Food Is Not Your Enemy

Is Raw Food Better Food?

Foods in their raw form can be very healthy for us. Raw foods still contain all of their naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, as well as live enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Going raw also necessarily means you can’t eat such unhealthy fare as fried foods and most commercially prepared processed junk food.

If you commit to a raw diet your daily options will include raw fruits and veggies, raw nuts and seeds, sprouted beans, cold-pressed oils, and—if you’re okay with eating animal products—raw meat, raw fish, and raw milk products (i.e. unpasteurized milk and the foods made from it).

There are downsides, however, to eating lots of raw food. While cooking food kills off some of the nutrients, it also renders the food more digestible. Some people prone to digestive problems can actually feel quite terrible from raw fruits and veggies. Certain green vegetables in particular are really best eaten cooked. Spinach, beet greens, and chard are high in oxalic acid, a compound that blocks calcium and iron absorption, but which is largely neutralized if these greens are cooked. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts contain chemicals that block the production of thyroid hormone, but are also safer when cooked.

Raw milk and its derivatives are all the rage in certain nutritionally conscious communities—and it is true that unpasteurized milk (meaning milk straight from the cow that is not heat-treated) is theoretically better for us, as more vitamins and minerals and enzymes remain in the milk in its raw state (Sally Fallon Morell, author of “Nourishing Traditions,” has written extensively about this subject, and heads a foundation dedicated to spreading the word about the benefits of raw milk products, among other traditional foods). But there is a real risk of contracting Salmonella, Listeria, or Campylobacter from raw milk if it is not processed in a completely safe and clean way. It’s a similar story with raw meats and fish—there is always a risk of the food being contaminated with bacteria or parasites. Its helps to either freeze the meat or fish for several days before preparing it for a raw dish, or curing it with salt or citrus first.

So is a raw diet for you? Only you can answer that question. Experiment with these foods and see how you feel. Do your research. And ask yourself if you can live without roast chicken, hamburgers, and Mom’s apple pie!

The Benefits of Bone Broth
April 29, 2011, 9:42 am
Filed under: Books, Meat, Recipes | Tags: , , , ,

Ever seen the ingredients on a package of bouillon cubes? Each cube is basically a chemical cocktail of MSG, partially hydrogenated oil, salt, sugar, and TBHQ, a preservative that is a form of butane (lighter fluid).

This isn’t what our grandmothers used to make chicken soup.

Unfortunately, as we’ve turned more and more toward pre-packaged convenience foods like bouillon, Americans have just about lost the art of making homemade soup stock from chicken, beef, or fish bones. “Who has the time?” we say. Or, “Why bother?”

Healthy food–some of it, anyway–can take some time to prepare. But the health benefits you’ll reap from a homemade stock make it well worth your time and effort.

In her influential cookbook “Nourishing Traditions,” Sally Fallon Morell posits, after extensive research into the nutritional value of traditional foodways, that meat stocks are extremely good for us. They contain the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow, and vegetables as electrolytes, in a form that is easily absorbed into the body. Stocks also contain plenty of natural gelatin, which is a digestive aid that has been used to successfully treat such digestive disorders as colitis and Crohn’s disease. Gelatin also allows our bodies to more fully utilize the proteins we ingest. Another important compound found in meat stock is collagen, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments, and also essential for strong bones. And fish stocks boiled with fish heads are particularly nourishing to the thyroid gland (the fish heads contain the fish thyroid, which adds thyroid hormone into the soup).

So think about taking some time to make a stock once in a while. You can make a big batch and freeze it in small containers, so that you can just grab some when cooking sauces or soups at a future date. Here’s my husband’s recipe for chicken stock, which he makes every time we finish eating a roast chicken at home:

Homemade Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass, broken into pieces

1 onion, peeled and cut in half

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped

1/2 bunch parsley, whole stalks

Few pinches fresh or dried thyme

Few stalks fresh dill or 2 pinches dried

3 whole peppercorns

Put all ingredients together in a large pot. Cover with water, an inch above the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours, skimming off any foam that collects on top.

Let cool slightly. Strain into another pot. Smash down the solid ingredients in the strainer with a wooden spoon to squeeze out all the liquids. Discard the solid ingredients and let the stock cool in the refrigerator overnight.

Skim fat solids off the top. Return to the stove to a boil. Boil the stock until it is reduced by half. Once cool, store stock in the refrigerator (if you’ll be using it within a few days) or in the freezer in small containers.


When Was the Last Time You Ate “Porridge”?

Or have you ever? You may eat oatmeal, farina, and cream of wheat, but something you might call “porridge”? That’s a word we associate with fairy tales.

But in her book “Nourishing Traditions,” Sally Fallon Morell posits that the boxed cold cereals we eat today are basically no better than eating cardboard, and that we need to return to the nourishing, warm, truly whole-grain cereals, i.e. porridge, that previous generations in countries all over the globe consumed on a regular basis. I’ll get into the “traditional breakfast” more in my June newsletter (sign up here, it’s free), but I wanted to share here her recipe (with some minor tweaks from me) for amaranth porridge, which I’ve been cooking up every week lately. I serve it mixed with milk, raisins, walnuts, and maple syrup.

Amaranth Porridge

1 cup of amaranth (a tiny grain available in health food stores or the organic section of your supermarket)

1 cup of warm water plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, whey, kefir, or buttermilk (I’ve been using kefir)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Mix the amaranth with the warm water mixture in a pot, cover, and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours and as long as 24 hours. After it’s soaked, add the salt and an additional 1/2 cup of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. Serve with any combination of milk/cream, butter, syrup, honey, nuts, ground flaxseeds, and dried fruit.

Serves 3-4.

Lard Is Not the Devil
May 11, 2009, 11:18 am
Filed under: Meat, Oils | Tags: , , , , ,

If there’s one food you should absolutely avoid, it would be lard, right? Straight-up animal fat–what could be worse?

But research (from such institutions as the Harvard School of Public Health) has now shown that saturated animal fats are not nearly as bad as trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils) when it comes to raising your risk of heart disease. In fact, some researchers, such as Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation, have concluded that animal fats are actually critical to good health.

All of which means I can now enjoy things like my husband’s homemade pork enchiladas, the recipe for which calls for something like a half a cup of lard, without much worry. One caveat: we bought leaf lard (a.k.a. kidney suet, the fat surrounding a cow’s kidneys, and the stuff that helps make Peter Luger’s steak so unbelievably good) from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats (which we rendered ourselves), and not the box of cheap lard from the supermarket. If you’re going to cook with lard, go for the quality stuff that doesn’t have chemical additives or partially hydrogenated oils added.