Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon

While in my dentist's waiting room today I noticed a poster advertising a special on teeth bleaching, compete with a picture of a face sporting the now common ultra-white smile. Staring at the face it struck now just how incongruous and ironic these uberwhite teeth are: teeth are one marker of internal health; if our teeth look good we look healthy. Bleaching teeth artifically gives them that healthful look, while in fact, not only are the now-white teeth no healthier than before the process, but the process of bleaching may damage teeth (Mine now have ultra-sensitive spots; this, after a few sessions of bleach, with the exception of coloring my hair is my one nod to artifice).
Every now and then I request "Nourishing Traditions" from the library, just to remind myself of what to shoot for, culinarily speaking. In "Nourishing Traditions," Sally Fallon has created a gem of a cookbook. It's beautifully designed, and also includes information about nutrition based on the research of dentist Wes Price back in the 1930s. Dr. Price is famous for rooting out some of the last remaining "primitive societies," ones untouched by modern culture, that ate diets comprised entirely of local foods. They people in these cultures had wide jaws with uncrowded (think -- no braces!) teeth. There were several factors these societies' diets had in common, and these are not necessarily thought of as healthful by modern society. These societies ate a lot of protein, either in the form of meat or seafood; they didn't eschew animal fat; they used broths made of animal bones; they fermented their food and, of course, included lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, along with raw foods originating from both animals and vegetables.

These "primitive societies" were found to be virtually free of chronic disease. Humans who grew up "nourished" on modern day diets, on the other hand, had narrow jaws, tooth decay, infectious disease and degenerative illnesses.

Fallon's book is complete, with chapters on every category of food and drink, and has the great feature of including tips and bits of supporting research in the columns on the outside margin of many of the pages. There is no shortage of theories that purport to know what and how we should eat, but I think one can't go wrong by sticking to the basics: eating a wide variety of fresh, whole foods.

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