I have written so many times of the benefits of avoiding factory foods, and eating only real food. These benefits are real, and they have greatly improved my health and enabled me not to need medical care for over a decade. But I have come to realize something. Even though it is a lot of work and effort to just eat real food, it is not enough.
Our bodies need sleep to get the full benefits of the nutrients in the food. Our bodies use this time to rest and rejuvenate. And our bodies need enough sleep, something very few of us get these days.
It is somewhat hypocritical for me to advocate the benefits of getting enough sleep, because I usually do not get enough. To be honest, it is common for me to sleep for only four hours. But last night, for some reason, I did get enough sleep. I slept for over eight hours. And the benefits were so profound that I did some research. Now I have a new goal to go along with my good diet—getting enough sleep.
The Benefits of Sleep
There is a good reason for everything in nature. We sleep for a number of important purposes.
From a food perspective, sleep is absolutely vital to get the full benefit of real food. The natural functions of our bodies use the time we are asleep to repair and rejuvenate our bodies. This does not work well unless our bodies have all the nutrients we need to do this. A crucial reason to eat only real food, so we can get those nutrients. But we also need enough sleep so our natural functions can concentrate the energy of the body on repair and rejuvenation. If we are awake and engaging in work or other activities, our natural functions have far less energy available to them to do their work.
I thought I was healthy, but one night of getting enough sleep made me feel even better. Much better. And much more alert and productive.
I now realize that if I am going to enjoy the full benefits of the real food that I put so much effort into obtaining and cooking, I will also need to get enough sleep.
How Much Sleep?
Before the advent of electricity, most people would sleep during most or all of the hours of darkness, and wake early in the morning, often with the sun. Humans are made to be active during the day, and to sleep at night. Other animals sleep during most of the day and are active at night. This natural sleep pattern was followed for most of human history, though there were exceptions. While Dr. Weston A. Price did not write much about the sleep patterns of the healthy peoples he studied, the information we have on them indicates that they slept during the night and were active during the day. Most of them did not have electricity or artificial lighting. But now, technology and lighting have enabled humans to be active, alert, and productive at night, which is not ideal for us.
Albert Einstein, one of the brightest and most productive humans to ever live, slept ten hours a night, every night. He literally changed the world with research and analysis.
Sophia Loren, the actress, is in her mid-seventies. She is still amazingly beautiful, active, and attractive, with great skin and muscle tone. She goes to bed every night at eight p.m. and wakes up at five a.m., getting nine hours of sleep every night. While diet and exercise are also a vital part of how she stays so healthy, she considers this long sleep to be very important.
I believe that eight to ten hours of sleep are ideal for us, but most of us get so much less.
My Own Sleep Issue
Since I have adopted my real food diet, I have no trouble falling asleep. I can also decide the time I want to wake up, and I will wake at that time. In fact, I stopped setting an alarm clock, because I would always wake up just before the alarm rang.
The problem is that the day is much too short for me. I have many interests, and have often worked into the wee hours of the morning, engrossed in what I was learning or writing. One of my greatest joys is learning, and the more I learn, the more I want to learn. And there are the necessities of life, such as cooking, eating, socializing, and spending time with my family. I deliberately chose to sleep less so I would have more time to do the many things that need doing, and that I want to do.
Last night, I did not set a time to wake up. I was tired. I slept for eight hours. And felt so much better.
Now, I have decided to get those eight to ten hours of sleep, somehow. Now that I understand its importance, I will find a way to do it.
With the current controversy over medical insurance, our nation seems fixated on drugs and medical treatment as being the only way to maintain health. No doubt drugs and medical care can be necessary under certain circumstances, especially trauma.
But they are not the only way to stay healthy, under normal circumstances. The most famous and successful physician of ancient times, Hippocrates of Kos, had a very different approach.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Modern medicine has a one-size-fits-all approach to disease. Every patient who is diagnosed with a particular disease is supposed to receive the same treatment. One size fits all. Often the same dose of drugs is prescribed with no regard for the body weight of the patient.
Usually, food is never even considered when treating illness. Drugs are the treatment of choice, though surgery is often used. The majority of treatments used for most illnesses are not even designed to cure the disease, but to help the patient “manage” the disease, by suppressing the symptoms. Many people have bad reactions to various drugs, called “side effects.” This can result in the prescription of yet another drug, which could have bad effects on the patient, which could lead to the prescription of yet another drug.
According to the Mayo clinic, and to CBS news, 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug. And many of these people take several prescription drugs. This statistic does not even consider over the counter drugs, which are also widely used.
Yet this huge amount of drug use has not resulted in good health for the American population.
