Our Nourishing Journey
*This is a guest post by an OUTSTANDING human being and someone I am privileged and blessed to call my friend; Carla Tenzer. Enjoy.
I feel most indebted to those who have been generous in sharing their knowledge with me. It is because of two exceptionally generous friends that we were able to adopt the lifestyle lessons that were discovered by Dr Price and further researched by the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF).
These friends shared their health journeys, resources and advice that turned into a step-change in my life – influencing everything from how we eat to how our family planning worked out.
(Disclaimer! None of this is nutritional advice, it is my experience of a known nutritional philosophy and how we practice it in my family.)
A while back I was leaning more and more plant-based because of a feeling that I was doing the best thing for my family, my body and the environment. I had never heard the terms “pasture-raised animals” or “regenerative farming” and I had a 1D understanding of what farming was. It is now quite impossible for me to decouple the benefits to the environment and the benefits to my family by eating in a way that supports regenerative agriculture. Now I feel like I have a 2D understanding – I wish I could say it was 3D but I acknowledge that I am not a farmer and only a passionate consumer.
It was a humbling experience to learn that my feelings about being plant-based were not supported by research in the same way that the lessons promoted by the WAPF were. That was almost two years ago and I am grateful every day that things have changed for us. The synchronicity between this lifestyle and the environment is what touches me most. What I am writing about is counter the climate change narrative which is usually along the lines of “plant-based is best because livestock farming practices are cruel and are destroying the environment”. The good news is that livestock farming is the most efficient way to restore balance in the environment – the practice is called regenerative agriculture.
This type of farming removes carbon from the atmosphere and restores said carbon into the soil where it belongs and is very much needed. The good old cow is the hero in this story! Eating in a way that supports regenerative agriculture healsthe environment. But isn’t it cruel to eat cows? Go ahead and do some research into how many mammals and reptiles are killed through grain farming. In addition, healthy plants need bone meal to grow. The humble answer is that humans and animals are intrinsically linked – and that is exactly whatregenerative agriculture looks like. Animals live and feed on the pasture, they receive little, if any, supplementary grain. When they do receive supplementary grain it is non-GMO. Living on the pasture uses as much water as the animals drink, they eat grass and whatever else they forage for on the pasture. Really importantly their manure naturally fertilizes the soil. The actions of these animals being on the land, being raised for their meat, actually restores the environment…and…human health too. Click here for a Ted Talk on “Cows, Carbon and Climate” by Joel Salatin, a leading regenerative farmer. And yes, animals do die so that we can eat meat; with regenerative agriculture they live a healthy life to their fullest potential and we can thank each animal for doing that for us as they did for our ancestors.
Dr Price set out to study this ancestral link by observing humans around the world whose diet and lifestyles had been untouched by Western influence. He found a consistent set of dietary principals across all of these groups and noticed that each group experienced “physical degeneration” when they moved from their ancestral diets to more “modern” diets that had made their way into the culture. So, what were these principals and how can we incorporate them into our lives? This is where the WAPF comes in and they have presented Dr Price’s research in easy to digest lessons that each family can adopt according to their tastes and budget. The lessons provide the structure to get lots of fat-soluble vitamins, keep your teeth, bones, skin, organs and gut healthy and your mood positive.
I have listed these lessons below with a bit of practical advice on how we implement them and links to more information.
1. Fats are life, especially saturated fats. We eat a lot of these fats in the form of raw butter, raw cream, eggs and egg yolks, ghee, coconut oil and tallow. We get our raw dairy products from a fantastic supplier and delivery service called The Loaf (www.theloaf.co.za). Wesupport Eddie’s eggs which come from pasture raised chickens (https://farmereddie.co.za/#about) and are certified GMO-free. Organic coconut oil and ghee areeasy to source and we use grass-fed tallow from pasture raised cows. Raw dairy is a different product to the pasturised/ UHT / homogenised stuff that is also called “milk”. Pure, top quality olive oil in small quantities is cool but any industrialised seed oil is totally out – the only seed oils that are not toxic are non-GMO, cold-pressed seed oils in very small quantities, for example this brand. (Industrial seed oils are really bad for the health of teeth as well as the rest of our bodies.) For us this means a drizzle of organic olive oil on salad and using olive oil or cold-pressed seed oils to make mayonnaise. Go wild with butter though! I add extra egg yolks into scrambled eggs, omelettes, ice creams, smoothies, home-made mayo, egg mayo and French Toast. I collect the whites in a jar in the fridge and treat the family to healthy-ish meringues every now and again. Fats can be confusing, this is an article that separates fat “facts from fiction”.
