Monday, November 7, 2011

Semi-Traditional Sauce, Except Not Really

Except kind of. It incorporates only traditional ingredients, at least.

Versatile "Kind of Indonesian" Sauce

Use for marinades, dressing salads, stewing meat, or even stir-frying.

Ratio of 1:1:1:0.5

Ingredients in order of ratio:

Ketjap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
Sesame Oil
Rice Vinegar (though most any white vinegar will do)
Sesame Seeds

 Mix all ingredients together at light speed. Enjoy at turtlepace.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Optimal Nutrition: Beyond Fruits & Vegetables

"If you don't eat me RIGHT NOW, I will CUT --"

Here's another comment I posted on GOOD's website, this time on the topic of fruits & vegetables. 

In American culture, eating fruits & veggies is synonymous with a healthful diet. Any time you ask a doctor in the 'Western' world how you can improve your diet, the first point she'll make is "Eat more fruits & veggies" (not, tellingly, reduce your sugar consumption and get rid of any food addictions). This reality speaks to the fact that modern doctors get shockingly little training in nutrition and dietetics. 

How convenient, dare I say, for the medical industry, which prefers to treat disease symptoms as opposed to the disease, and host, themselves (1). (As an aside, modern medicine disappoints in many other areas.) So, "Disease management" puts lots more money into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies than preventative medicine ever could.

In this polemic comment, I challenge the long-held notion that food from plants is more nutritious than food from animals. It takes a liver (and a few oysters, perhaps) to show, conclusively, that the conventional wisdom (CW) has failed us again.

Dear GOOD!

Thank you for promoting the lovely whole food groups, Fruit, and Vegetable.

I'd like to see more coverage of nutritious animal foods as well. For example, beef liver is arguably the most nutritious food on Earth, with very high amounts of choline, B complex, iron, copper, and a host of other nutrients. Another great example is oysters (farmed), the world's highest food source of zinc.

Check out the chart in this link for more on a comparison of nourishment between animal and plant foods.


Briefly, animal liver is likely the Earth's best multivitamin. In fact, it blows all multivitamins out of the water. Many intelligent experts have asserted that liver is the most nutritious food in the world (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Thanks for your solid work! I hope you consider the points above in your future coverage.

Nutrition by Tradition.  

Livuh. Who knew?!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts on the Three Meals Dogma

I'm intrigued by the history of eating customs across cultures.

A recent article from the terrific site Alternet looks into the three meals paradigm. It quotes a Paul Freedman, editor of Food: The History of Taste (University of California Press, 2007):

There is no biological reason for eating three meals a day. Meal times are cultural patterns no different from how close you stand when talking to people or what you do with your body as you speak. Human beings are comfortable with patterns because they're predictable. We've become comfortable with the idea of three meals. On the other hand, our schedules and our desires are subverting that idea more and more every day.
 As I wrote in the previous article on breakfast, some cultures have 2 main meals a day with little more than a snack at breakfast. What's worth noting is that mortality rates aren't  connected to how many meals a day you eat. Just look at the French, one of the longest-lived, most healthful populations on the planet. The French breakfast custom is to have white bread with jam and butter and coffee/tea. That is, if the French have breakfast at all. I've met many a French person who eat nothing until lunch.

Perhaps there's something to be said for delayed gratification? The saying "Hunger is the best sauce" really captures that idea.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Is brekkie justified?

"Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince, and dinner like a Pauper."

Heard this before? It's common in North America.

And it's no surprise that the medical establishment thinks missing breakfast is one of the worst things you can do to your body aside from, say, downing 2 eggs, a steak, and liver for your daily repasts. You need go no farther than WebMD to for such dogma.

But if we've learned one lesson about health studies here at NbT, it's to question everything you're told. In this post, we're going to examine the long-standing advice to Eat Breakfast, No Matter What (just for flavor and emphasis, they might as well add: "...Or Else!").

Insights from India

One of the oldest medical systems in the world, Ayurveda, dictates that breakfast should be light, warm, and nourishing because the digestive system is just revving up in the early hours. For the record, it also stipulates that lunch be the largest meal of the day because digestion peaks at midday. Also, this tradition holds that "fruit in the morning is like gold," for the morning is the best time to absorb nutrients from fruit. (2)

Hawnh-Hawnh, Spaghetti, and Churroth

This blog is Nutrition by Tradition, so we place faith in traditional foodways, even if they sometimes seem counterintuitive to us. For example, if you ask the typical French person if they'd eat bacon, eggs & sausage for breakfast, they'd probably stare at ye wide-eyed. The French take light, sweet breakfasts of toast with butter and jam, or a croissant, plus a hot drink of some kind. Breakfast for them is, it seems, never a savory affair.

Churros con xocolate. Um, yes please. Like, for any meal. KTHX

In Italy and Spain, the traditional breakfast is similar. Just coffee with some kind of bread, whether it's biscotti - sweet, crunchy coffee bread - or churros, basically deep-fried dough smothered with sugar and cinnamon.

All three countries' breakfast customs would make your average American nutritionist scampering for a 3-pound salad with reduced-fat yogurt. But behold the major irony here: the French, Italians, and Spaniards are some of the most long-lived people in the world. Sure, they suffer increasingly from degenerative diseases (no doubt thanks to their penchant for foods containing sugar and white flour), but they still have a considerably high life expectancy. Sure, they eat what some would say is crap for brekkie, but they also eat plenty of nutrient-dense traditional foods like liver, seafood, bone broth soups, greens, and fermented foods like cheese.

This goes to show that breakfast or not, a diet is more than the sum of its parts.

Bánh bao, a traditional Vietnamese breakfast dish

Ambling over to Asia...

