone wanting to debate this, so I’d like to discuss some of reasons why it is important for us to understand the impact of conventional farming on our world, how it  cannot continue on as it has over the last 100 plus years, and why I believe the claims made about sustainable farming not being possible to feed the world are simply unfounded.

Thicke for Secretary of Agriculture

A very important thing is happening in Iowa – a sustainable farmer who knows the issues we are facing as a nation and in the world with regard to our food safety, laws, and supply is running for Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa this election season.

Why should we care? For starters, Francis Thicke knows sustainable farming methods can be both efficient and modern.  He has been a farmer for nearly 30 years, has been active the agricultural movement in various capacities since that time. He has been an integral part of the grass-roots movement to alter the face of farming from conventional to sustainable.  He has a long-standing public service record in the agricultural and government policy realms. Among other things, he has served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Iowa Food Policy Council, and the Iowa Organic Standards Boards.

“While we can learn and apply many things from earlier traditional farming methods, advances in technology and increased understanding of biology and ecology have taken organic farming far beyond the farming methods of 100 years ago,” he writes. “Organic methods optimize the use of locally available resources and biologically produced resources on site, rather than relying on expensive external inputs that are not readily available and are often too expensive for limited-resource farmers.”

In his campaign, he discusses the importance of how our focus on organic farming has allowed us to advance our knowledge and techniques, such as with improved machinery and technology. He’s not necessarily in favor of turning back the clock – in fact, he wants to use science and technology to further our abilities to produce food, but with safe and sustainable methods. We are acquiring a better comprehension as time goes on of how to deal with weeds and insects with natural methods such as beneficial insects and crop rotation to control these factors without the use of toxic chemicals.

He has also observed that although a lesser amount of funds are dedicated toward “official” research of organic farming, organic and sustainable farming maintains its position and continues to be a player in agricultural business. This, he believes, is solid proof of the strong principles and success of sustainable farmers and methods.

Thicke calls witness to the fact that organic agriculture has continued to progress despite the relative availability of research funds dedicated to it, as compared to those directed toward conventional methods. Indeed, this points to the strength of organic farming’s methods, principles, and practitioners. As conventional farming tends to be more concentrated in developed countries, the rest of the world’s farmers and food growers still use sustainable practices. Most everyone else is simply too poor to even conceive of using methods used by conventional farming with expensive, petroleum-based fertilizers and chemicals.

“Organic methods optimize the use of locally available resources and biologically produced resources on site, rather than relying on expensive external inputs that are not readily available and are often too expensive for limited-resource farmers.” From the Thicke for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture site.

When candidates like this get behind important issues that affect everyone, it is our duty to get behind them and help them succeed. Find out how you can make a difference and help Francis Thicke become the Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa – state that has a great deal of influence on our country’s farming culture and habits. Spread the word about his candidacy on your blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks, or donate to his campaign.

Read this great article about Francis Thicke on Grist.org.

What is YOUR diet for a hot planet?

I have been reading Anna Lappé’s Diet For A Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at The End of Your Fork And What You Can Do About It, and I’m really interested in some of the points she makes in this well-written book:

  • Many people are so busy pointing the finger at the cause of global warming being the carbon monoxide emissions from our vehicles and other operations requiring carbon-based fuel (which may or may not be the case), but very little attention is aimed at the damage and pollution from factory farming facilities which produce a large majority of our food (especially meat).
  • Lappé makes a strong case for the move toward sustainably-produced meat, in ways that many other authors have not. Various arguments are made and discussed about the emissions of grass-fed versus grain-fed meat and which has the ultimate negative impact on the environment. As we are shown, meat from grain-fed cattle “produces greenhouse-gas emissions at nearly every stage in the process”. And although the constant request is made for yet “more scientific evidence” to prove once and for all that grass-fed is superior to grain-fed, Lappé readily admits to there being a preponderance of evidence that factory-farming damages the environment in ways sustainable farming doesn’t.

Like Michael Pollan, Lappé talks a number of times about reducing the “amount of meat” we eat, and it’s true that she has been quoted as saying that she is making an effort to cut meat out of her own diet. Although I’m not about cutting meat our of our diets, I do believe the natural result of eliminating factory farms and confined animal feeding operations would be a lower consumption of meat.

Currently, most people eat hormone and antibiotic-treated meat from animals and birds eating a diet heavy in soy, grains, and corn (among other things) which contributes to health imbalances such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, auto-immune disorders, and many other problems – among them a feeling of lingering hunger and insatiable appetite. If consumers did start eating less of this meat and more of the grass-fed meat from healthy animals and birds on pasture, nutritional imbalances would change and so would our health and food cravings. So the honest truth is, we really would be eating less meat as a result. But it wouldn’t be because meat isn’t healthy for us to eat, because it is when it’s from healthy animals and birds raised correctly.