Let me make this clear. Modern medicine can achieve some amazing results, such as reattaching severed fingers and limbs, and saving the lives of those who have suffered trauma. Yet in many instances, it “manages” rather than cures.
Hippocrates had a very different approach. Greek medicine of his time was far more advanced than most people realize, and did use drugs and surgery. Contemporary Greek writings show that Greek citizens led long lives, often recovered from serious wounds, and were expected to put on heavy armor and fight in brutal hand-to-hand combat when needed, even into their seventies. Great emphasis was placed on personal cleanliness, and Greek doctors were very skilled at disinfecting and treating battle wounds, and many other injuries. They had many medications, compounded from plants and other substances, and were skilled at performing many kinds of surgeries.
Hippocrates was the most successful doctor of his time, and became famous. He became so famous that he was asked to come to Athens to stop a plague that was killing many people while the city was under siege. Hippocrates cured the plague, and ended the epidemic, by, among other things, getting the people to boil their drinking water.
Yet Hippocrates believed in treating most illness with what he called “regimen,” using food, exercise, massage, sleep, and relaxation as the treatments of choice. Only if these methods failed, or if the patient was incapable of using them, would drugs be used. Surgery would be done only if there was no alternative. Each patient was considered to be a unique individual, and the treatment would be customized for the unique condition of each patient. Hippocrates had great success in using these methods.
Many Greek physicians resisted his methods, because, then, as now, it was much more profitable to use drugs and surgeries.
This led Hippocrates to create new moral standards for physicians, placing the welfare of the patient before the profit of the doctor. These standards were set forth in the oath he created for doctors, the famous Hippocratic Oath.
In the 1930s, Dr. Weston A. Price studied many peoples who were eating the traditional diets of their ancestors. In every case, these people had perfect teeth, and none of the chronic diseases that plague our culture. This research is direct proof of Hippocrates’ belief that food was the best way to prevent and treat many illnesses.
What We Can Learn from Hippocrates
Modern medicine is too focused on drugs, radiation, and surgery as the only way to treat illness. I believe we could greatly drive down the cost of medical care, and be a much healthier nation, if doctors were actually trained in the Hippocratic methods of healing, and were required to be just as familiar with the healing effects of real food as they are with drugs. In fact, our whole society needs to relearn and use the benefits of eating real food, rather than modern factory foods.
Many individuals have reported enjoying good health and curing all kinds of illness just by eating the right foods, and avoiding the wrong foods.
We can still use modern medical methods when needed, but I believe they would be needed far less often, if our population was well nourished, and if doctors used Hippocratic regimen as the treatment of choice (when possible).
We would also have more success if we abandoned the “one-size-fits-all” approach, and treated each patient as a unique individual.
Finally, we need to return to the moral standards set down by Hippocrates. The main motive of doctors should be to heal people, not to make money. People who are mainly concerned with making money should go elsewhere. People who truly want to heal should be the doctors. The welfare of the patient must come before the profit of the doctor.
In our modern, “advanced” culture, eating is often a burden. We are taught to fear our food, and avoid many foods that our bodies crave and need. Everyone is busy, and meals are often gulped down quickly after being “nuked” in a microwave.
Most of our ancestors viewed meals as being of great importance, and tried to arrange a pleasant, happy setting to eat and enjoy the real food they valued.
The need to get to work or school at an early hour often means a hurried breakfast, gulped down quickly. The time allowed for lunch at work or school is usually short, and eating lunch is often a race against the clock. People are busy in the evening as well, and the time available for cooking and eating dinner is often limited. It is common for people living in the same family to eat at different times. Most people do not know how to cook, and meals often come from a package nuked in the microwave, or consist of takeout from a restaurant. Upset stomachs and digestive ailments are common. Many people try to relieve this discomfort by gulping pills, which only masks the problem, at best.
Of course, many of these problems come from the poor quality of factory food. But the fear of food and the race to hurry through a meal are huge factors as well.
Our ancestors would have been appalled by this modern way of eating. To most of them, meal time was a carefully conducted ritual, where healthy natural foods were enjoyed without fear or hurry, where every custom was designed to bring harmony and joy to the table. Discussing the taste and quality of the food being enjoyed was a tradition, and it was usually forbidden to argue or raise controversial subjects at the table. Being friendly and courteous was expected. Everyone was expected to do their part to create and sustain a pleasant atmosphere while eating. The cook was praised and complimented for the good food prepared, and thanks for the food was often given before eating began.
There was a definite purpose behind the ritual of a pleasant meal. It was considered absolutely necessary for the food to be properly digested. Our ancestors knew there was more to digestion than cramming food into their mouths.