2. Protein from animal foods are tops – we eat grass-fed, pastured meat, free from routine antibiotics and growth hormones. This includes organ meats like liver and heart. Eating the fat along with the meat is part of the deal – ancestral diets did not include skinless chicken breasts and lean steaks. This leads to an imbalance in the body between the amino acids methionine and glycinewhere methionine is abundant in lean meats but glycine lacking. I am really getting into organ meats – they are cheap and nutrient dense and super easy to incorporate into the menu plan, heart beef burgers are an example, here are more. Liver is a super food: vitamin dense and rich in iron. Then there are eggs, milk, cheeses, and wild caught sea food and fish eggs. Grass-fed cheeses are available from The Loaf too. When I can get wild caught fish eggs, I serve a few with scrambled eggs. Raw milk is a special one for me because I was very much on the anti-diary page, you can read some raw milk facts here. It is a source of probiotics, vitamins, minerals, calcium and enzymes. I am talking about raw milk from pasture raised, grass-fed cows that is free of routine anti-biotics and growth hormones and is only ever full-fat. Under these conditions, the mother cows and babies are not separated, and they graze together on the pasture.
3. Carbohydrates are included in this lifestyle – grains are properly prepared through soaking. This makes the grains more digestible and reduces phytic acid. I once heard the expression “love your grains and they will love you” and I never looked back. Every grain we eat gets soaked before cooking and gets cooked in water after soaking. Phytic acid is something to be wary of as it is an “anti-nutrient”: its presence reduces the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium. Alas, it is also known to harm teeth enamel. (Since I started soaking, the first thing I notice with unsoaked grains is an uncomfortable sensation on my teeth.) That means any flours made from milled grains are off our menu – oat flour, rice flour, millet flour as examples. When it comes to bread, the answer is as simple as eating traditionally prepared sourdough bread made using non-GMO flour and a long fermentation process. This lengthy fermentation means that the phytic acid and gluten are broken down and much easier for your body to digest. The best part is the advice to serve all these delicious grains with butter and other fats. Choose wholesome, soaked and cooked oats (recipe in notes below) over extruded grains like cereal and granola. I soak grains the night before we want to use them. So you’ll often find oats, rice and quinoa soaking on my counter. Grains are soaked in an acidic medium. We try to eat organic/non-GMO grains. The True Food brand is a great one to rely on, for example rice, quinoa. And Wensleydale is great for those, as well as oats. The Chocolate Tree, based in Orange Grove, also has organic and non-GMO options, often in wholesale quantities. As an aside, nuts and seeds need to be soaked too, and they are soaked in a salty medium. I soak and dry them in bulk then keep them ready to use in the cupboard. For more info, start here.
4. Fermented foods feed your gut so eat them every, single day. What I love about this lesson is that you can make or buy these foods depending on your preference. Making your own is super cheap, these are the ones I have tried my hand at: lacto-fermented pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, beet kvass, milk kefir, kombuchaand sourdough baking. We also buy kimchi and other lacto-fermented goodies from Kraut and Krunch(www.krautandkrunch.com). I have yet to find a bought pickle that tops home-made lacto-fermented ones. With sauerkraut, I like to have some bought and some home-made for variety. Milk kefir and kvass are so simple and cheap to make at home. I find Kombucha takes a wee bit more skill and time, but the rewards are priceless when you open up a jar of your very own home-made, fizzy, sweet soda style drink. Sourdough bread is also a fermented food – can you imagine carbs that feed your microbiome? We get our weekly supply delivered by The Loaf because I cannot possibly keep up with baking enough sourdough for the family. But I’ll supplement the purchased sourdough with home-made sourdough breads, challah (I use this recipe), rolls, muffins, pancakes and crackers. If you need a starter for sourdough, milk kefir culture or a kombucha SCOBY, I am here for you. Milk kefir is a delicious addition to smoothies (it is similar in taste to yoghurt) and the lacto-fermented veggies just appear on the supper table each evening as condiments the same as salt and pepper do. We classify ourselves as mammals but we are really the hosts for colony of 100 trillion in the microbiome and they need nourishment.
