Beginning Adventures in Whole Foods

This weekend, Catherine and I have begun to try to revisit the way we view and think about food. Now, I’m a big guy, I weigh at least 50 pounds more than I’d like, but I’ve always attributed that to my mostly sedentary lifestyle. Admittedly, I have been known to over-indulge from time to time, but I’ve been getting far better at fighting those cravings and at least trying to eat healthy. The sedentary lifestyle hasn’t changed much, but we’re working on that now.

Catherine’s mother had purchased a book, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary G Enig, a journalist and a PhD biochemist, who argue that all the health problems and obesity in this country can be traced back to our food (like most nutritionists). However, they argue that the things that we’re told are bad for us by the “dictocrats” (I hate that word) typically aren’t the things that are bad for us.

The argument makes a lot of sense. We have more incidents of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, and a host of other medical problems. Yes, there are more people, and we have better technology than we’ve had in the past to detect such conditions, but the curve seems far too accelerated, as if we’re asymptotically approaching a point where we all die of heart attacks by the time we’re fourty-five.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Dr. Gregory House makes a point of fully investigating the environment in every patients case, as 99% of the time, a strange disease is somehow related to the environment in which the person has spent their time. So, what has changed in our collective environment? What we eat has changed immensely even over the last sixty years. Our food is engineered to produce a more voluminous, consistent product.

Despite all of this, little effort has been spent on making food healthier. We keep moving toward more and more processed food. High fructose corn syrup is in everything; Margarine, which most people my age grew up with, has been linked to a multitude of health issues; and the highly-processed corn oils used for frying at most restaurants is more and more being linked to health problems like high cholesterol as well.

The book argues that the way our grand-parents or great grand-parents grew up eating is in fact the healthiest way for us to eat. What does this mean? Processed foods, like Margarine and Conola oil, and corn syrup should be eliminated. Naturally foods, like milk, butter, and grass-fed cattle are in. In fact, lots of vegetables can’t be properly processed without butter because of the existence of fat-soluble vitamins that our bodies can’t get to any other way. As a long-time believer in butter, I was pretty glad to read that.

We did discover that the majority of the recipes in the book tend to build off of a few basic techniques, primarily requiring fresh whey, the protein-rich dairy byproduct created when making cheese. In an effort to make some whey of our own, we’ve begun the process of making some homemade yogurt, which was a simple matter of mixing whole milk with a bit of fresh plain yogurt which contains live cultures. Come tomorrow, we should have some pretty excellent yogurt. The rest of the plain yogurt we purchased is being wrapped in a tea-towel and left in a strainer, so that it drips whey and turns into a fresh cream cheese. Next week, we’ll do the cream-cheese with our homemade yogurt.

In addition, we’ve bought a buttermilk culture, and a kombucha culture off of an etsy store, in an effort to try to replace some of what we drink with more healthy alternatives.

The book makes a lot of sense to me, and anyone interested in the ‘whole foods’ concept, I’d suggest pick this book up first. It’s full of good hints, and plenty of discussion about why modern foods are bad for us, which include references to real medical and scientific journals. Part of eating right may well involved letting go of this abundance culture we live in, where anything we want in almost always available, but I think that not only will the quality of our food increase, but so will our overall health. And that alone is enough reason to change.