Our ancestors did not need studies to tell them that eating a delicious meal in harmony , peace, and happiness was important for digestion, and the absorption of nutrients, and they were absolutely right. Modern research has confirmed that stress, hurry, and rushing through meals impairs digestion, and often results in stomach problems, with a variety of unpleasant symptoms.
It is not enough to have good food, it must be properly cooked, eaten in relaxed, pleasant circumstances, and deeply appreciated. This is the time-honored way to help our bodies process the nutrients in food. The importance of having pleasant surroundings as an aid to digestion, and to avoid conflict or stress while eating was mentioned by many ancient, medieval, and pre-twentieth century writers. While circumstances such as war or famine could prevent the tradition of a happy meal from taking place, a peaceful meal of great real food was the ideal, and almost everyone tried to make it happen when circumstances would allow it.
Having a pleasant meal of great real food is a challenge in our modern, hurried culture. But it can be done. I select the best real food I can find, without extravagant cost. I cook from scratch, using only real food. If eating out, I select the most real food from what is available. Wherever I am at mealtime, I do my best to relax, think happy thoughts, and focus on eating and enjoying the food, and the company of the people I am with. I try to maintain a pleasant discussion as we eat, and to focus on the good things in my life. I do not rush when I eat, as I believe it is better to eat at a pleasant pace, even if time is short, even if I might not finish the food.
When I can influence the time available to eat, I do the best I can. Then with the invaluable help of my family, we arrange delicious real food, in pleasant surroundings, without hurry or worry.
I know for a fact that the wonderful feeling of well being I usually get after eating is due not only to the good real food, but to the happy pleasant atmosphere in which it is enjoyed.
Our ancestors were right about this, in my view. This kind of meal is a happy, wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it.
A debate between two nineteenth century French researchers ended up creating the core belief of the modern medical system.
Nearly everyone has heard of Louis Pasteur, but very few have heard of Claude Bernard.
Modern medicine is built on the germ theory proposed by Pasteur. Yet there is mounting evidence that Bernard, who had a different theory, was correct. In fact, Pasteur was reported to have blurted out the words “Bernard is right!” shortly before he died. The medical profession and mainstream scientific establishment claim that Pasteur never said this.
Why is the controversy still important? Because the modern medical system, built on the Pasteur theory of germs being the cause of most disease, fails many people. Some of those people who found no help from conventional medicine turned to the Bernard theory without even knowing it, and restored their health.
With one important addition—eating real food.
I am one of those people, and I know many others.
The Two Theories
Most people are familiar with the germ theory of disease advocated by Pasteur. This theory claims that most illness is caused by germs, tiny organisms like bacteria and viruses. Since these organisms are the cause of illness, the way to cure illness is to kill the germs. This can aggressively be done through medication, sanitation, radiation, and other methods outside the natural defenses of the body.
In fact, the symptoms of disease are attacked by outside interventions such as surgery, drugs, and radiation—all aimed at killing the organisms that are blamed for the disease. This approach, which is the cornerstone of modern medicine, often does great harm to the patient, and often fails to cure them.
It can work, but it is common for the symptoms to return at a later date.
Bernard believed that the most important part of defeating disease was what he called “the terrain.”
The terrain is the body of the patient, and the natural functions of that body. Bernard taught that the body is full of bacteria, which are benign and helpful if the body is working properly. But if the body becomes weakened, or injured, or malnourished, some of these bacteria change and become dangerous, causing disease.
To Pasteur, killing the pathogens through outside intervention was the way to heal. To Bernard, strengthening the “terrain,” the body, enabled the body to heal itself, creating a condition where the bad bacteria became benign and helpful again.
What We Know Now
We know that killing outside germs through basic hygiene helps prevent disease. Yet we also know that the body needs beneficial bacteria to live, and killing too many of these bacteria has bad effects on the body, and they are often replaced with harmful organisms.
We know that antibiotics and other aggressive medical interventions can relieve symptoms, but they usually fail to treat the cause of the symptoms, which often return at a later date.
Yet we also know that many people who have no medical intervention recover from every kind of illness, and often do not see the symptoms return.
My Experience, and the Role of Food
I have had many illnesses over most of my life. I have had a lot of medical treatment for various conditions. At first, the treatment relieved the symptoms. But my body became weaker from the prescription drugs and other treatments. After some time, the symptoms always returned, and I would need more treatment. Eventually, I reached a point where the medical interventions did not work.
What saved me was an unwitting turn toward Bernard’s theory. I strengthened my body by switching to real food, and avoiding toxins. The real food and grassfed meat gave my body the nutrition it needed to function properly. As my terrain became stronger and stronger, I became healthier and healthier. I have not needed any medical intervention in over ten years.
