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Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
Category: Happy Eating

I just read a nutrition book that may have as much influence on my food philosophy as "In Defense of Food" "The Primal Blueprint" and "Naturally Thin," all of which changed my thinking in various ways. Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan†is a great read. It's almost like two books in one. The first part is a look at DNA and epigenetics, which is not as boring as it sounds. Epigenetics is the study of gene expression. ďEpigenetic researchers study how our own genes react to our behavior, and theyíve found that just about everything we eat, think, breathe, or do can, directly or indirectly, trickle down to touch the gene and affect its performance in some way...Ē Not only that, but it can affect our childrenís health, appearance, performance, and intelligence, because they receive our genetic material. Iíll admit that during much of this discussion I was thinking GET TO THE FOOD PART ALREADY, but you need the background science to fully appreciate the context of her nutrition recommendations. On the plus side, she uses lots of photos to illustrate her points, many of celebrities. So, I was able to follow along fairly happily.

The second part of the book deals with how our food supply has gone awry, how to avoid the pitfalls of modern cuisine, and how to embrace ďThe Four Pillars of World Cuisine: Foods that Program Your Body for Beauty, Brains, and Health.Ē She looks at the similarities between diets of healthy, long-lived traditional cultures. She covers good fats and bad, the cholesterol myth, sugar and the many and varied ways too much of it will age, pudge, and wreck you.†

What I love about her style is sheís entertaining and factual. Sheís a practicing physician who studied epigenetics and gene expression at Cornell. She doesnít come off like an extremist blogger trying to scare people into joining the cult. She can talk about the science and then translate it into real terms by sharing stories of her patients and their treatment. She gives numbers. ďIf someoneís fasting blood glucose is above this, I recommend that.Ē She had me digging around in a drawer at midnight to find my own numbers and compare them to what she was saying. Iím healthy, but Iíve realized I could be healthier and am inspired to make some changes. Note that Iím inspired to make changes, not frightened, or guilt-tripped, or pressured. Her explanations and reasoning are such that it just seems so natural and obvious.†

The diet sheís recommending is quite similar to primal, but without all the dogma. She doesnít care if you eat bread. Get it sprouted if at all possible and donít eat too much of it. Dairy? Fine, beneficial even. Just make sure itís organic and full fat. Fruit? Go for it, but quantity matters. If you have high blood sugar, heart disease, or are overweight, you need to moderate your overall carb intake, so you canít be wolfing down whole watermelons and drinking orange juice out of the carton. Fat? She says, ďNature doesnít make bad fat, factories do.Ē So, have your cheese, butter, bacon grease, avocado, and coconut oil. Stay the hell away from I Canít Believe Itís Not Butter Spray and chemically extracted vegetable oil. Donít buy low fat or non-fat anything. In fact, beware the processed people chow!†

Iím going to share a couple paragraphs of her writing so you can see what I mean about her style. Thereís an awesome part of the book where she describes The Dog Food Aisle. I have to mention the fact that my dog is not allowed to eat grocery store dog food. I buy her the natural high protein grain free kind with salmon and duck. And yet I will buy myself Cheerios and Ritz crackers. Disconnect much? LOL

The Dog Food Aisle

Take a look at the back of a bag of dog or cat food, and here are the ingredients youíll see: corn meal, soy meal (occasionally) wheat, partially hydrogenated soy or corn or other vegetable oil, meat and protein meal, and a few synthetic vitamins. But guess what? The animal pushing the shopping cart is buying foods with the same list of ingredients for himself. The main difference between donuts, breads, and Cheerios are the quantities of hydrogenated oil and sugar. Cheerios, in turn, are nearly identical to Ramen noodles. Throw on a little salt and youíve got snack chips. Add tomato flakes and bump up the protein powder and--bam!--itís Hamburger Helper with Noodles! Add a pinch of meat byproducts, take away some tomato powder, and weíre in the pet food aisle again holding a 20-pound bag of grade A Puppy Chow.

We already know why manufacturers make food this way: Itís cheap and convenient to reformulate the basic ingredients of protein, starch, and fat (there are those words again!) into a variety of shapes and textures, coat them in sugars and artificial flavor enhancers, and ship them just about anywhere. Thatís why they make it. But why would we eat it? Same reason: Itís cheap and convenient.

Now I see the entire center portion of the grocery store as cheap generic people chow, one step away from cheap generic puppy chow. She has very effectively motivated me to get my ass back out to the periphery of the store where they keep the organic produce, full fat Greek yogurt, grass fed bison, and organic uncured bacon, you know, the FOOD. She drove this point home to me in a way that all the other health nuts telling me to shop the periphery of the grocery store never have. She pulls similar stunts five or six times in every chapter, so that by the end of the book Iím thinking totally differently about food and the way I eat.

If youíre looking for a good read on health, genetics, nutrition, and traditional diets, check out Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food.

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