Herbal Medicine Ezine --  Wise Woman Wisdom
July 2005
Volume 5 Number 7
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What's Inside Weed Wanderings this Month...


Empower Yourself...
Traditional Diets
Nasty,Brutish, and Short?
by Sally Fallon

Traditional Diets
by Sally Fallon
Author of Nourishing Traditions

Part 2 continued from last month

Dr. Price's trip to Africa gave him the opportunity to compare primitive groups composed largely of meat eaters, with those of similar racial stock that were mostly vegetarian.5 The Masai of Tanganyika, Chewya of Kenya, Muhima of Uganda, Watusi of Ruanda and the Neurs tribes on the western side of the Nile in the Sudan were all cattle-keeping people. Their diets consisted largely of milk, blood and meat, supplemented in some cases with fish and with small amounts of grains, fruits and vegetables.

The Neurs especially valued the livers of animals, considered so sacred "that it may not be touched by human hands. . . It is eaten both raw and cooked." These tribes were noted for their fine physiques and great height-in some groups the women averaged over 6 feet tall, and many men reached almost seven feet. Until his Africa trip, Price had not found groups that had no cavities at all, yet Dr. Price found six cattle-herding tribes that were completely free of dental decay. Furthermore, all members of these tribes exhibited straight, uncrowded teeth.

Bantu tribes such as the Kikuyu and Wakamba were agriculturists. Their diet consisted of sweet potatoes, corn, beans, bananas, millet and kaffir corn or sorghum. They were less robust than their meat-eating neighbors, and tended to be dominated by them. Price found that largely vegetarian groups had some tooth decay-usually around 5% or 6% of all teeth, still small numbers compared to Whites living off store-bought foods.

Even among largely vegetarian tribes, dental occlusions were rare, as were degenerative diseases. It is a mistake, however, to think that these groups consumed no animal products at all, as is often claimed. Some Bantu tribes kept a few cattle and goats which supplied both milk and meat; they ate small animals such as frogs; and they put a high value on insect food. "The natives of Africa know that certain insects are very rich in special food values at certain seasons, also that their eggs are valuable foods. A fly that hatches in enormous quantities in Lake Victoria is Pregnant Earth Art by Barbara Getrostgathered and used fresh and dried for storage. They also use ant eggs and ants."

Other insects, such as bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths, grubs, cricket, dragon flies and termites are sought out and consumed with relish by tribes throughout Africa.6 It is significant that groups who consumed mostly plant foods practiced the feeding of special animal foods during gestation and lactation. Apparently carnivorous groups found no need to supplement the diet, as it was already rich in the factors needed for reproduction and optimum growth.

Another myth about primitive diets, and one that is harder to dispel, is that they were low in fat, particularly saturated animal fat. Loren Cordain, PhD, probably the most well known proponent of a return to Paleolithic food habits, recommends a diet consisting of "lean meat, occasional organ meats and wild fruits and vegetables." While this prescription may be politically correct, it does not jibe with descriptions of Paleolithic eating habits, either in cold or hot climates.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who spent many years living with the Eskimos and Indians of Northern Canada, reports that wild male ruminants like elk and caribou carry a large slab of back fat, weighing as much as 40 to 50 pounds. The Indians and Eskimo hunted older male animals preferentially because they wanted this backslab fat, as well as the highly saturated fat found around the kidneys. Other groups used blubber from sea mammals like seal and walrus.

"The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life," wrote Stefansson, "for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source-beaver, moose, fish-will develop diarrhoea in about a week, with headache, lassitude, a vague discomfort.

If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the north. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken."7

Normally, according to Stefansson, the diet consisted of dried or cured meat "eaten with fat," namely the highly saturated cavity and back slab fat that could be easily separated from the animal. Another Arctic explorer, Hugh Brody, reports that Eskimos ate raw liver mixed with small pieces of fat and that strips of dried or smoked meat were "spread with fat or lard."8 Pregnant Earth Art by Barbara Getrost

Pemmican, a highly concentrated travel food, was a mixture of lean dried buffalo meat and highly saturated buffalo fat. (Buffalo fat, by the way, is more saturated than beef fat.) Less than two pounds of pemmican per day could sustain a man doing hard physical labor. The ratio of fat to protein in pemmican was 80%-20%. As lean meat from game animals was often given to the dogs, there is no reason to suppose that everyday fare did not have the same proportions: 80% fat (mostly highly saturated fat) to 20% protein-in a population in which heart disease and cancer were nonexistent.