I do practice hygiene, which gives my body less to fight off, and I believe there is a proper place for medical intervention when it is truly needed. But the best path I have found for myself is to nourish my terrain by avoiding toxins, including dangerous bacteria, and eating real food only. That way, the natural functions of my body keep it healthy. Many of my friends in the real food movement have had a similar experience.
I ran into one of my favorite butchers yesterday. He was trained the old way, when butchering was an art. He knows a lot about all kinds of meat. He can cut steaks and roasts that are so beautiful that they are like a fine painting.
He had just finished reading Tender Grassfed Barbecue. He said that he agreed with everything I wrote about nutrition. He could see it in the meat, over the many years he was a butcher. He had wondered for a long time why grain-finished meat looked so different, and was so full of blocky streaks of fat, rather than the fine marbling he looked for in a superior piece of meat. He said that he believed that most conventional foods were not that nutritious. And then he let out a shocker.
“I am still going to eat the conventional food. I know the grassfed meat and real food is much better for me, but it is too much trouble to change. It would just be too much work. And the better food is too expensive.”
I have heard words like these from so many people. It is too hard, too much trouble, and too expensive, to make the switch to real food.
Having reached the point where we eat nothing but real food and grassfed meat, I can tell you this:
- It is very hard to make the switch.
- It is a lot of trouble.
- It is more expensive.
And, many people will think you are nuts.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. The blessings of good health and mental clarity that I have received from changing my diet are worth all the trouble, expense, and even being made fun of or being thought of as a nut. It has been like being reborn.
Health Is Much Better than Convenience
Many years ago, when I was twenty, my Dad asked me if I ever felt good when I woke up in the morning, full of energy, eager for the challenges and pleasures of the day. I honestly told him that I never did. I did not even know what he was talking about. When I woke up, I was discouraged, annoyed, short of breath, and in pain.
I thought I was eating a good diet, because the FDA inspected all food, and would not allow any food that was not good to be sold. I ate only conventional foods sold by big supermarkets, because they were cheaper, and “just as good.”
I thought I was well nourished, because I was big and looked powerful. And because I followed my doctor’s advice on what to eat.
I thought I was getting the best medical care in the world.
So why was I so sick, exhausted, and miserable?
I am convinced I was suffering from severe malnutrition, like most Americans. And I did not even know it.
Because it is easy to find, buy, and use conventional food, I had convenience. But I did not have health.
Making the Change
Eventually, things deteriorated to the point where the medical profession had no help to give me, and told me so. Rather than give up and die as predicted, I got furious. I got determined. I used my skills as a research attorney to find another way.
What I found was the website of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and the priceless information on their website enabled me not only to save my life, but become healthy for the very first time as an adult.
I knew I had to switch to real food. It was difficult. I had to drop most of the food items I used to buy. I thought I loved many of them, though in reality, I was addicted. I had to learn a whole new way of cooking. And we spent much more money on food than we were used to. And I had to deal with the fact that some of the foods I needed could not be bought, only made. Making homemade broth, especially skimming it, and straining it, seemed so hard. Learning how to cook grassfed meat was hard, especially when I kept ruining it and there was nothing I could find that taught me how to cook it. I wrote Tender Grassfed Meat to make it easier for others to learn how to cook this wonderful meat. Making my own fermented foods was hard, at first. And I really missed the factory foods I was addicted to.
But once I learned how to make broth, cook grassfed meat, and make fermented foods, it became familiar and easy. Still time consuming, but easy.
I learned how to find and buy real food, which became fun. And the extra expense became easier to accept, as we adjusted our spending priorities, realizing that nothing we can buy is as important as the good food that keeps us healthy. We also learned how to find sales and bargains, which really helped.
The addiction to the factory foods began to fade, as we ate much better real food alternatives.
Many of our family members, friends, and acquaintances thought we were too picky. Some got offended when I would not eat the conventional food they liked.
The convincing argument, the one that convinced me that real food was worth all the time, expense, and trouble, is this—I became much healthier. When properly nourished, the natural functions of my body kept me healthy, without any drugs. My mind became much sharper, and the occasional short term memory problems disappeared. The quality of my life became so much better, in every way.
Now I wake up each morning eager for the challenges and pleasures of the day, full of energy, and so happy to be here. I finally understand what my Dad was talking about, so many years ago.
Every few weeks or so, someone publishes a study “proving” that eating red meat does something horrible to us. I consider all these studies to be invalid, especially when it comes to eating grassfed meat.
