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Nutrient-dense foods

With only a chapter or two to go in the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price, I figure this book must be one of the most important books ever written on the subject of nutrition geared to the lay person. If you are interested in your own nutrition and health, if you are a medical doctor, dentist, psychologist, speech therapist or a dietician or if you do any nutrition counseling at all, this is an absolute must read. I have known about the research of Dr. Weston A. Price for years and have written about it in previous tips, but nothing prepared me for the overwhelming evidence he provides through not only his studies of primitive cultures, but also his examination of skulls and teeth of thousands of years ago compared to those of today. The photos provided make it obvious to anyone of the underlying truth to what he is suggesting - the need to eat nutrient-dense foods and to stay away from foods that have been stripped even partially of their nutrition, so as to avoid the physical and mental degeneration that he discovered occurs within one generation of eating poor quality food. I would be surprised if one could possibly read this book and not be changed by it. If you are a healing professional of any kind, it will probably alter your practice, or at minimum, give you different insight into what may be contributing to the ailments of your patients (or yourself!) I thought the book would be a tough slog, but I actually found it to be surprisingly engaging. And I am left once again astonished at how it is possible that we are being told to avoid foods that are so vital to our health. Modern science misses the obvious by examining the minutia. Only by backing up and examining the big picture does the truth come into sharp focus.

Today our motive to eat, other than social interaction, is mostly to satisfy our hunger. When we are hungry, we grab something that tastes good to fill us up. Often, not much consideration is given to the potential health benefits/consequences of our choice beyond possibly "a bran muffin may be a better choice than a cakey kind of muffin".  One of the big differences Dr. Price noticed between primitive cultures that he studied and today's modern world, is that primitive cultures never selected foods based on energy requirements alone, but rather sought out nutrient-dense foods.  As the years go by, the nutrition knowledge of the past is being forgotten.

Even a generation ago, more attention was given to providing nutrient-dense foods to our children.  Cod-liver oil was a must for most kids growing up in the 40s and 50s.   Families ate organ meats far more frequently than we do today.  Fermented foods like sauerkraut were more common.  Oatmeal was soaked over night before cooking.  It wasn't about what we liked - I wasn't much of a liver fan, but I was forced to eat it as a kid because it was good for me.  I think we need to go back to that - if you don't like a food that is nutrient dense, find another recipe or learn to like it.  The average person eats the same thing for breakfast each day, often a variation on the same thing for lunch, and only eats about 12 different foods in total.  Continually avoiding foods that we may not be very familiar with or dislike despite their known health benefits and overeating other foods that we like, narrows our food variety and reduces our ability to obtain all the nutrients and phytonutrients required for optimal health.  Why not try a new whole food each week? It is frequently the fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K that we become deficient in, due to our saturated-fat-and-cholesterol-phobic society.  And it was precisely these vitamins that Dr. Price found were displaced in primitive cultures by modern foods, and their lack, in combination with the added sugar that created the degenerative problems he was seeing.

By eating foods that are nutrient-dense, we are satisfied sooner and therefore we don't require as many calories.  This is part of the problem with foods high in processed flour and sugar - they are nutritionally empty, so we get hungry sooner, and wind up consuming more calories which then get converted to fat.  As a society, we are over-fed but under nourished, and Dr. Price proves beyond a shred of doubt how this under-nourishment leads to physical and mental degeneration, as well as to degenerative diseases.  So, what are the nutrient-dense foods we should consume?  To get adequate fat-soluble vitamins, regularly include in your diet each week some of the following:  pasture-fed raw butter, pasture-fed, organic raw cream and/or whole milk, free-range eggs,  fish roe, shell fish, high-vitamin fish liver oils (they come flavoured or in capsules now, so no excuse!) and organic organ meats including liver, kidney, sweetbreads, brains, and/or heart.  Organ meats are far more nutrient-dense than regular meat and poultry. An easy way to introduce organ meats to your family is to start with chicken hearts or beef heart, grind it up in your food processor and add it to some ground beef if you are nervous, and make a spaghetti sauce, serving it over spaghetti squash.  It is unlikely that anyone will be able to tell that it is anything other than a yummy spaghetti sauce.  For more recipes and ideas on how to incorporate organ meats into your family's diet, buy Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Other nutrient-dense, low glycemic foods include above-ground vegetables - green leafies like kale, chard, mustard greens, spinach etc., broccoli, peppers, tomatoes (I know - tomatoes are a fruit), beans, asparagus, etc.  Fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented whole grains and legumes, yoghurt or kefir from pasture-fed whole raw milk etc. are also nutrient dense.  A good rule of thumb is to avoid any food that is shrink wrapped, or starts with a capital letter (Corn Flakes, Oreos, Triscuits, Pepsi), or has a health claim listed on the packaging, as that is pretty much a guarantee that it is not good for you!  Stick to whole, unadulterated small-letter food.

To know how much fat, protein and carbohydrate and the kinds that are most appropriate for you, get yourself metabolically typed by finding a metabolic typing advisor near you.

Related tips:
Food Guide Fallacy
Eat - Food, our raw material
Saturated Fat, the misunderstood nutrient
High Cholesterol does not cause heart disease

Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration Price-Pottenger Foundation, La Mesa CA, 2000.
Fallon, Sally Nourishing Traditions, Revised 2nd Ed. NewTrends Publishing Inc., Washington DC, 2001.
Chek, Paul; How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2004.