Nourishing Traditions is one of the many great books I have been privileged to read as part of the Nutritional Therapy program. Here is my book review:
Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions presents the compelling argument that Americans ought to go back to their ancestral roots when it comes to nutrition. Sally’s book refers to a dentist named Weston Price and his nutritional research in the 1930’s. Weston Price traveled all over the world to study the relationship between dental disease, nutrition and overall health. He found that the healthiest people without dental disease were eating whole, nutrient dense foods that were untouched by “modern commerce.” Modern commerce is what Dr. Price called packaged, processed, refined, denatured and sugar-added foods. Dr. Price also found that all of the healthy cultures he studied, in various regions of the world, included some animal protein in their diet, and that there were no strict vegetarians among the healthy people groups. Nourishing Traditions is based heavily on Dr. Price’s research, as well as studies and updated information that supports Dr. Price’s findings. In addition to the great deal of nutritional advice, primarily, Nourishing Traditions is a cookbook. It is full of recipes that employ ancient wisdom like soaking grains, seeds, nuts and legumes and culturing dairy. I believe that it should be a staple cookbook in every American home.
I highlighted SO much of this book! It was difficult for me to decide what not to highlight, as it was rich with details. I had read through the book several years ago, so most of the information was not new to me. Still, this second time through the book, I learned a lot! In this reading, I was reminded about cholesterol being “a potent antioxidant weapon against free radicals in the blood,” not the cause of heart disease. I loved Sally’s word picture, comparing high cholesterol to large police force in a city: the police force (and cholesterol) is not to be blamed for the crime (heart disease), but their presence is an indicator that there are problems that need to be addressed.
While I remembered that high blood sugar from sweet foods was bad for human health, I did not understand the process the body goes through to deal with the sugar. On page 22 of Nourishing Traditions, Sally explains the “roller-coaster cycle of high blood sugar.” According to the book’s explanation, all of us (not only diabetics) suffer tissue damage from sugar consumption and may face damage to: the lens of the eye, the myelin sheath that coats our nerves, our skin’s collagen, and our tendons and membranes. This was eye opening to me. A big spike in blood sugar is not good for anyone, even once, but especially repeatedly.
I was reminded again about the importance of animal products for obtaining B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. While a compound that resembles vitamin B12 is found in some plants, it is not easily assimilated by the body as we lack a special protein (called the “intrinsic factor”) that would help us process this compound. Sally states that, in fact, these vegetables with a this vitamin B12 look-alike may actually cause vitamin B12 depletion. Thus, another great reason to consume meats, eggs, dairy products, and highly nutritious bone broths from pastured animals. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 can cause mental issues like panic attacks, Schizophrenia and hallucinations, problems with eyesight, pernicious anemia, weakness, loss of balance, etc.! I found it quite fascinating that “a very high percentage of inmates in psychiatric wards suffers from low serum levels of B12.” (page 28) And, I thought it was sad that breast-fed infants of strict vegetarians have been noted to have vitamin B12 deficiency. The last thing we need is more mental illness in our children, especially in our public schools. 🙁
It interested me that on page 31, Sally said that “Range-fed beef that is finished with several weeks of grain feeding is fine, as long as the grains are organic,” and that the animals are not fed soy or cottonseed meal. She said that “Grain finishing merely imitates the natural feeding habits,” which I personally have a hard time fully understanding (having raised pastured animals). In the Nutrition Therapy Association’s information about proteins, only organic, grass fed meats, organic, free-range poultry, organic pastured lamb and wild meats are mentioned as being optimal for human consumption. I also noted that on page 17, in the section on Fats, the book said that CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), which has anticancer properties, is found in the butter of cows that are fed on pasture alone. Sally said: “CLA disappears when cows are fed even small amounts of grain,” which I think is a bit of a contradiction with her later advice that feeding a little bit of grains is ok. Perhaps the discrepancy here lies in the fact that the CLA is found in dairy animals, and when she mentioned grain-feeding, she was specifically talking about beef. Still, this is a different stance from what I find in the NTA information, and my research causes me to agree with what I understand to be NTA’s stance: meat that is optimal for human consumption and most nutrient dense comes from animals that only consumed grass.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I read parts of it aloud to my kids, as it flows easily, makes a lot of sense, and Sally Fallon is a fabulous story-teller. Personally, I would like to see more mentioning of sources within the text (not only in the bibliography), to make it feel like the information being presented is more “legit.” It was probably a wise choice to exclude this information from the text, though, as it would have cluttered Sally’s story-telling and possibly would have discouraged many people (who are not interested in medical studies like I am!) from reading her book. As mentioned above, I believe that Nourishing Traditions should be a staple cookbook in every American home. It is rich with information and recipes for good health.