5. Bring on the bone broth. This is the simplest thing to make and you can do litres at a time to use as a base for soups and sauces and gravies. It is really as simple assimmering bones and some meat on the stove for a long time. Yes, you can add bay leaves, crushed pepper corns, onion, carrots and celery or any combination of those. If I am super lazy or forgetful, I make the broth with only bones and water. If I am home for the whole time I leave it on the stove, simmering gently. If I do a broth overnight (more common), I leave it in a cast iron pot in the oven for the whole night at about 130 degrees. Save all the bones from your meals in a ziplock bag in the freezer and when ready add them to other bones and meat for the broth. The method is simple – bones, organs, skin, feet, and other collagen rich parts and cold water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, leave for 40 mins, then heat up, skim, bring to boil then reduce to simmer for at least 7 hours. I use the broth to make caramelized onions, gravy and other sauces. A useful trick is to cook rice in broth. No salt or spices are added while the broth cooks, except if you like some crushed peppercorns which you can add after skimming. Broth is superior to collagen powder that you can buy because it is a wholefood whereas collagen is similar to dehydrated bone broth. Do your budget a favour and make broth!There are endless resources but here is one to start off with. And here is a podcast with more info, especially the mood enhancing benefits of bone broth; happiness is apossible side effect of broth eating.
6. Taking about salt and spices – we eat as much as we like of the good stuff that is pure and unrefined. The WAPF recommends at least 1.5 teaspoons of salt a day. A really delicious and uplifting drink is sparkling water, some Himalayan salt and lemon. I also add salt to bone broth (after cooking) and anything else that I can salt gets salted! Salt in moderation and low salt diets are not phrases you would find in ancestral eating. Our ancestors ate way more salt that we do because they preserved their food using salt. Read more here.
7. The last lesson is about nutrition during child-bearing years from the time before conception all the way through to weaning and covers the whole family’s diet. My generous friends introduced me to The NourishingTraditions Book of Baby and Child Care(http://nourishingtraditionsbaby.com/) written by Sally Fallon Morell and Dr. Tom Cowan. The seven lessons all feature in the philosophy in the book. In ancestral cultures, nutrient dense foods were prioritized for men and women of child-bearing age and restoring the mother’s nutritional reserves in the weeks, months and years post birth was especially emphasized in these cultures. As with all the other cultural lessons Dr Price learnt, each has subsequently been backed up by research. The WAPF doesn’t recommend synthetic pre-natal supplements, rather food-based sources of extra nutrients such as Cod-liver oil and Butter oil. There is a lot more info here.
The eighth lesson for me in all of this is…don’t believe me! Research ancestral eating and regenerative agriculture and see what you can find out.
You may wonder whether it is more expensive to eat this way– the answer is yes and no. You can eat fish eggs on your sourdough bread or you can eat liver on your sourdough bread. You can buy ready made liver or you can make your own. You can buy bone broth and lacto-fermented foods and drinks or you can make these yourself. Eating lots of fats and salt is very satisfying resulting in eating less overall. You can have a cupboard of pre-packed boxes and packets or a selection of home-made snacks using simple, wholesome ingredients. You can buy local or imported. You can save a true sum on probiotics by drinking milk kefir! Following an ancestral diet means supporting more local suppliers who are practicing regenerative agriculture. And it also means investing in your health now. I see it as a choice between the present value of the cost of physical degeneration in the future versus the cost of eating well now.
This is especially important to me as a mom of a toddler. Icannot claim that my son’s diet is totally pure in terms of the lessons above but we try to model this way of eating. Practically that means adding as many fats as we can to meals, butter is always an option (even eating it neat!) and a glass of raw milk or kombucha is usually his drink; snacks include animal protein (think cheese cut into triangles or squares, biltong, boiled eggs, tuna mayo), home-made ice cream and date/nut bars are pretty much always a snackoption (see my recipes below).
Otherwise we all eat the same meals; my son isn’t sold on liver (yet!) so on liver nights he gets another nourishing option instead.
