In her book Nourishing Traditions Sally Fallon explores how the current American diet is causing harm, imbalance, and disease. She discuss the negative effects of processed foods, the overconsumotion of sugar through food products, sodas/diuretic (dehydrating) drinks, refined carbs, and poor quality animal products and fat. She makes the important point that those who have power over the food industry/agriculture are struggling to produce food that is mineral and nutrient rich due the depletion of our soil. Our soil is suffering because the earth needs to rest between harvests and the use of harmful pesticides and other chemicals are not allowing the earth the time it needs to rejuvenate the natural minerals. Fallon posits that the study of the diets of earth based peoples who happily live off of local natural resources (from Inuit people, to folks of European decent, to various African tribes) can teach us a lot about the benefits of our different ancestors and their whole food based diets. She explains that if we understand food in it’s whole form as opposed to more of what we see now (which is food products in many processed and manipulated forms) we can learn about what food to buy and from where and how to support local farmers and agriculturalists. We can also learn to pay attention to the quality and origin. With this knowledge we can then learn to prepare foods as they were prepared traditionally to support the best digestion and absorption. Through these practice we can simply feel better.
Fallon discusses the modern diet of commerce in the first 63 pages of Nourishing Traditions: The cookbook that challenges politically correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. She especially focuses on the American diet and how it is causing/irritating a lot of the illnesses we see today. Frankly, a lot of Americans are sick. Balance, vitality, and overall wellness can be restored through a whole foods which are nutrient and mineral rich and well prepared. Of course for each individual we also need to take into account the information we gain from other licensed/certified health professionals such as doctors, dentist, nurse practitioners (NP), chiropractors, massage therapists, body workers, acupuncturists, traditional eastern medicine, etc. I believe health is most attainable when everyone works together towards a shared goal with the wisdom from many traditions/practices.
Fallon goes over in great detail the benefits of various aspects of food such as fats, carbohydrates, proteins, dairy products, animal meat products, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, additives, beverages, and preparing foods that offer these health benefits. I find it particularly helpful that when Fallon discusses these necessary aspects she explains the foods that we can get these necessary puzzle pieces from. It is helpful that she breaks down that some foods may have more of what we need than others do. For example, she is not against the decision to be a vegetarian. I believe it is important to stay neutral, to present the facts, and to ultimately let each person make the food choices that best serve them. Fallon simply points out that if one is a vegetarian we have to be conscious of what nutrient pieces may be harder to get and how to fill in the holes. She explains for example that we need to be aware of complete proteins. We can eat grains and legumes so that our body can get complete proteins. We find complete proteins in nature from meat/seafood such as oysters, liver, or organic grass fed beef if we are digesting and assimilating properly. Though Fallon eats meat she respectfully addresses that though meat/seafood complete proteins serve the body differently, a healthy diet can be achieved through tactical vegetarian choices and practices.
Fallon does not demand that there is one perfect diet for everyone. She guides the reader through education. She goes into detail about various foods and their best sources for a healthy diet. She beckons us to listen to ourselves and our bodies for the ultimate information to what kind of food, cooking, and eating habits/balance is right for us. Fallon does warn against very specific things that we find especially in the American diet which cause harm to most people. She warns the reader about the harms of hydrogenated oils/additives/chemicals, and processed food. She explains that foods that have been heated, cooled, altered permanently so that they are devoid of the original nutrients and health benefits, and especially the overconsumption of sugar and sugar substitutes, can cause nutritional deficiencies and general health problems. She explains that our American relationship to sugar and the normalization of overconsumption is dangerously spreading across the world. This practice of putting sugar in many foods has increased mortal diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and many mental health imbalances. We need to be educated on what is in the food in our everyday grocery stores. If we can shop more locally and sustainably for organic food sources (such as local farmers) we can contradict the effects of harmful processing and agriculture practices. We have the power to live in our inherent state of human vitality.
Three invaluable things I learned from Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:
I learned about bones broths. My mother, friend’s mothers, and grandmothers used to make these when I was a kid. I also saw many cooks do this in my experience working in restaurants and yet I did not think it was simple enough for me to do it. I learned that bone broths are very high in minerals such as sodium, chloride, magnesium, Iodine, silicon (which protects against aluminum), and they are the best source of accessible calcium for absorption. Bone broths also have a great source of healthy fats. In addition to the health benefits Fallon simply supported my confidence and ability through her encouraging, straightforward, and relaxed tone. I felt suddenly that it was a simple and primal desire in me to enjoy liver and bone broths-that my instincts in this life had been accurate all along. Humans have had this intuition and ability for longer than we can measure. I too can make the foods that my Irish ancestors made. I also have loved the idea of using the whole animal and “no waste” since I was a young child and my friends grandfather asked me to walk with no trace on the earth. This practice of making bone broths makes me feel complete and happy. I know that in addition to the respect of the animal’s existence I am truly giving myself and loved ones vital nutrients. Fallon is a shot of straight life force to my hungry and curious heart.
I learned to soak everything! Well that is an overstatement :) and yet I really had not simply taken part in the timeless tradition of particularly soaking organic raw nuts, beans, and grains. I knew of this and have seen people do it all my life. I always used the excuse I don't have time. I made time. My digestion is finally improving and I can enjoy beans for the first time in my life! Just tonight I made an organic bean, chard, turnip, and spinach soup. I now understand that the soaking is the first step in my body’s ability to break down the starches in the beans for example. I also learned that nuts have enzyme inhibitors in their raw state and the soaking and dehydrating helps to break this down. It is then easier for my body to absorb the nutrients because it is not exhausting itself trying to break down the wall to get to the healthy aspects of the food. If the process of digestions is eased I can break the starch and other nutrients more efficiently into glucose, energy, which is used in everything from picking up my cat, to taking a run, to working full time and balancing my nutrition homework at the same time!
I learned that vegetarians are best served nutritionally when they are tactful and intentional about getting complex proteins since they are not going to eat animal products. We are also living in a fat phobic society and we are suffering from not getting enough of the good fats such as animal products like duck fat and livers (from humanly raised organic sources), avocados, and raw dairy products. If a person is not going to take part in eating animals I respect that. I recommend being strategic about how to create a balanced and healthy diet that gets enough beneficial fats and nutrients as discussed above and also through, grains (like quinoa that aren't too heavy or are empty such as white flour), and that they need whole food protein! I learned a lot about the fact that nuts and quinoa can be an example of vegetarian protein and other good nutrients. I am now sprouting my own alfalfa sprouts, soaking my nuts, quinoa and brown rice, and sustainably making dishes with beans that my family and I happily digest.