Deep Primal Nutrition is how I refer to the way I eat. My introduction to eating nutrient dense foods was powerfully influenced by Catherine and Luke Shanahan, authors of the underground classic Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. Cate has the scientific background and is a Family Practice physician, while Luke is a thoughtful writer with great talent. Their book describes how changes in genetic health have resulted from changes in our eating habits. There are four categories of foods that helped to make our ancestors strong and fit. Today, the typical Western Diet is woefully deficient in all of them! Without diets rich in meat on the bone, organ meats, fermented foods, and raw foods we fail to get all the nutrients we need to grow physically and mentally.
Only from nutrient dense foods in utero and while breast-feeding can babies develop structurally to their full potential; and children and adults similarly gain when they eat well. Over time and generations, nutritional deficiencies create severe problems: dramatic changes in bone structure, in immune-support systems, and in behavioral developments are all easily observed. Every pregnant mom knows to take folic acid, because no mom would allow spina bifida an opportunity when it is so preventable. Yet, it is only one of a great many disorders that result from inadequacies in an immense array of nutrients, some of which we know nothing about. It is much better to obtain our nutrients from the same sources we ate while we evolved than to attempt to support our health through supplementation. Only by eating quality foods can we obtain all of the tens of thousands of nutrients our bodies employ for optimal functioning.
In Chapter Seven of this book, titled “The Four Pillars of World Cuisine,” the Shanahans have these sub-headings:
- Meat on the Bone; Organ Meat
- Offally Good for You
- Better than Fresh, Fermentation and Sprouting
- Fresh, The Benefits of Raw.
Raw food includes lots of veggie salads, and some fruit. “Raw” also applies to raw milk and even raw meat! Raw veggies are that mainstay of a healthy diet and should occupy the largest area on our plates.
For meat, a little goes a long way. It provides nutrients unavailable in plants, especially from the fat-soluble vitamins. The bones themselves should always be converted to bone-broth because of the myriads of trace minerals and materials such broths provide in building our own bones, connective tissues, nerves, muscles, and organs. I usually make soup from my bone broths, but there’s quite the niche of foodies who specialize in basic broths.
Fermented foods: cheese leads my list, but those hard-working bacterial wonders also do a bang-up job in winemaking, sauerkraut production, and leavening bread. Bacteria are capable of transforming indigestible, bland, and even toxic compounds into nourishing and delicious foods. Cows eat a wide variety of grasses, and the bacteria in their various stomachs help turn it into protein- and fat-rich foods for the cow and for those who drink their milk. The link between mental health and our guts is gathering great interest in the scientific and psychological crowd: without plenty of good pro-biotic flora and fauna in our guts we fail to flourish.
Grandma was right: eat your liver. The organ meats may be an acquired taste, but it is one everyone should acquire. These are LOADED with nutrients. Eating only pastured animal products means you don’t have to worry about GMOs in soy-based “cow chow,” antibiotics or growth hormones. Healthy animals have wonderful organs. A little goes a long, long way. This year, try the gravy with the giblets. I’ve learned to make a pretty decent liver pate with butter, cream, sherry, mushrooms, parsley and other herbs all mixed together in the Vitamix. I always stand in awe of the country folk who made it for centuries in their country kitchens without such great modern tools.
The Shanahans explain the difference between good fats and bad fats. In short, if an oil is “manufactured” using high heat and pressure, it isn’t food. Don’t avoid trans fats, eliminate them by never buying products with soybean or canola oil or other industrial oils. Stick to 100% olive oil, coconut oil, and high-quality animal fats (which do not, in the least, negatively effect your cardio-health). High quality means pastured (not from feedlots or other forms of confinement). Other foods to avoid, and this isn’t easy: sugar, grains and other “empty-calories,” like from the starches found in potatoes. By “avoid” I mean to substantially reduce. Reduction and replacement of sugar (and grains) go a long way to improving health. It really is all about nutrient dense foods, so avoid the empty calories. Use almond flour for wheat flour, for example. Sometimes it is really easy to replace a “bad” food with a “good” one.
No quality foods went to waste when our forbearers gathered and prepared their foods; animals that gave their lives were better honored than they are today. Traditional diets not only bring us better health, they foster better economies and a better environment. Traditional foods means traditional farms, and everyone should seek to know their local family farmers for they truly are the backbones of our communities. Yes, there have been many food fads, trends, and approaches to diet based on faulty research or on pure propaganda (the whole promotion for soy foods, for example), but the new thinking in this book is merely to be a traditionalist. This trend will not pass; it is here to stay.
As a former math teacher, I have long been fascinated with the Fibonacci series of numbers, their relationship with Phi (the number that is defined by the Golden Ratio), and the countless relationships Phi has with art, beauty, and even the environment. “Dynamic Symmetry, Nature’s Desire for Beauty” is the name of the third chapter of Deep Nutrition. This is the most conceptually stunning of all the chapters in the book. The most beautiful examples of living things are the ones that are the most fully nourished. You see that in your garden, of course. But it is also true of human beings. I will leave it for Luke and Cate to explain, as this is complex, tricky and controversial stuff. However, I am fully convinced! Young adults who want intelligent and attractive children should read (and heed) this book… it was written for you.
P.S. #1 It is also written for athletes. Cate is the official nutritional consultant for the LA Lakers and a new article about her program goes a long way to explain what deep nutrition is all about: http://www.cbssports.com/nba/writer/ken-berger/24370416?inf_contact_key=41a1fda0a58e36f30f8385a8322807d27d111cf05616f0c3bc73dd9d73d8e6af
P.S. #2 New studies support the idea that supplementation has less value than eating real foods (and I am mindful that doctors are trained to be anti-supplement, so I offer this with the caveat that it has bias): http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/16/health/multivitamins-studies/index.html