Tag Archives: The China Study

Cookus Interruptus Welcomes All Nations

What if all the nutri-brains were right about what YOU SHOULD BE EATING (and not eating)?  What would end up in your pantry?

In the past year we have had several distinguished food and nutrition experts come to Bastyr and speak.  One was T. Colin Campbell who wrote The China Study.  The findings? “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored,” said Dr. Campbell.  Advocates of a vegan or vegetarian diet such as the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine or Skinny Bitches gained more back-up for their already strong arguments.

Others preach lowering animal food consumption but are concerned from an agricultural, political or ecological point of view.  Mark Bittman is one and spelled out why in his Ted TalkMichael Pollan (who also made an appearance at Bastyr)  succinctly speaks of eating real food, not too much, mostly plants.  Softer and gentler than Mr. Campbell but the leaning is clear.

But whoosh there is a whole other wave of nutri-folks talking about our need for high-quality fat and protein.  Don’t shy away from a big steak and blue cheese, just make sure the steer is locally raised and grass-fed.  Both Nina 42-15622323Planck and Sally Fallon have enlightened readers of the misunderstanding around fat and cholesterol.  Sally spoke last weekend at Bastyr, Nina came in 2008.  I know many of our readers are devotees of Ms. Fallon and her traditional food philosophies which are derived from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston Price.  Organ meats, raw milk, fermented foods and plenty of coconut oil and butter are thumbs up in this world and they have the research to back up what they preach.  The newer (older?) Paleo Diet is somewhat related, warning against grain-eating and advocating consumption of ample animal food.  The Paleo experts boast oodles of research to support its recommendations.

Uh oh.  Now what?  What do we eat if both camps are right.  I mentioned this eaters dilemma to one of my students and said that I guessed that lettuce was the only safe choice.  She had attended Sally’s lecture and reported that Ms. Fallon’s closing comment was that salads would be the genocide of America because of all that awful salad dressing.  Touche.

What’s left? What can we conscientiously eat for dinner?  And that’s where Cookus Interruptus walks in with a smile.  We like everybody.  We’ve parked our ship in the “no preach” zone.  We’ve pulled the best threads of common sense from all of the philosophies and woven them into a loose pattern.  We welcome you if you are vegan – we offer plenty of vegan, even more vegetarian recipes.  Grains and beans rock.  Gluten-free? – come on in.  About 75% of our recipes are wheat-free.  Traditional-diet lovers – we love you too.  Though we tend to keep our animal protein in small portions (family budget you know),  we embrace grass-fed, pastured, humanely-raised and forgo participating in CAFO food.  Fermentation nation?  Bring it.  Sauerkraut and yogurt are awesome.  All tribes, all camps, all philosophies – we’ve got food for you.  Real food that tastes good.  We’re world cup.  The best of each nation ready for your knife, fork, spoon, chopstick or paw.

Moo and Don't Hold the Fat

A couple of our viewers have emailed me about the cream thing.  How do I justify using heavy cream in a dish?  Won’t that raise cholesterol and cause weight gain?

In my mind eating small amounts of full fat dairy seems like a better choice than consuming multiple servings of  fat-reduced products.  Tastes better too.  Fat-reduced dairy is not a whole food.  One of the  naturally-occurring nutrients has been discarded.  My first food teacher, the very wise Annemarie Colbin, taught me that when you eat a food that is not whole, you will crave the missing parts.  In my 25 years of working with food, nutrition and people, I continually find this to be accurate.  When you drink skim milk, your body will likely go looking for the missing nutrients.  And that doesn’t just mean the fat.  Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K have no way to shimmy into the system without the fat buddies.  But there’s more.

A recent article called “Skimming the Truth: why low-fat dairy may be overrated and why full-fat dairy could have more going for it assuming you can tolerate dairy in the first place” by Courtney Helgoe summarized the issue in a very balanced way (thank you Ms. Helgoe).  I have always known that the link between high blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol was shaky at milkbest.  Helgoe points out that in 2003 the Dairy Council added to the confusion by insisting that drinking 3 glasses of low-fat milk a day would not only help prevent heart disease but aid you in losing weight.  Turns out facts supporting that are shaky too; or more accurately “biased” as the research used to make the claim were funded by the Dairy Council.

There are other disconnects between low-fat and better health.  In the article Helgoe notes that “During the  period that the consumption of low-fat fare rose in the United States, our rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease multiplied exponentially — a fact that many health experts attribute to our replacing natural whole foods rich in nutrients (including naturally occurring fats) with nutrient-poor, processed foods dense in sugar, refined carbs and commercial oils.”

Helgoe also points out the reasons we are more likely to eat more low-fat foods than full-fat foods resulting ultimately in higher calorie intake.  Satiety is difficult to reach with low-fat foods.  That lack of satisfaction is  coupled with a destabilized blood sugar, bringing on cravings.

Middle ground is not sexy.  The folks reaching dizzying heights of nutrition fame, selling zillions of diet books, tend to preach extremes.  Last year at Bastyr we had T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and Nina Planck (Real Food) speak to our students.  The former insisting that veganism was the way the truth and the light, while Nina  had data to back up the healthiness of eating ample amounts of raw milk, pastured eggs and grass-fed meat.  Students tended to side with one or the other.

I choose neither camp.  Fame be damned.  Small amounts of full fat dairy in the diet seems fair.  Using the best quality higher fat, higher protein foods as condiments or side dishes feels reasonable for the pocketbook and the waistline.  Clearly milk from grass-fed animals is superior.  Raw milk may also have advantages – just know your farmer and the cow very well.  For those that have trouble digesting dairy, try limiting yourself to cultured and fermented dairy where the pesky lactose and casein have been broken down.  If dairy is still a no-go,  belly up to plates of greens, nuts  and olive oil to get your minerals and fats rather than mimicking cow milk with glasses of substitute milk.  And if you holler about what to put on your dry cereal – read Sweetened Kibble and stop going cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Thoughts? Reactions? Rebuttals?