At a recent book signing in Portland, OR, Ms. Lappe was questioned by a man about the nutritional content of organic crops as compared to conventional crops. Before her answer came, she said, “What you call conventional farming I prefer to call ‘industrial farming’ or ‘factory-farming.’ What is conventional? We’ve only been engaging in industrial farming for the past 50, maybe 100 years, so it’s not conventional or traditional.”

Here is a public presentation from WGBH featuring the author and her mother, Frances Moore Lappé (also an author) about her recent book. Whether you agree with her meat-reducing ideas or not (I don’t), I still believe this book has a great deal of in-depth and convincing data that tells us sustainable farming is the way we need to go.

Here are a few of my own points:

  • The idea that sustainable and organic farming can’t possibly feed larger populations of people is unfounded because up until the Industrial Revolution occurred, sustainable farming occurred all over the planet for thousands and thousands of years. These efforts fed large populations of people, as large or even larger than some of our modern cities. Listen to this great podcast from Our Natural Life (Jon and Cathy Payne) and their interview with Kimberly Hartke, publicist for The Weston A. Price Foundation and writer of Hartke Is Online! Besides talking about how she became acquainted with the notion of sustainability and how it has affected her life, she also discusses the myths that sustainable farming and living isn’t solvent or capable of feeding communities on the large-scale.
  • The mantra that sustainable farming cannot work is something that has been propagated by the big agricultural companies as a way to counteract efforts to move away from conventional farming. This idea has become so pervasive and has been so successful you will hear many people mouthing it over and over again – to the point that they can’t even support their arguments with well-documented research or intelligent arguments.
  • Besides the risk to human and animal health, at the current rate that top soil and other natural components of land are being polluted and destroyed by conventional farming practices, the choice for sustainable farming is one of the only things that will prevent the land from becoming completely incapable of growing food in the future. By using heavy machinery and chemicals, conventional farming disintegrates soil tilth. This process causes compaction of the soil and destroys nutrients.  In the process, very little if any organic material is supplemented back. What is added in are inorganic nutrients from synthetic fertilizers. These substances are used excessively and as a result seep down beneath soil areas to contaminate groundwater. Surrounding soil areas and water, then, are also polluted. This negatively impacts many species of native plants and animals
  • According to Food First: “Looking at 293 examples comparing alternative and conventional agriculture from 91 studies, a group of University of Michigan researchers were able to demonstrate that current scientific knowledge simply does not support the idea that a switch to organic and sustainable agriculture would drastically lower food production and lead to hunger. Instead, we found that current knowledge implies that, even under conservative estimates, organic agriculture could provide almost as much food on average at a global level as is produced today (2,641 as opposed to 2,786 kilocalories/person/day after losses). In what these University of Michigan researchers considered a more “realistic” estimation, organic agriculture could actually increase global food production by as much as 50% (to 4,381 kilocalories/person/day).”

What’s at stake for the future?

The truth is, in order to really make a difference, much about the way we view farming has to go through a massive change – obviously from the conventional perspective, but even from organic many so-called sustainable standpoints as well.

Recently, I came across an amazing documentary from the BBC titled, “A Farm For the Future” which addresses these important considerations in a unique way.

Here is Part I of this show:

This insightful production filmed in the UK features wildlife filmmaker Rebecca Hosking discussing the current global food and farming crisis in great detail, and the alternatives we have to feed the planet for the future. She grew up on a small, traditional family farm and is now returning to her childhood home to learn about the prospect of running the farm and making it profitable while still preserving the amazing wildlife and landscape there. She brings up some very important and interesting points, some of which I agree with, and some not.

Some of the farmers and caretakers of the land Rebecca visits with on the documentary show her how the plants, insects, and animals play an integral role in sustaining the land, crops, and food that grow. Seeing just how self-maintaining the land is provides a great example of just how much you can yield with minimal work. The topic of permaculture in forest gardens is also discussed and the ways we learn about how the land takes care of itself is utterly fascinating and quite miraculous.

Watch the rest of this documentary:

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

How can you make a difference?

  • Cook at home, from scratch, and with healthy ingredients
  • Consume less – reuse, recycle, and stretch out your food and other resources by using every part of what you have and buy, whenever possible.
  • Do your own research and learn about how you can make a difference

How do you you live sustainably? Do you grow your own food or buy from sustainable farmers? I’d love to hear about your habits!

Learn more about eating well, saving money, and being sustainable in your life:

Embrace and Perfect Your Home-keeping Skills

Is Cheap Food Really Cheap? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Food

The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I

Can You Afford Not To Eat Healthy?

Fortified and Processed Foods: Are Label Claims About Nutrition True?

Food Budgets – Using Creativity and Prioritizing For Healthy Eating

This post is part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival.