Learning from Our Ancestors

The way our ancestors ate over the centuries allowed them to flourish, thrive, and survive (at times) from one generation to the next. In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon states that “the culinary traditions of our ancestors, and the food choices and preparation techniques of healthy nonindustrialized peoples, should serve as the model for contemporary eating habits, even and especially during this modern technological age.” Indeed, we have drifted more and more away from these authentic cuisines, choosing convenience over the time-tested traditional methods of cooking. Going back to these ancient ways of preparing and consuming whole foods is a sure way to better our health and wellness. As Michael Pollan puts it, “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

“Four Pillars of World Cuisine”

In her books Food Rules and Deep Nutrition, Dr. Catherine Shanahan explains that “all authentic world cuisines share the same four categories of food sources and preparative techniques:”

  • Fresh, raw food
  • Sprouted and fermented foods
  • Meat cooked on the bone
  • Organ meats

So along with using traditional cooking methods, we want to pick in-season local ingredients whenever possible, of course. 

Fresh, Raw Food

Fresh food implies in-season picks. Examples of fresh foods are:

Sprouted and Fermented Foods

If you sprout or ferment certain foods you increase the nutritional quality of these foods. With fermented foods, you get a variety of good bacteria for the gut. Examples of fermented and sprouted foods are:

  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Sprouted almonds

Meat Cooked on the Bone

The most common ways to cook meat on the bone are either by slow-simmering meats, like in stews, or roasting them. By cooking meat for a long time that way, gently, you to preserve the nutrients and collagen in your meal. A personal favorite of mine is bone broth.

Sidenote: Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system, and tendons. Consuming collagen can benefit your body in multiple ways.

Examples of meat on the bone are:

  • Roast turkey
  • Chicken soup
  • Barbequed spare ribs
  • Braised lamb shanks
  • Greens braised in chicken stock

Organ Meats

As mentioned in my previous post, organ meats are full of beneficial nutrients that can be easily absorbed by the body. Examples of organ meats are:

  • Pan fried lamb kidneys in butter
  • Beef tongue stew
  • Roasted bone marrow
  • Duck liver pate
  • Liverwurst (US wellness Meats offers this)

In Summary

Taking the time to prepare well-sourced whole foods by using traditional methods of cooking is an ideal way to nourish our body properly. Consuming fresh, raw food, sprouted and fermented foods, meats cooked on the bone, and organ meats should be part of our daily lives. Fueling our body with the right nutrient-dense foods is what can give us the strength and resilience needed to face whatever life may bring.

References

Dr. Axe. “What Is Collagen?” Dr. Axe, 5 Feb. 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/what-is-collagen/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

Fallon, Sally, et al. Nourishing Traditions : The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Brandywine, Md, Newtrends Pub, 2001, p. xi.

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food : An Eater’s Manifesto. Turtleback Books, 2009, p. 148.

Shanahan, Catherine. Food Rules : A Doctor’s Guide to Healthy Eating. Bedford, Nh, Big Box Books, 2010, p. 54-56.

Shanahan, Catherine, and Luke Shanahan. Deep Nutrition : Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. New York, Flatiron Books, 2017, pp. 328–333.

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Nowadays

In today’s world, convenience foods are everywhere and cooking from scratch has become quite rare. Who has the time to prepare home-cooked meals on a daily basis? We are always on the go, and weekends can be just as busy as the rest of the week. What we don’t realize, though, is that when we reach for convenience foods and on-the-go meal options, we do not fuel ourselves with real food – with nutrient-dense food. We fuel ourselves with processed foods that are filled with toxic chemicals, labeled or not labeled. Only home-cooked meals made with whole foods can give us the right nutrients required for proper metabolic function. Home-cooked meals are the meals that sustain health and wellness.

What cooking at home can lead to

In a recent Bulletproof podcast, “What the heck should I cook, Dr. Hyman?”, Dr. Mark Hyman states, “If people just got off the crap and started eating real food, and literally unplugged from the industrial food system, their health would dramatically improve.” He adds, “We would reverse climate change. We would end social injustice and poverty. We’d have money enough for free education, and free healthcare for everybody, and can support the neediest among us with no effort, and have lots of money left over to do cool stuff and create new science, and solve all the world’s problems just by cooking at home.” These are strong statements and I encourage you to listen to this podcast which highlights so many truths we have become oblivious to.

What to use in simple home-cooked meals

Home-cooked meals imply cooking with whole foods, which means using nutrient-dense ingredients that have not been tampered with. To find out what to buy to prepare home-cooked meals, you can check several of my previous blog posts: What to Buy Organic, Which Fish are Okay to Buy, How to Source Beef, Why Eating the Egg Yolk is Perfectly Fine. In What are Ketones? I list several healthy fat options that can be consumed as snacks, as well as which oils to use for cooking. My article on The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid sums up this list of nutrient-dense foods to use in home-cooked meals.

Strategies

You don’t have to cook every single day in order to obtain an optimal level of health and wellness. Most of us have busy schedules and aren’t able to set that time aside each day. Instead, you can implement a few different strategies into your weekly routine in order to obtain the same goal. One strategy you can implement is to set some time aside on the weekend to prep several dishes for the week. You can store these in the fridge or freezer, as required. Also, something that I was doing a lot when my children were growing up, is to cook a meal big enough to cover at least two dinners. Like that, when there are after school activities to attend, dinner doesn’t have to be an end-of-the-day ordeal.

In summary

It may seem impossible at first to change the way we have approached cooking in our day-to-day life. But if we take it one step at a time, we can enjoy home-cooked meals every day. As Dr. Hyman highlights, not only are home-cooked meals made with whole foods better for our health, but they are also better for a host of other issues we are dealing with in today’s world. Home-cooked meals sustain health and wellness in so many ways!

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