You may be wondering where drinks such as coffee, tea and wine fit in. The WAPF doesn’t recommend coffee and tea – but look into it for yourself. From my experience it is easier to add the foods from the lessons above before cutting out tea and coffee because you may find that simply eating more nourishing foods eliminates coffee and tea cravings and there is little deprivation involved. As for wine, here is a great podcast that explains what to look for when choosing that beautiful wine to accompany your meal. We were recently introduced to a pure, locally made cider that is naturally fermented, called Loxtonia so that has become our alcoholic beverage of choice instead of wine.
I based this post on the work of the WAPF but there are many excellent resources that share this philosophy, for example in the work of
- Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci (neurology), MMedSci (human nutrition) and her work on GAP Syndrome (condition establishing a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the brain) (https://www.gapsdiet.com/about/)
- Dr Kelly Brogan, who practices as a holistic psychiatrist(https://kellybroganmd.com/)
- Dr Steven Lin, who practices as a holistic dentist (https://www.drstevenlin.com/healthy-teeth-diet/) and wrote the book The Dental Diet.
- Dr Nagel’s book Cure Tooth Decay: Heal And Prevent Cavities With Nutrition
• For the very best recipes, I suggest getting your hands on a copy of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook with information and research behind the philosophy, it is written by Sally Fallon and Dr Mary Enig. It is about 600 pages of recipes that incorporate the WAPF lessons.
• Here are some of my recipes
Cooked Oats - based on the one in Nourishing Traditionscookbook:
Step 1 - the night before
Soak oats in an acidic solution as follows:
1 cup oats, 1 cup warm water, 2T yoghurt/milk kefir/1teas ACV. Ideally leave this soaking in a warm place overnight. Cover it. I keep it in our bedroom next to the heater in Winter. The acidic medium and warmish temperature are essential to break down the phytic acid and aid digestion.
Step 2 - next morning
Bring 1 cup water to the boil
Add oats (careful not to burn yourself by plopping the lot in the hot water)
Reduce heat and let bubble gently for 10-15 or so mins (or until very soft)
Take off heat
Stir in one or all of the following
1-2 egg yolk/s
1 teas blackstrap molasses
1 teas coconut sugar
Honey to taste
Number of servings
This makes enough for me for 2 breakfasts. I eat about half then put rest in fridge. Next day I heat up a bit of milk in a pot, add yesterday's oats and heat up. I am full for pretty much the whole morning and into the afternoon on this breakfast! That's not a rule, I am just saying it is great that way.
I make these ice-creams as a snack, either as a smoothie/chocolate mousse or frozen in lollies, the quantities below are an estimate, go by taste
About 2 frozen bananas
1T (or more!) of all of these or a combination: raw butter, ghee, coconut oil, coconut butter
3 (or more!) egg yolks
1T colostrum powder
Enough raw milk to mix it all together
Enough raw cocao powder to taste and colour (it doesn’t have to be a strong chocolate taste)
Honey to taste if necessary
Vanilla extract is optional
And, I throw in some kefir culture to include probiotics
If your kid likes it you could add in some nut or seed butter.
Date/Nut bars and balls
Here are links to the most delicious, unprocessed date/nut snacks by The Rawtarian (remember to soak and dry nuts): raw cakes, cookies and bars; raw chocolates, balls and candies; raw pies and crumbles. To all of these recipes, I add extra butter, ghee and colostrum wherever I can.
Need a birthday cake? Or an any day cake? This is the only recipe you need! It is grain free and loaded with good fats. For my son’s 3rd birthday I made this cake for him with batman on it. Batman was made using cream cheese icing and activated charcoal. This cake recipe has been used to build a car cake and a speaker cake by my generous friends and more recently a teddy bear cake by another health-conscious family in our circle. This year I plan to make a ninja turtles cake using this recipe. To make a chocolate version of this cake just add cocao powder. Icing can be beautiful thick whipped raw cream sweetened with pure jam or honey or a cream cheese icing made with honey and vanilla essence.
This is by far the best biscuit recipe I have come across. It is made with cassava flour so it is grain free. You can use it as a base to make a variety of biscuits. Cassava flour is available online through Organic Choice and I have even spotted it at Sandringham Spar.
For sourdough and other baking I get freshly milled, non-GMO flour and pure, non-irradiated, raw honey from Hillary Kushner (079-498-8872).