Because none of them, not even one of them, ever considers the immense difference between eating grassfed meat, the natural food of nature, and factory meat, which comes from animals eating an unnatural diet. Factory animals have been made to grow at an unnaturally fast rate by growth hormones, antibiotics, steroids, and other unnatural methods.
All studies on the effect of eating red meat which do not differentiate between grassfed meat and factory meat are invalid, as to grassfed meat. The latest study purporting to show that red meat is bad for us has many flaws, and proves nothing.
Grassfed Meat Is Very Different than Factory Meat
Grassfed Meat is perhaps the oldest food of humankind, and is ideal for our bodies. This is the meat you get from herbivorous animals eating nothing but their natural food, green living grass, though they may need to eat hay, which is dried grass, in the winter.
Factory meat is the meat you get from animals who start out on grass, but are finished with a stay in the feedlot, a stay that usually lasts at least 120 days. While in the feedlot, the animals eat no grass and do not graze. They are fed grains like GMO corn and GMO soy. Neither one of these substances are the natural feed of cattle. Other items are often fed to these cattle, including candy bars, restaurant plate waste, bakery waste, the sludge left over from making alcohol and ethanol, and many other substances which are not the natural food of cattle. In addition to the unnatural feed, factory cattle are usually given growth hormones, antibiotics, steroids, and other chemicals which cause them to grow much faster than normal.
The difference in diet creates a great difference in the meat. Grassfed meat is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, but these nutrients are reduced by each day spent in the feedlot. See Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products.
The meat of grassfed animals is much less watery than factory meat, and should be cooked differently, as described in my cookbook, Tender Grassfed Meat.
Well over 98% of the meat sold in this country is factory meat.
Because of these differences, no study that does not differentiate between grassfed meat and factory meat means anything, when it comes to the effect of grassfed meat.
This Study Does Not Prove that Eating More Red Meat Increases the Risk of Diabetes
First of all, the author of the study admits that it does not prove that eating more red meat increases the risk of diabetes! (Eating Red Meat Tied to Higher Diabetes Risk)
Second, the study has many flaws:
- It only cover doctors and nurses, not the general public.
- It asks the participants to remember how much red meat they ate over several four year periods. This is very unreliable. Do you remember each time you ate red meat over the last four years and what the size of the serving was? Of course not.
- The difference found by this questionable data was insignificant, and means nothing.
- 2 in 300 of the participants who reported increasing their consumption of red meat got Type 2 Diabetes.
- 1 in 300 of the participants who reported not increasing their consumption of red meat got Type2 Diabetes.
- The risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes for those who reported increasing red meat consumption was 2/3rds of one percent.
- The risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes for those who did not report increasing red meat consumption was 1/3 of one percent.
- The difference was an increase in risk of 1/3 of one percent. This is the real, absolute risk.
- By the rules of statistics, this difference is so far within the margin of error that it means nothing.
- The study did not differentiate between grassfed and factory meat.
- So contrary to the news headlines, this study does not prove that increasing red meat consumption increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Especially when it comes to grassfed meat.
Our ancestors did not reach for drugs or doctors when they had an injury. Instead, they tried to get the food that would enable their bodies to repair themselves.
Only the most serious injuries would require a doctor, and many traditional doctors would prescribe a particular food. The most famous and successful of ancient doctors, Hippocrates of Cos, said:
“Let thy food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food.”
This seems primitive, in our modern age, which celebrates the wonders of medical science. Yet many of us have noticed that medical science is not always the best choice, due to its using drastic methods such as drugs, surgery, and radiation for even minor ailments. And most drugs only manage to relieve symptoms, while interfering with the natural processes of our body.
I had a minor but annoying injury a few weeks ago. I had a choice, and I chose food. And it healed me.
While fooling around, I got a split lip. It was not that bad, but it would not fully heal. There remained a split in the lip. If the lip got dry, especially at night, it would get quite painful. At other times, it was annoying. After two months, there was no change.
I thought of going to a doctor, but the only thing they could do was give me stitches, or a drug. Having a needle going in and out of my lip had no appeal. Drugs scare the heck out of me, since they interfere with the natural functions or our bodies, and I would consider one only under serious circumstances.
I began to look for natural remedies for a split lip that will not fully heal, and I found none.
I saw some full-fat Greek yogurt in a store, made by my favorite dairy. This dairy has organic milk products, is extremely careful to make sure that its cows get no GMOs in their feed, pasteurizes their milk at the lowest temperature the law allows, does not vaccinate or drug their milk cows, and gives these cows wonderful treatment. In other words, it was my kind of dairy, and I have enjoyed their products for years.
I had never had this kind of yogurt before. It was tangy, very thick and rich with good animal fat. Without understanding why, I placed some of this yogurt against the split in my lip, and held it there. It felt cooling and wonderful. Within seconds, the irritating sensation in the split went away. I did this for a few days, several times a day. I noticed that the split was smaller after the first day. After about three days, the split was gone, and the lip was healed. After several weeks, it has remained healed.
I should say that I had never heard of this before. I think that the good fat and probiotics in this very special yogurt caused the healing, but I cannot prove it. And I do not know why I did it.
Chris Kerston, of Chaffin Family Orchards, a chemical-free organic farm and ranch I admire, told me how his grassfed cattle would treat themselves by eating certain plants, which fixed them up. The cattle would select the plants themselves.
I am just guessing, based on this experience, but I think our bodies have a wisdom and knowing that can often help us. I listened to my instincts when I held the yogurt against my split lip, and it healed.
This story is anecdotal, unsupported by studies, is not a recommendation, is no substitute for the services of a medical professional, has not been reviewed or approved by the FDA, and is intended solely as a sharing of my experience.
Our ancestors usually ate their food in season. This did not just apply to fruits and vegetables, but also to meats which were available all year round. In Europe and America, this used to mean that a great deal of animal fat was eaten during the winter. In fact, the people who lived in cold climates, all over the world, prized animal fat and ate a great deal of it when the weather was cold. This enabled people to survive and thrive in some very cold climates, even within the arctic circle.
This was not just done for cultural reasons, but because of an important fact I just learned for myself—animal fat makes winter better—much better.
The Problem with Winter
Cold weather had always been difficult for humans. In fact, many people counted winters rather than years when describing someone’s age. To these people, surviving the winter was a real accomplishment. It has been more common for people to get sick and die during a cold winter. There are several reasons for this. There is little sunlight, which means much less Vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for the proper functioning of the immune system. The cold is a strain on the body, which is made worse by rain and snow, much worse by freezing weather and blizzards. Most people just try to stay warm and dry.
But our ancestors did not consider shelter to be enough. They had another remedy for winter that was very important to them—animal fat.
Traditional Winter Foods
Many European peoples would eat fattier foods during winter. Even the game they hunted put on fat for the winter, so older, fatter animals were prized at that time. Rich pork dishes from fat pigs, using lard and the skin, were winter favorites. Fatty lamb roasts and stews were a winter favorite. In fact, every kind of meat stew was made in winter, always with plenty of animal fat. Geese and ducks were usually eaten during the winter, because of the fat they carried. Winter was the most likely time for people to have meat, and many animals were slaughtered and salted, often in the form of hams or fat sausages, in preparation for winter.
All of this animal fat was pastured, as factory foods did not exist at this time.
In old Russia, fat foods for winter were so prized that poems were written about them, praising the virtues of the various kinds of fat, including lamb fat, beef fat, butter, and the favorite, real pork lard.
Eating animal fat during winter was considered vital for health. Unfortunately, many people were too poor to afford enough fat and fatty meats, and were unable to get the benefits. But for those who could afford it, fatty meats and animal fat played a crucial role in winter survival.
The Benefits of Winter Fat
The benefits of good animal fat have been documented by the Weston A. Price Foundation, as shown in this excellent article The Skinny on Fats.
Pastured animal fats are particularly valuable in winter because they are rich in Vitamin D, especially the fatty organ meats, and butter. Pastured animal fats are wonderful fuel for the body, providing perhaps the best source of energy, with none of the negative effects of sugar or too many carbs. This helps the body to function better.
Recently we were hit with a spell of unusually cold weather, and I decided to up our intake of real animal fats. We ate fatty roasts and stews, used more real lard, butter, beef tallow, and other such fats, and enjoyed fatty ducks and organ meats. The results of this experiments is that my energy increased, and I felt strong and eager for the work of the day. The tiredness I might feel from the cold and gloom disappeared with a nice bowl of fatty stew, or hot broth made from real bones and meat scraps.
This is just my experience, but it helped me to understand why my European ancestors valued fat in the winter so much.
Salt is one of the most vital human nutrients, and our ancestors knew this. Yet, the consumption of salt is now under attack.
The government is trying to reduce the amount of salt people consume, claiming that it will improve health and prevent strokes and heart disease.
Part of the Paleo movement is opposed to adding salt to food, believing that our Paleolithic ancestors did not add salt to food.
Many people believe salt is very harmful.
Because I advise against pre-salting grassfed meat in my cookbooks, some people assume I do this to reduce salt consumption.
All of these beliefs are mistaken. If we do not consume enough salt, our bodies do not function properly. Ultimately, if people do not get enough salt, they die.
