Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Healthy fats?

My column in today’s Ledger-Enquirer features an interview with Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of "Nourushing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats." I tracked her down after reading several articles on the Weston Web site (which advocates consuming “nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats”) that left me wondering whether I was making bad choices with my skim milk/lowfat yogurt/margarine consumption -- which I inflict upon the entire family. The Weston A. Price Foundation (a D.C.-based nonprofit organization named for a Cleveland dentist who in the 1930s studied the traditional diets of native groups from various corners of the globe) advocates drinking raw milk and eating lots of butter, eggs, animal fat and other “good” saturated fats like coconut oil.

It’s advice that runs counter to the low-fat mantras of most nutrition experts but as I read the science and the ideas behind it, much of it seemed to make sense. Some of it even seemed to apply to me. I was a vegetarian for a few years a while back and I still go somewhat light on meat and eggs and margarines. And I’m often a little light-headed and have to eat throughout the day. So I wondered if this criticism on the Weston Web site of one of the many pieces of advice that comes from mainstream nutritionists (Fallon calls it “politically correct nutrition”) was describing me: "Limit fat consumption to 30 percent of calories." Thirty percent calories as fat is too low for most people, leading to low blood sugar and fatigue. Traditional diets contained 30 percent to 80 percent of calories as healthy fats, mostly of animal origin.” Of course I don’t count calories and have no clue what percentage of my calorie consumption is fat – but I imagine it’s way too low.

As I read the Weston explanations of how our bodies process various kinds of fats, how things like pasteurization and hydrogenation alter fats and why saturated fat is actually quite beneficial, I was further intrigued.

I’m a chronic skeptic, though, and I’m still sorting out what to believe. I ran the Q&A with Sally Fallon by my pediatrician via e-mail and, although I caught him on a busy day, he was able to tell me: “Briefly I don’t see anything bad that is recommended. Most of us can take in about anything in moderation.” Carolyn Bentley, a dietitian and lactation consultant who used to lead a nursing mother’s group I frequented with Will, weighed in too (her comments didn't make the online edition of the story so I'll post them below, along with information about the seminar she's giving this weekend in Auburn).

As for what I'll be doing when it comes to consuming fats in our house, for now, I’m going to hedge things a bit and ride the fence. I’ll make some changes that make sense to me without flinging myself full force into a purist Weston A. Price-style diet (largely because I’m too lazy and to do it right but also because part of me is still playing the skeptic -- and I just can’t imagine consuming 32 ounces of milk and two eggs every day).

Here’s what I will do differently for now:

*Switch from Country Crock to real butter
*Switch from skim milk (we often wound up with the ultra-pasteurized Horizon variety) to just plain pasteurized organic whole milk (I’ve noticed the Publix brand is not ultra-pasteurized)
*Become a better label reader and try to limit our consumption of processed foods and products with partially hydrogenated oils more than I have been in the past. And try to cut the trans fats out entirely.
*Cook with whole chickens more often. And save the stock and actually use it. Plan a couple or three nights’ worth of dinners around one chicken.
*Stop buying the lean ground turkey, which Rob hates anyway, and get the cheaper fattier stuff (I do this half the time as it is, but now I’ll do it guilt-free)
*Switch to organic whole milk yogurt (Will is a yogurt fiend) and maybe try to start using the yogurt maker my mother gave me again
*Return to making my own salad dressings and cookies from scratch (I did this pretty consistently before Will’s birth but once I had kids I got lazy-busy). Now that Will loves to bake alongside me, being too busy is no longer an excuse. I also just noticed that the first two ingredients in our Ken's Steakhouse "Red Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil" salad dressing (a recent buy-one-get-one-free impulse purchase) are water and soybean oil. They must have known that "Watered Down Soybean Oil" salad dressing just doesn't sound quite as enticing.
*Throw some more meat-containing meals into the dinner rotation (I’m still loving my new vegetarian cookbooks and planning to use them plenty too)
*Keep thinking and reading without obsessing… Who knows, maybe by next month I’ll be moving on to raw milk or switching back to skim. I need more convincing either way. Please leave a comment if you’ve got anything persuasive – or otherwise – to say.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the Weston A. Price Foundatoin dietary guidelines for nursing mothers (with parenthetical notes about how I violate almost all of them on a daily basis – poor Owen...). For those of you non-pregger/non-nursers out there, I’ll throw in their guidelines for the general population as well. After all, even those of us who are nursing have to feed the rest of our families too.

Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

Cod Liver Oil to supply 20,000 IU vitamin A and 2000 IU vitamin D per day (NEVER HAD IT)
1 quart (or 32 ounces) whole milk daily, preferably raw and from pasture-fed cows (learn more about raw milk on our website, A Campaign for Real Milk, (I’M PROBABLY DOING ABOUT 12 OUNCES OF WHOLE PASTEURIZED MILK NOW – ALTHOUGH I’M NOT A MEASURER AND I’M NOT CONSISTENT)
4 tablespoons
butter daily, preferably from pasture-fed cows (HMMM. MAYBE 2 TABLESPOONS MAX, BUT THE BUTTER THING JUST STARTED THIS WEEK)
2 or more eggs daily, preferably from
Additional egg yolks daily, added to smoothies, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, etc. (NOPE. I’M STILL SCARED OF RAW EGGS.)
3-4 ounces fresh liver, once or twice per week (If you have been told to avoid liver for fear of getting "too much Vitamin A," be sure to read
Fresh seafood, 2-4 times per week, particularly wild salmon, shellfish and fish eggs (NOPE. WILL AND ROB DON’T LIKE IT SO WE DO FISH WAY TOO RARELY. I NEED TO FORCE IT ON THEM MORE OFTEN)
beef or lamb daily, always consumed with the fat (NOPE. ROB HAS A BIZARRE RED MEAT ALLERGY SO WE KEEP OFF THE STUFF. I’M NOT SURE I’VE EVER HAD LAMB.)
Oily fish or
2 tablespoons
coconut oil daily, used in cooking or smoothies, etc. (NOPE, BUT I MAY START USING IT MORE)
Lacto-fermented condiments and beverages (NOPE. MAYBE I’LL GET SOME SAUERKRAUT.) Bone broths used in soups, stews and sauces (NOPE, BUT I MAY TRY THIS MORE)
Fresh vegetables and fruits (FINALLY! I PASS THIS ONE)
Trans fatty acids (e.g., hydrogenated oils)
Junk foods
Commercial fried foods
White flour
Soft drinks
Drugs (even prescription drugs)

Here’s the promised general guidelines, with no interference from me:

Dietary Guidelines

Eat whole, natural foods.
Eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do.
Eat naturally raised meat including fish, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, game, organ meats and eggs.
Eat whole, naturally produced milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as whole yogurt, cultured butter, whole cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
Use only traditional fats and oils including butter and other animal fats, extra virgin olive oil, expeller expressed sesame and flax oil and the tropical oils—coconut and palm.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, in salads and soups, or lightly steamed.
Use whole grains and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
Prepare homemade meat stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb or fish and use liberally in soups and sauces.
Use herb teas and coffee substitutes in moderation.
Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
Use unrefined Celtic seasalt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and expeller expressed flax oil.
Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, dehydrated cane sugar juice and stevia powder.
Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.
Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
Use only natural supplements.
Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
Think positive thoughts and minimize stress.
Practice forgiveness.

Here's what Carolyn Bentley, a licensed dietitian and international board certified lactation consultant, had to say about Fallon’s recommendations:

“We know that a whole egg is a complete protein; it’s the best protein out there. And I do think that there’s good research toward the use of butter in moderation, and we do know that fats are essential in a healthy diet but anything in extreme is potentially hazardous. There are concerns with the use of unpasteurized milk especially since most of our dairies are not small family-run dairies. A milk that’s collected from a cow in the backyard where you control the pasture, you control the sanitation would be different. But without those controls I think it’s dangerous. Anyone who is looking to make these types of changes should consult with a registered or licensed dietitian so that healthy adjustments can be made. Overall I think some of the thoughts are really good, but you have to take into account that we’re living in the 21st century and I think it could be dangerous unless you invest in some type of co-op or family farm that’s using organic means of farming and pasture renewal.”

If you go
What: Seminar on Healthy Diets with Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions and president of The Weston A. Price Foundation
When: Friday evening, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Where: Auburn Church of Christ, 712 South College Street, Auburn, Ala.
Cost: Friday evening: $10; Saturday seminar, including lunch: $45. Friday and Saturday: $50.
Details: Talks include “The Oiling of America,” “The Basics of Healthy Diets,” “All About Fats and Oils,” “How to Change your Diet for the Better.”
More information: Call 334-821-8063
Learn more about the Weston A. Price Foundation at

There are loads of articles on nutrition and so-called “nutrition myths,” as well as some recipes, at the Weston web site: Take a look (and let me know what you think).

1 comment:

Dana said...

I'd love to hear an update on your opinions and practices since this post!