By Jane Sheppard
With all the conflicting information out there about nutrition, no wonder most of us are confused as to what to feed our children. I was a vegetarian for years and advocated a vegetarian diet as one of the most important ways to increase health. I ate no meat or dairy throughout my entire pregnancy, and had an exceptionally healthy baby. It’s important to note, though, that I ate plenty of organic eggs and supplemented my diet with flaxseed oil and natural vitamins and minerals.
I am no longer a vegetarian. The more I research food and nutrition, the more I’m finding that a small amount of naturally produced animal fat and protein can be a healthy part of a whole foods diet. Yes, I did say animal, but the crucial thing here is to stay away from commercial meat and dairy – the kind you find everywhere in all the grocery stores and restaurants. The meat and dairy that is healthy comes from grass-fed animals raised humanely on family farms without hormones and antibiotics. The dairy is not pasteurized nor homogenized. It is organic, raw, whole milk from grass-fed cows. The nutritional value of these foods is far different than the commercial factory-farmed meat and dairy that you find in a regular grocery store. In this age of factory farming and high-tech food processing, finding high-quality food is increasingly vital to your family’s health.
Children Need Fats
Children must have fat in their diets, since fats are needed for growth and provide the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones. Fats act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Without dietary fats, carotenes do not convert to vitamin A and minerals are not absorbed properly. Both cholesterol and saturated fat are essential for growth in babies and children, especially in the development of the brain. In fact, mother’s milk contains over 50% of its calories as fat, much of it saturated.
Moderate amounts of healthy fats in the diet do not cause obesity. The real culprits in obesity and a host of chronic diseases are refined sugar, white flour products, and trans-fatty acids in the form of heated refined vegetable oils or hydrogenated oils such as margarine and vegetable shortening.
The Work of Weston Price
One simply cannot advocate a certain way to eat without considering the work of Dr. Weston Price. Dr. Price was a dentist in the early 1900s around the time when processed food was first introduced. He was concerned about the increased, widespread dental disease and poor health of his patients. He noticed they were suffering from more and more chronic degenerative diseases and the children had a greater number of cavities and more crooked teeth than ever before. He had heard of native people in other countries, untouched by civilization and processed food, with perfect teeth and exceptional health. Dr. Price traveled around the world, visiting and studying these people and their diets. He visited with and examined 14 groups of native people and found on average less than 1% of tooth decay and perfectly straight teeth in all the people he visited. The amazing thing was that not one of these people had ever used a toothbrush. He found no incidence of any of the degenerative diseases that are so widespread in our culture.
The important factor in the traditional diets was that all the foods were natural and unprocessed. There were no preservatives, additives, or colorings, no added sugar (except moderate amounts of natural sweets like honey and maple syrup), and no white flour or canned foods. The milk products were not pasteurized, homogenized, or low fat. The plant foods consumed were grown in mineral-rich, pesticide-free soil and the animals were raised on their natural pasture and not given growth hormones or antibiotics. On his journeys, Dr Price never once found a totally vegetarian culture. They all ate some form of animal fat and protein.
Some of the groups Dr. Price studied lived close to racially similar groups that had abandoned their traditional diets since they had come in contact with traders or missionaries. They began to eat the food available in the newly established stores – sugar, refined grains, canned foods, pasteurized milk and devitalized fats and oils. In these people, he found rampant tooth decay, infectious disease and degenerative conditions. Price concluded that race had nothing to do with these changes. He noted that physical degeneration occurred in children of native parents who had adopted the processed diet; while mixed race children whose parents had consumed traditional foods were healthy and born with wide handsome faces and straight teeth.
The modern convenience foods of today – sugar and white flour products with hydrogenated or rancid vegetable oils and factory-farmed meat and dairy – are key factors in the alarming rate of chronic degenerative diseases, learning disabilities, and dental disease. These denatured, processed foods do not provide sufficient nutrients to allow a child’s body to reach its full potential of health, nor the proper functioning of the immune, nervous, skeletal, digestive, and reproductive systems. We need to get back to natural, wholesome foods that are prepared and preserved in a way that promotes health, not disease.
We are constantly challenged in a society that allows the food industry to bombard our children with advertising of fake foods in appealing, colorful packages. It’s difficult to protect our children when lifeless convenience foods, candy, soda, and fruit juice drinks loaded with sugar and corn syrup are common snacks and lunches of their peers. I struggle with it constantly; allowing my daughter to occasionally have some of these devitalized foods. But I’ve taught her that these things are only occasional treats and that our everyday diet is natural, organic, whole foods. She knows that these are the foods her mind and body need to grow and thrive.
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. (NewTrends Publishing, Inc., 1999) derives essential wisdom from the traditional diets of the past and combines this wisdom with the latest independent and accurate scientific research. Sally Fallon discredits the U.S. nutritional guidelines that favor the highly profitable and powerful grain cartels, vegetable oil producers and food processing industry, and she shows that the big trend toward low-fat diets is based on research that is misrepresented or incorrect.
Much more than a cookbook, Nourishing Traditions provides a bounty of solid information about natural, whole foods with a full discussion about healthy fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, this book teaches food preparation and preservation techniques that will not devitalize foods like commercial food processing does, but instead enhances the quality and nutritional value of the food. Included is an excellent chapter on feeding babies. The recipes are surprisingly easy, but will definitely take time in the kitchen. Feeding your family a healthy diet is not quick and convenient, but the results you’ll see in shining, vibrant children will make it well worth the time and effort.
According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, “butter added to vegetables and spread on bread, and cream added to soups and sauces, ensure proper assimilation of the minerals and water-soluble vitamins in vegetables, grains and meat.” Dr. Price considered butter to be the ultimate health food. In addition to saturated fat and cholesterol, butter contains fat-soluble vitamins in the most absorbable form, factors that help the body absorb and utilize minerals, and a small amount of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids in the proper balance. The omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are essential for health, and without adequate amounts and proper balance of these fats, chronic health problems are inevitable.
“In summary”, says Sally Fallon, “our choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance. Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Acquaint yourself with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached. And, finally, use as much good quality butter as you like, with the happy assurance that it is a wholesome – indeed, an essential – food for you and your whole family.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation www.westonaprice.org
Politically Incorrect: The Neglected Nutritional Research of Dr. Weston Price, DDS, by By Dr. Stephen Byrnes
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. (NewTrends Publishing, Inc., 1999)