Obtaining adequate fat in the diet was a greater challenge for the Australian Aborigine, living in a very different climate.9 They were close observers of nature and knew just when certain animals were at their fattest. For example, kangaroos were fat when the fern leaf wattle was in flower; possums when the apple tree was in bloom. Other signs indicated when the carpet snake, kangaroo rat, mussels, oysters, turtles and eels were fat and at their best.

Except in times of drought or famine, the Aborigine rejected kangaroos that were too lean - they were not worth carrying back to camp. During periods of abundance "animals were slaughtered ruthlessly, and only the best and fattest parts of the killed game were eaten." Favorite foods were fat from the intestines of marsupials and from emus. Highly saturated kidney fat from the possum was often eaten raw. The dugong, a large seagoing mammal, was another source of fat available to natives on the coasts.

Other sources of fat included eggs - from both birds and reptiles - and a great variety of insects. Chief among them was the witchety grub, or moth larva, found in rotting trunks of trees. These succulent treats - often over six inches long - were eaten both raw and cooked. Fat content of the dried grub is as high as 67%. The green tree ant was another source of valuable fat, with a fat-to-protein ration of about 12 to one. Another important seasonal food in some parts of the country was the begong moth. The moths were knocked off rock walls on which they gathered in large numbers, or smoked out of caves or crevices. They were roasted on the spot or ground up for future use. Moth abdomens are the size of a small peanut and are rich in fat.

Modern investigators find it hard to accept the fact that groups exhibiting superb physical development and perfect health ate liberally of the very dietary component that modern nutritionists have demonized: Saturated animal fat. Yet, even a cursory look at disease trends exonerates traditional fats like butter, lard and tallow. As these fats have been replaced by commercial vegetable oils in the western diet, cancer and heart disease have soared.

Dietary saturated fats actually play many important roles in the human biochemistry: Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of the cell membranes, giving them necessary stiffness and integrity; they play a vital role in the health of our bones;10 they lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease;11 they protect the liver from alcohol ingestion;12 they enhance the immune system;13 they are needed for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids;14 they are the preferred food for the heart;15 and they have important antimicrobial properties, protecting us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.16

Pregnant Earth Art by Barbara GetrostEven more important, animal fats are carriers for vital fat-soluble vitamins A and D, needed for a host of processes, from prevention of birth defects to health of the immune system, to proper development of the bones and teeth. In fact, Price was convinced that these "fat-soluble activators" were key to the beautiful facial development and freedom from dental caries that characterized the people he studied.

When he analyzed their diets, he found that they contained at least four times the minerals-calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and so forth- and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins as the American diet of his day.

The richest sources of vitamins A and D are the very foods modern man eschews: animal fats, organ meats, lard, fish eggs, shellfish, eggs and butter-but not pale, commercial store bought-butter.

Butter rich in fat-soluble vitamins is the soft, orange-yellow product that comes only from cows eating green grass on fertile pastures, a commodity that is almost impossible to find in western supermarkets. Vitamin A from animal sources is not the same as its precursors, the carotenes found in plant foods. The conversion of carotenes in the human body is often compromised, and even under optimal conditions is not efficient enough to supply the amount of true vitamin A Price found in the diets of healthy isolated populations.17

A surprising source of nutrients in traditional diets is shrimp, which contains ten times more vitamin D than liver. Shrimp sauces and shrimp pastes made from dried shrimp, and therefore a concentrated source of vitamin D, are used throughout Africa and the Orient. This is the most likely explanation for low rates of osteoporosis in these regions, as well as a virtual absence of diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency-colon cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Price accurately predicted that western man would develop more and more diseases as he substituted vegetable oils for animal fats, and that reproduction would become increasingly difficult. By some estimates, 25% of American couples are now infertile, a condition that may send the population reductionists into paroxysms of glee but that causes untold heartache to millions of individuals.

Infertility treatments are problematic, painful and expensive compared to the primitive prescription: More animal fat. "The flesh of bear hath a good relish, very savory and inclining nearest to that of Pork," wrote American colonist Col William Byrd in 1728. "The Fat of this Creature is least apt to rise in the Stomach of any other.

