I often get emails from my readers who are vegetarian or vegan and struggling to heal. Much as I respect the ideological and environmental motivators for veggie diets, in physical terms, they are simply not good (long-term) for the human body.
Vegetarian diets can be very useful short-term for healing from certain types of cancers, or as a detox. But for a healthy long-term, daily diet, you need to get some animal-source nutrients – especially animal fats.
Dr. Weston A. Price was a dentist in the 1920’s who spent 10 years of his retirement travelling the globe – looking for tribes or villages of people who were extremely healthy. He defined ‘healthy’ as having no degenerative disease and a cavity rate of less than 1%. Pretty good standards if you ask me!
Whenever he found a group of people who met these requirements (from Swiss villages, to Inuit, to African tribes) he studied them, paying particular attention to what they ate. If you would like to read his flagship book on this, it’s called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (available at Amazon.com) and it’s fantastic.
After studying these incredibly healthy groups of people from various locations around the world, he concluded that there were certain key dietary factors that they all had in common, which resulted in their superb health:
“Price took samples of native foods home with him to Cleveland and studied them in his laboratory. He found that these diets contained at least four times the minerals and water soluble vitamins–vitamin C and B complex–as the American diet of his day. Price would undoubtedly find a greater discrepancy in the 1990s due to continual depletion of our soils through industrial farming practices. What’s more, among traditional populations, grains and tubers were prepared in ways that increased vitamin content and made minerals more available–soaking, fermenting, sprouting and sour leavening.
It was when Price analyzed the fat soluble vitamins that he got a real surprise. The diets of healthy native groups contained at least ten times more vitamin A and vitamin D than the American diet of his day! These vitamins are found only in animal fats–butter, lard, egg yolks, fish oils and foods with fat-rich cellular membranes like liver and other organ meats, fish eggs and shell fish.
Price referred to the fat soluble vitamins as “catalysts” or “activators” upon which the assimilation of all the other nutrients depended–protein, minerals and vitamins. In other words, without the dietary factors found in animal fats, all the other nutrients largely go to waste. Many people think that if they just take supplements to make up the missing nutrients, that they’ll be okay. However, that is simplistic/incorrect reasoning, as this article details why a Vitamin B12 supplement won’t be enough.
Price also discovered another fat soluble vitamin that was a more powerful catalyst for nutrient absorption than vitamins A and D. He called it “Activator X” (now believed to be vitamin K2). All the healthy groups Price studied had the X Factor in their diets. It could be found in certain special foods which these people considered sacred–cod liver oil, fish eggs, organ meats and the deep yellow Spring and Fall butter from cows eating rapidly growing green grass. When the snows melted and the cows could go up to the rich pastures above their village, the Swiss placed a bowl of such butter on the church altar and lit a wick in it. The Masai set fire to yellow fields so that new grass could grow for their cows. Hunter-gatherers always ate the organ meats of the game they killed–often raw. Liver was held to be sacred by many African tribes. The Eskimos and many Indian tribes put a very high value on fish eggs.”
– Excerpted from the article Ancient Dietary Wisdom for Tomorrow’s Children by Sally Fallon
Another explorer who studied native Indian tribes of the Pacific Northwest (and was very impressed with their tall, incredibly strong physiques) found that 80% of their calories came from animal fat. You can read the whole article about that here: Guts & Grease: The Diet of Native Americans
For ongoing health, Dr. Hal Huggins recommends that 40% of your calories come from animal fat. He recommends organic butter primarily and some fish oil. Make sure butter is certified organic (and ideally raw and pasture-fed) since all of the cow’s toxins, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. will go through to the breastmilk and therefore the butter.
It’s very easy to get your daily quota of animal fat from organic butter – this works out to about 1/4 pound per day. That may work for you, or it may be too much – listen to your gut! Your body knows what it needs. I’ve noticed from my own children (encouraged to ask their gut what their body needs/wants) that their diet varies greatly between all 3 kids, and they all do best when they listen to what their unique, individual gut wants – NOT their tastebuds!
Here’s some great and tasty ways to work organic butter (or ghee, or pasture-raised lard) into your diet:
- Slather cooked veggies, rice, cous-cous or pasta in salted butter or ghee.
- Put as much butter as you can on all ‘bread’ items; bread, toast, muffins, scones etc. I love unsalted organic butter about 1/8″ thick either plain on muffins or with jam on toast or scones – it just tastes like lovely cream, yum-yum. I also really like unsalted butter (almost that thick) on crackers topped with a slice of raw cheddar.
- Anytime you fry meat, fry it in butter or ghee, add some garlic and nothing tastes better.
- Pan fry, bake, (or steam) any white fish in lots of butter/ghee and a bit of soy sauce – enough melted butter to make a ‘gravy’ that you eat with the fish. Sprinkle fish with garlic powder too, if you like. You’ll be amazed at how good this tastes.
- Use the same ingredients (butter, soy sauce, garlic) and sautee shiitake mushrooms – this is a Japanese recipe called simply “Shiitake Butter”. Kids also love these.
- Melt butter, ghee, lard into your homemade bone broths – double nutrient whammy with the gelatin and butter and the butter improves the flavor of the broth. Or, simply leave some (all?) of the fat in your broth after cooking, rather than skimming it off the top.
- Scramble 2 eggs in 2 tablespoons of butter/ghee. If you have bacon fat from pasture-raised, organic, natural bacon, that too tastes divine.
These are just a few of the ways you can easily and deliciously incorporate a good amount of animal fat back into your diet. I know, it will be hard at first, so start slowly and gradually build up. It takes time to combat the absolute avalanche of “animal/saturated fat is evil and will kill you” propaganda that surrounds us. But don’t worry, your health and tastebuds will soon convince you that you’re on the right path. After 3-6 months of getting enough animal fat from your diet, you will see an improvement in your skin and hair. After a year or two, you will likely appear to be “reverse aging”.
Other healthy oils that benefit your body are:
- Cod liver oil
- Unrefined coconut oil
- Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
- Udo’s Oil
It’s interesting to me that the omnivore vs. vegan debate usually focuses on meat – because I feel that animal fat is more important for optimum health than animal protein. Longstanding vegetarian cultures like the Hindu’s in India use animal fat extensively in all their cooking (ghee) and also consume whole fat dairy products (yoghurt) on a daily basis. Many vegetarians allow themselves to eat eggs and the yolks are a fantastic source of animal fat. All of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are found in the egg yolk. Egg yolk is also one of the few foods naturally containing vitamin D.
The only caveat to this is if you are a growing child, or recovering from illness. In those cases, you also need LOTS of protein. Not just for muscle growth and development, but because so many of the body’s functions rely on proteins – from gene expression and communication, to wound repair.
For some really great articles on what exactly is wrong with strict veggie diets (no animal fats) and the specific ways they damage your health (and prevent you from healing) please see: