The book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is what I believe to be a hidden gem in my life. Upon reading the first paragraph I was hooked. Fallon illustrates ideas of food and culture perfectly when she writes, “But father technology has not brought us freedom from disease. Chronic illness in industrialized nations has reached epic proportions because we have been dazzled by his stepchildren”. The objective of this book is to take a step back to the basics. She states, “…Dr. Price’s observations that the so-called civilized diet, particularly the Western diet of refined carbohydrates and devitalized fats and oils, spoils our God-given genetic inheritance of physical perfection and vibrant health”. Within the two pages of the preface she maps out the need to return to the basics of healthy eating in addition to the havoc that our food industry is raining on our world.
The subtitle of this book is “The cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats”. Dictocrats, according to her, are generally doctors, researchers, and spokesmen for various government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, and the American Dietetic Association. She argues the idea that particular foods are not the issue, but rather how they are processed, refined, or adapted to be bigger, faster, and by some opinions, tastier. America’s contorted view of health, and their need for faster meals and service proliferates the downward spiral to obesity and chronic diseases that were once a rarity. Fallon writes that the nation’s leading research teams from prestigious universities such as Harvard are morphing America’s ideas of nutrition by maintaining a perverse relationship with the food processing industry. This can be seen in a 1980 study which focussed on researcher Dr. Stare who wrote articles assuring the public that white bread, sugar, and highly processed foods are ok. He even suggested drinking Coca-Cola as a snack. What is even more bleak is the fact that people believed those statements which were clearly contrary to common nutritional principals. The effect of this trend can be seen on the generations of today.
As the introduction continues, the reader receives a vast array of information on fats, carbohydrates, proteins, milk and milk products, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, salt, spices, additives, beverages, and allergies. With a personal background consisting of extensive personal research and a bachelors in Health Science, there was information that caused me to reconsider some of my beliefs on proper nutrition. The first would be the argument against saturated fat. For example, the statement “…margarine and shortening over butter represents a triumph of advertising duplicity over common sense”. The author goes on to say that they need to be avoided like a plague. I have the personal understanding that moderation of most foods is key. It is disheartening to think that the negative publicity regarding saturated fat is a product of media boosts and not fundamental research. Even my opinion over extra virgin olive oil versus butter was shaken when I read “The longer-chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short- and medium-chain fatty acids found in butter and coconut oil”. In the end our choices of fat are very important, but it can be hard to decipher what is a “healthy choice”. Fallon contends that it is important to avoid processed and artificial ingredients, and to remember that moderation and natural foods are the key to healthy living.
Within the book’s chapter on proteins I found myself discouraged over the choices I should be making. Fallon explains the hormones and antibiotics injected into animals we eat can negatively effect your health. I did not feel that the research was convincing. Animals should be fed with natural feed and allowed the space to grow and roam, however the price of free roaming chickens or grass fed beef can be very expensive. Many people like myself construct their diets including meat protein. It is hard to only buy organic meats. For budget minded individuals, purchasing organic products will often lead to sacrificing one item for another due to financial concerns. Sometimes funds can not be available. Later, Fallon steps away from the meat conversation and begins to explain protein supplements. As previously stated, natural is the key to healthy living. However, when it comes to protein supplements, the choice can be difficult. Fallon explains that “Soy protein isolates are high in mineral-blocking phytates, thyroid-depressing phytoestrogens, and potent enzyme inhibitors that depress growth and cause cancer”. Protein can be a fragile subject especially when subjected to high temperatures. The act of heating can denature the protein causing it to become virtually useless. Fallon expresses the concern over protein supplements, but doesn’t offer an alternative. Many athletes and gym attenders, need a supplement for post workouts and protein powders can be quick easy and filling. So the question remains, “what is the best protein supplement”. Clearly Fallon explains that whole foods are the best option, but many will continue to choose supplements for a matter of cost, convenience, and/or taste. There is a need to figure out what will be the most beneficial with the least negative effects.
Overall the introductory section of Nourishing Traditions provided a fundamental foundation for the layman’s understanding of nutrition. She allows the reader to see the hard truths and vital information that can allow one to make an informative decision on their food choices. Fallon then illustrates how to prepare dishes to satisfy ones new conscience for healthier and more nutritious food. She focuses on getting back to nutritional basics by teaching nutrition and how to prepare food to put on the dinner table. I believe Fallon does a great job of presenting her research, and builds a great foundation for the beginning of this cook book.