Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Animal products are ‘whole foods,' too

Dana Carpender's latest - I couldn't have said it better myself!

Animal products are 'whole foods,' too
Dana Carpender

The nutritional buzz phrase is 'whole foods.' This is encouraging. I've been watching the nutrition scene long enough to remember when people who insisted that whole-grain bread was more nutritious than enriched bread were scorned as 'food faddists.'

But the admonitions to eat whole foods seem to apply only to grains, fruits and vegetables. Officialdom still recommends discarding large fractions of animal foods. Yet few see these fractionated animal foods as the refined, depleted foods they are.

Take dairy. Virtually all recommendations for dairy products include the qualifiers 'low-fat' or 'fat-free.' But that's not the way it comes out of the cow. Yes, whole milk has more calories than skim. It also has far more vitamin A, because it's carried in the butterfat. (Some skim milk is fortified with vitamin A —- the equivalent of adding a few vitamins back to nutritionally depleted white flour.) Because fat aids in calcium absorption, you'll get more calcium from whole milk. Whole milk from grass-fed cows supplies CLA, a fat that increases fat-burning and reduces heart disease and cancer risk, and omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation, and heart disease and cancer risk. It is worth paying premium prices for such milk.

And eggs. Oh, poor eggs. There they are, just about the most perfect food in the world, and what do people do? They throw away the yolks. The part with almost all the vitamins, including A, E, K and the hard-to-come-by D, not to mention brain-enhancing choline and DHA. Eggs from pastured chickens also have yolks rich in omega-3. Better to throw away the whites, not that I'd recommend that, either. Just eat whole eggs, will you?

Then there's chicken. When did 'chicken' become synonymous with 'boneless, skinless chicken breast?' Chicken breast is a good food, but the whole chicken is better. Dark and white meats both have nutritional strengths. They are not identical in vitamin and mineral content. Chicken skin is a good source of vitamin A, again because it's fatty. I wrote recently about liver's nutritional bonanza, and hearts are nutrient-rich as well, making giblet gravy a great idea. Simmering the leftover chicken bones yields flavorsome broth rich in highly absorbable calcium and joint-building gelatin. (I save my steak bones, too, for beef broth.)

Our ancestors, ever mindful of where their next meal was coming from, relished every edible part of every animal they killed. Indeed, paleoanthropologists assert that hunter-gatherers ate the rich, fatty organ meats first, preferring them to muscle meats, and smashed bones to eat the marrow. As recently as a century ago, marrow was such a popular food that special spoons were made for scooping it out of bones. I love the stuff. I've been sucking the marrow out of lamb-chop bones since I was a tyke. A 1997 article in the journal Nature asserts that human brain capacity decreased at the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, very likely because of a reduction in animal-fat consumption. Whole animal foods are part of our nutritional heritage.

My low-carbohydrate eating habits are often referred to as a 'fad.' Whatever. If it was good enough for my hunter-gatherer ancestors, it's good enough for me. Do you want to know what's really a fad? Removing the fat from milk and the yolks from eggs, and discarding three- quarters of the chicken, all organ meats and most bones. There's not a culture in the world where our narrow, refined, low-fat, flavorless versions of animal foods are part of the traditional diet.

Continuing reading for recipe included in original article!


  1. Anonymous6:42 PM

    Right on-I always loved marrow as a child (and adult). I love the line in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn where the kindly butcher tells the malnourished Francie to tell her mother "to dig the marrow out of the soup bone and make Francie a "samwisch" to put color back in her cheeks. Low carb is so good for our bodies but we live in a society disconnected with reality is all I can figure out. Glad your back, please keep up the good work.

  2. Anonymous10:22 PM

    Skinless boneless chicken breasts are an abomination. My tongue mus tbe about two inches shorter form biting it every time I pass a meat counter and someone is ordering some.

    I've been exploring "nose-to-tail" eating the last two years, ever since finding a small hobby farm near me where I can get hand raised meat, poultry, eggs, & goat milk. British cookbooks still have quite a few recipes for using the "variety cuts" such as kidneys, liver, heart, tongue, lung, tripe, pig trotters, etc. Anything I don't prepare for us goes into our homemade raw meat & poultry cat food (the oldest cat has normal blood tests now after being diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure two years ago!).

    And I've long been a fan of Dana's low carb recipes.

  3. Anonymous10:43 PM

    As I told my wife, "As long as Soccer Mom only wants chicken breasts the rest of the chicken will be cheap for us."
    At the local friendly grocery Chicken Breasts sell for $2.49 to $3.00 a pound while thighs and legs sell for $.99 a pound. Only in America!

  4. That was a wonderful article. Thanks for posting it.

  5. Anonymous4:00 PM

    Go, Dana, Go!

    My favorite bit of advice to ignore - trim all visible fat from a cut of meat. Like hell - that's the tastiest, best part. I've always loved the fat from a good steak, even as a little kid.

    Oh, and if those chickens were truly raised free-range, so they could run around in the sunshine, I am told that their skin will have Vitamin D. I don't know if that's true ...

  6. Actually, the richest mammalian source of omega-3 is not the milk, it's the brain and nerve tissue (very rich in DHA and cervonic acid.) But prion disease has everone spooked; you can't buy it anymore.

  7. Anonymous2:08 PM

    What ancient hunter-gatherers were really after was the fat, not the protein from a kill. The unique fats from organ meats and bone marrow were crucial in the development of the modern brain.

  8. Hey Matt...thanks for stopping by - just this morning I added you to my blogroll!

  9. Anonymous7:52 AM

    Thanks for the blogroll link - you have a great site!