The Men for the most part chose it rather than Venison. . . . And now, for the good of mankind, and for the better Peopling an Infant colony, which has no want but that of Inhabitants, I will venture to publish a Secret of Importance, which our Indian . . . disclosed to me. I asked him the reason why few or none of his Country women were barren? To which curious Question he answered with a Broad grin upon his Face, they had an infallible SECRET for that.

Upon my being importunate to know what the secret might be, he informed me that, if any Indian woman did not prove with child at a decent time after Marriage, the Husband, to save his Reputation with the women, forthwith entered into a Bear-dyet for Six Weeks, which in that time makes him so vigorous that he grows exceedingly impertinent to his poor wife and 'tis great odds but he makes her a Mother in Nine Months."

Pregnant Earth Art by Barbara GetrostDried fish roe was highly valued by a number of tribes Price studied-from the Eskimos of Alaska to Indian tribes living high in the Andes. When Price asked these disparate groups why they ate fish eggs, the answer was the same: "So we will have healthy babies." Scientists have discovered numerous factors in fish roe that contribute to fertility-vitamins A and D, iodine and other minerals and special elongated fatty acids-but such is the mindset of modern medicine that this information is not passed on to parents-to-be.

Other special foods given to pregnant women and growing children included shell fish, organ meats and deep yellow butter, all of which Price found to be extremely rich in minerals and "fat-soluble activators."

The response of orthodox paleo-diet researchers to overwhelming evidence that the hunter-gatherers sought out and consumed large quantities of animal fat and high-cholesterol foods, rich in fat-soluble vitamins, is that while the primitive diet allowed for optimal reproduction and development-borne out not only by Dr. Price's photographs, but by skeletal remains of hunter-gatherers from throughout the world-it had the unhappy side effect of shortening his life-span. Yet Arctic explorers reported great longevity among the Eskimo;18 Australian Aborigine communities were noted for containing a sizeable number of old people, who lived together as a separate group and for whom were reserved special foods that were easy to gather and hunt.19

The diets of traditional groups noted for longevity are rich in animal fats: The people of Hunza consume large quantities of fermented goat milk products, and goats milk is higher in fat, and contains more saturated fat, than cows milk; the inhabitants of Vilcabamba in Equator consume fatty pork and whole milk products; and the long-lived inhabitants of Soviet Georgia also eat liberally of pork and whole milk yoghurt and cheeses. In fact, a Soviet study found that longevity was greatest in rural communities where people ate the most fatty meat, compared to town dwellers who ate more carbohydrates.20

Yet carbohydrates, in the form of whole grains and related seed foods, are not absent in healthy traditional diets, even in the diets of hunter-gatherers. Price found that millet and corn were consumed throughout Africa; quinoa and amaranth in South America. American Indians consumed wild rice, corn and beans; Australian Aborigines gathered a species of wild millet and consumed a large variety of legumes. One school of thought claims that grains and pulses should be avoided, arguing that they were absent from the Paleolithic diet and citing the obvious association of grains with celiac disease and studies linking grain consumption with heart disease.21

to be continued...

Pregnant Earth Art by Barbara Getrost

Here's an article by Susun Weed on Nutrition: NUTRITION - The Wise Woman Way
and a different Weed Wise Recipe for oats... Oatstraw (Avena Sativa)

and some more WEED WISE RECIPES...
...from the kitchen of Marie Summerwood
                  SWEET EARTH SOUP
                        RED LENTIL PATE
                            GINGER SEA SAUCE
                                   SAUERKRAUT SAUCE
                                         ARAME DRESSED UP

Nourishing Traditions
Revised Second Edition,
October 2000
by Sally Fallon with Mary G Enig, PhD
The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.
This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: Animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper funciton of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels. Sally Fallon dispels the myths of the current low-fat fad in this practical, entertaining guide to a can-do diet that is both nutritious and delicious.
Order Sally Fallon's book at our bookshop
Or order via mail: Ash Tree Publishing PO Box 64 Woodstock, NY 12498
include a check or money order for $29.95 (Nourishing Traditions retails for $25.00 plus $4.95 shipping

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