The Two Types of Salt
While all salt originally came from the sea, it is available in different forms. It must be understood that two general types of salt are available. They are not the same.
The most common salt is factory salt, which is composed of salt that has been stripped of its minerals, and has had chemicals and flavoring agents (often including sugar) added. This salt is a pure white color. It is ground very fine and flows easily out of a salt shaker, almost never caking. This kind of salt did not exist before the twentieth century. This is by far the most common form of salt in the United States, used extensively in processed foods and by most people, who are usually unaware that the minerals have been stripped out, or that chemicals and even sugar have been added to the refined salt.
Then there is pure, unmodified salt from nature, often harvested from the sea, though it is also found in solid deposits on land. This salt, consisting of nothing but sea salt and minerals, is the traditional salt that humanity has used since the beginning. This traditional salt is the only salt I use or recommend.
Humans Have Added Salt to Food Since the Earliest Times
The belief that early humans did not add salt to food is mistaken. I remember reading about how the early colonists of the United States would choose a site for settlement. They would always have someone, usually a skilled hunter or scout, follow some of the wild animal trails in the area. They were looking for one thing they absolutely had to have, or they would not settle in that area—salt. Wild animals also need salt, and they would find salt deposits, usually called “salt licks.” The animals would find salt deposits, and get their salt by licking them. There is every reason to believe that early hunters and gatherers did the same, and found salt by following wild animals or their trails.
All the old writings on cooking, including those going back thousands of years, describe the addition of salt to food. Salt was greatly valued in ancient times, being more expensive than gold in some areas.
The reason is quite simple. Our ancestors knew that they needed to add salt to their food to live and thrive.
Our ancestors used salt to preserve and ferment foods, and created many artisanal foods based on the use of salt, including sauerkraut, ham, cheese, jerky, sausage, and countless others. Our ancestors ate far more salt than we do.
Why We Need Salt
Salt is one of the most crucial nutrients we need. Our bodies use salt for many body functions, including digestion, regulating blood pressure, creating and regulating hormones, proper adrenal function, proper functioning of the nervous system, and proper functioning of the brain, among others. (See The Salt of the Earth.)
If we do not get enough salt, these vital body functions are adversely effected. If you were to put anyone on a totally salt-free diet, they would eventually die, after much suffering.
We often crave salt, because our bodies so desperately need it. If you crave salt, it may be that you are not getting enough.
Is Salt Good? Or Bad? Or Both?
There is a belief in mainstream medicine, supported by some research, that associates salt intake with increased risk of heart disease or strokes. There is other research that disputes this theory, and shows great harm occurring from salt restriction. (See The Salt of the Earth.)
In the past when heart disease and strokes were very rare, traditional peoples and most humans consumed much more salt than people do today. And we know that the Japanese, who have the highest average salt consumption on earth, have among the highest average lifespans on earth.
So how do we know what is true, when the research is conflicting and history contradicts some of the research?
My own personal, anecdotal, common sense belief is this:
The difference may be in the type of salt consumed. Prior to the twentieth century, all the salt consumed on earth was traditional salt, without chemical additives, with the natural minerals left in. I believe that this kind of salt is not harmful, and is vital to our health. The studies done that support the idea that salt increases the risk of stroke and heart disease were all done at a time when factory salt was used. These studies are only relevant to the use of factory salt. To the extent that studies have found harm from salt consumption, it may be because of the chemicals, or the fact the minerals are stripped out, or both. So my own personal belief is that it is good, and important, to eat all the traditional salt I want, without fear. At the same time, I avoid factory salt as much as possible.
Please be aware that I am not a doctor, or a scientist, and I am not legally qualified to give any kind of health advice to anyone, so I am not giving advice—just stating my personal belief and what I do.
I do feel that the salt restriction now being pushed by the government, part of the medical profession, and the food industry is ill-advised, and I base this belief on history, and the excellent research done in this article, which I highly recommend. (See The Salt of the Earth.)
Salt and Grassfed Meat
I advise against salting most grassfed meat too far in advance. This advice is given solely because I have found that long pre-salting tends to toughen some grassfed meats. I do use plenty of traditional salt at the table, and will often salt meat just before it is cooked. The right amount of salt really brings out the flavor of food, and is absolutely vital to the taste, nutrition, and flavor of homemade broth.
I do enjoy the salt of the earth, and I do not fear it.
The poor academic performance of so many American schoolchildren is a matter of great concern. Over the years, more and more money has been spent on schools. Many programs to enhance education have been introduced. Class sizes have been substantially reduced. Many teachers have aides to help them teach. A host of administrators, counselors, special educators, and other specialists have been hired. Despite recent cutbacks, the amount of real money per child spent today is much higher than it was during my schooldays, yet the academic results are far worse.