Most common on Chinese breakfast tables, the rice porridge congee is centuries old. Consisting of little more than cooked rice, vegetables, and small bits of meat or fish, congee represents a different take on breakfast from the three European countries above. In China savory is predominant in the morning. Same goes for Japan. Traditionally, the Japanese broke their fasts with rice, miso soup, and tsukemono - pickled veggies. Alternatively, they might have fermented soybeans (natto). However, American influence has caused pancakes and yogurt to crop up on Japanese breakfast tables more frequently.

Hong-Kong style congee

Fasting for health

One possible benefit of skipping breakfast is giving your body a chance to rest, fuelling the body until lunch off stored fat. A growing body of research supports this idea; in fact, beyond giving your digestive apparatus a break, fasting induces something called autophagy. This word comes from the Greek "auto," meaning self, and "phagy," to eat. In a state of autophagy, some interesting processes take place in our body. One, the body does a mopping up operation (call it housecleaning. Corporeal housecleaning!), recycling cellular debris through lysosomes (3). It's kind of like forcing the body to maximize its efficiency through recycling (huzzah).

Have you tried to build muscle only to find yourself downing 50 grams of protein powder every day?

Martin Berkhan over at Leangains presents compelling arguments that short-term fasting works, not only for health, but for muscle-building. How does he do it exactly? Well, he skips breakfast -- every day.

You're so Bioindividual 

When it comes to deciding what - or if - to eat in the morning, take a lesson from Mark Sisson and experiment. If you have a sedentary job, consider eating a light breakfast of fruit and toast with a hot drink, or rice porridge and bone broth soup. You may try skipping breakfast altogether. If your work entails physical labor, perhaps cheese, eggs, or some other protein-fat is needed in the morning.

Another factor in the 'To eat or not to eat brekkie' question is whether you have acceless to enough nutritious fare at dinner and lunch to nourish yourself for the day. It's probably wise to eat a well-balanced, substantial meal in the morning if you don't have the means for a well-balanced lunch. That said, many cultures make lunch the main meal of the day, and Ayurveda dictates that digestion is strongest at midday. Due to this, you may choose to eat the biggest meal then, if possible.

Whatever choice you make about the morning refection, the important thing is to eat nutrient-dense traditionally-prepared foods, for pleasure and good health.

The two have always gone hand-in-hand, after all.

Rethinking Overweight

In recent weeks, a flurry of obesity-themed blog posts have come out of the ancestral health (AH) blogosphere.

For the most part, paleo leaders argue for a different approach to overweight and obesity. Whereas conventional health wisdom (CW) focuses on simply losing weight, the AH community tends to argue the following:

  1. Overweight (including obesity) represents a poor state of health, meriting
  2. A holistic treatment to restore patients' health
Granted, much debate still exists on the specifics. Is it mainly white flour and sugar? To what extent do industrial seed oils play into the disease's etiology? How about what overweight people aren't eating? And finally, what about emotional stress? Regardless of the exact mix of factors, AH leaders seem to agree that excesses of white flour and sugar can cause nutrient deficiencies, fatty liver disease, and weight gain, though genetics determine individual sensitivity to obesogenic foods.

Instead of fad diets, overweight individuals should adopt diets that restore health. The focus becomes bodily rejuvenation as opposed to just weight loss. Fasting, elimination of the neolithic agents of disease (sugar, white flour, food additives, and industrial veg oils), and intense bursts of exercise are the most commonly-cited methods for reducing weight and restoring health.

See Stephan Guyenet's thoughts on obesity here, here, and how to combat it here.

For Chris Kresser's take on the causes and cures of obesity, click here to see his blog series on 'Perfect Health.' Then read his piece on 'diabesity.'

Click here to see what the Jaminets have to say about overweight/obesity.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Traditional Eats, September edition

Oat-dredged Irish Mackerel, fried
Shepherd's Pie: mashed potatoes over stewed vegetables
Stir-fried kale

Swiss Sunday bread, Züpfe

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On the Origin of White Flour

Here at Nutrition by Tradition (NbT) we've talked about how eating white flour habitually can lead to degenerative, modern "diseases of civilization" like tooth decay, jaw maldevelopment, heart disease, dementia and cancer (1). It is, after all, one of those nasty Neolithic Agents of Disease, in the words of Dr. Kurt Harris over at Archevore. So how is it that white flour causes modern diseases? Well, the stuff depletes the body of vitamins and minerals by displacement; it doesn't contribute anything to us nutritionally. It also spikes our blood sugar levels (especially when eaten with sugar, as it often is), wreaking hormonal havoc on our bodies. We also claim that white flour, like refined sugar and industrial seed oils, didn't exist before the 1800s. But I've found evidence to suggest otherwise.

Just how old is white flour?

After a bit of research into the history of bread, I discovered that it was the Romans (around 2500 years ago) who "perfected" flour milling. (That is, if you consider it sophisticated to be able to remove nutrients almost completely from a whole food.) Anyway, the Romans created a complex grain mill, the rotary quern, that could effect 5 different grades of flour, using a high-quality textile - usually linen - to refine it maximally (2). Apparently, due to the high cost of linen and labor to process, only the wealthy could afford white flour . Interesting that we see the same situation with Asia's staple, rice. The whiter the rice, the higher the value, both in terms of class and money (3). In contrast to white bread, however, it seems that white rice is rather nourishing for most humans (4). It's more digestible than brown rice, easier to prepare and to chew. White rice is therefore an exception to the rule that all refined / highly-processed foods are bad for humans.

Whether you decide to use refined flour or wholemeal, one thing's for sure: you should soak, sprout, or ferment the grain / batter before cooking it. Applying one of these techniques makes the grain more digestible by partially- or fully-disabling anti-nutrients therein (5).

This changes our perspective a bit. White flour's much older than we previously thought!