It is clear that throwing more money to the schools will not fix the problem. We have been doing that for many years, and performance continues to decline. Money for education is important, but it is not enough.
Academic performance continues to decline, and the U.S. is far behind many other countries, nearly all of whom spend far less money per child on education. Why? Whose fault is it? The teachers? The schoolchildren? The curriculum? The parents? My answer would be—none of the above.
I am convinced that the real cause of poor academic performance is the Standard American Diet, known as SAD. The fact of the matter is that schoolchildren need proper nutrition for their brains to develop and function well, and many of them are not getting it.
SAD makes some kids appear to have learning disabilities. But the problem could be solved by feeding children the foods they need for their brains to develop and function well. The food is animal fat. The most demonized, yet the most desperately needed food of all
The Brain Needs Traditional Animal Fats to Develop and Function Well
Traditional animal fats such as butter, lard, beef tallow, chicken skins, fatty fish, and others are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the brain to develop and function properly. It is that simple. Cholesterol is desperately needed by the brain to function properly. In fact, mother’s milk is higher in cholesterol than any other food. Nature recognizes the need of children for cholesterol, and so should we.
Yes, cholesterol and animal fats have been demonized through massive marketing campaigns. The demonization is just not true. These vital nutrients promote good health, and are vital for survival. See The Skinny on Fats.
The current emphasis on avoiding animal fats and cholesterol deprives children of the nutrients they need for their brains to develop properly and function. How can they possibly learn and do well in school when they are starved of the nutrients they need for their brains to function properly? How can they be expected to behave well when their brains are deprived of the very nutrients needed to keep them in balance? The effect of nutrition on the brain and learning is described by Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, in this excellent article: Nutrition and Mental Development.
Vegetable oils and factory fats lack cholesterol and lack omega-3 fatty acids. These oils and fats have a huge imbalance of omega-6 fatty acids that can cause inflammation and have other harmful effects. When you substitute vegetable oils and factory fats for animal fats, the children do not get the vital nutrients they need for their brains. It is that simple.
This problem is especially bad for children who depend on the government for food. The government provides free formula to two million infants. Yet the only formula allowed in the program is made from GMO soy, which contains a number of toxins and none of the vital fatty acids needed by developing brains.
The revised school lunch program only makes things worse, being virtually fat-free and severely restricting protein. It is a prescription for malnutrition and even poorer academic performance.
Real Food Has Improved Academic Performance in the Past
It stands to reason that giving the children the very nutrients they are deprived of, the animal fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and cholesterol are exactly what are needed. This has been done before, with great results.
Last week, I wrote of the school lunch program devised by Dr. Weston A. Price, and the wonderful results it had for some poor children. These children ate an early form of SAD—factory bread and pancakes served with lots of sugar and syrup. They had terrible teeth, poor health, and did terribly in school. Some had severe behavior problems. Dr. Price fed them a lunch rich in animal fat and meat, including plenty of bone marrow and butter. Not only did their dental decay stop cold, but two of their teachers sought Dr. Price out to ask why a particular child, who had been the worst student in the class, had now become the best student.
All that Dr. Price changed was the food they ate at one meal. The schools, parents, teachers, and children did not change. Good nutrition alone was all they needed to go from being complete academic failures to being the best student in the class.
This is only one example. There have been many description of how feeding schoolchildren a diet rich in traditional foods during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries greatly improved their academic performance and behavior in school. Many of the educators who worked with poor children made sure they arranged a good lunch for them as a vital pre-condition for their being able to learn. It should be mentioned that the healthy peoples studied by Dr. Price, all of whom had diets rich in animal fats and cholesterol, had no mental illness, and no problems in educating their children, who had to learn skills that were far harder to use and master than the easy-to-do tasks typical of modern life.
A Solution Worth Trying
The solution I suggest to fix U.S. schools is new, yet very old. Have an affordable school lunch program that will present students with foods rich in traditional fats such as butter, whole eggs, full-fat hormone-free milk, rich meats, bone marrow, and other animal foods that nourish the brain. Give them generous servings, and let them have seconds if they want to. Ban all GMOs, vegetable oils, and factory foods from the program. Give them real food only. If we do this, we can expect the same kind of vast improvement that was noted by Dr. Price, so many years ago. Yes, it will cost money, yet I submit that there is no better area to spend the money on. With proper nourishment, there is every reason to expect that children will be able to focus on school and learn. It has been done, time and time again. Clearly, the current system is not working. Real food is worth a try, and will have other benefits, such as good health and better behavior. It worked for Dr. Price and others, and it can work now.
Next Page »