What if I told you that cheese is a health food? What if I told you if you want to get healthy you can skip the kale smoothies, protein powders and salads — and instead just load up on traditional foods like cheese, butter, lard, sourdough bread, and gravy?
I know, you probably don't believe me. And that's okay. Most people don't believe me at first. They're afraid of fat. They're afraid of carbs. They think butter and gravy will give them a heart attack or make them fat. Or they've swung the other direction and now think bacon is God and gluten is the devil. Or that a vegan diet will save them.
But they're wrong. And I have proof. And I am nothing if not logical. Here are my top five reasons why traditional foods like cheese, butter, and yes, bread are health foods. Oh, and did I mention wine? Yes, wine. In this post, I will explain why why wine is good for you. You're welcome in advance.
Top 5 Reasons Cheese, Butter and Bread — And Yes, Even Wine — Are Health Foods
1. We Haven't Died Out Yet
Hunter gathers didn't have access to Vitamix blenders and the Whole Foods salad bar. Humans have been thriving on traditional foods for thousands of years, and in the case of some foods, millions of years. Let's run the numbers…
Humans Have Been Eating Meat for 2-3 Million Years
We'll start with meat. Vegetarians and vegans say meat is bad for you. But humans have been eating meat for 2.5 million years. If meat was bad for us, we would have died out by now.
According to Briana Pobiner, paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History:
“There has been a link made between meat-eating and an increase in the size of our brains. There’s an idea that meat is such a beneficial resource in terms of a compact source of calories and nutrients, that instead of having big guts — like a lot of our living primate relatives do such as chimpanzees and gorillas — that we didn’t have to invest as much energy into these big guts. It takes a lot of time and energy to digest plants, and we could instead invest energy into growing big brains.” (Source)
Humans Have Been Eating Dairy for Several Thousand Years
How about milk and dairy products? Eating dairy goes back 7,500 years. Vegetarians say milk makes you sick — but if that's true, then how do you explain cultures that lived almost exclusively on dairy, like the Maasai of Africa, who consume milk as their staple food?
“Maasai that consume a primarily traditional diet are emphatically healthy. Studies going as far back as the 1930s showed almost no diseases or cavities among Maasai tribesmen, and more recent studies on Maasai warriors showed no signs of heart disease, and cholesterol levels about half as high as the average American’s. The absence of negative heart effects is so pronounced, it’s led some researchers to posit that the traditional Maasai diet has led to very localized evolution in the Maasai people, such that they’re better-equipped to process animal fats. Interestingly, Maasai that have moved into cities, where they are eating diets with higher levels of sugar and grains than a traditional Maasai diet contains, show much higher rates of heart problems.” (Source)
Okay, so meat and dairy… check.
Humans Have Been Eating Grains for 30,000 Years
What about bread? We've been eating bread and other grains for a lot longer than we've been eating dairy. You may think bread and beer started in ancient Egypt, around 5,000 years ago. In fact, recent studies reveal that humans started baking bread at least 30,000 years ago. (Source)
Once again, if bread is bad for you, how come humans were able to thrive on it for tens of thousands of years?
Humans Have Been Drinking Alcohol for Millions and Millions of Years
And you think alcohol isn't “Paleo”? Wrong. Alcohol is older than meat.
“In contrast to the belief by many Paleo dieters that alcohol played no role in the evolution of pre-agricultural diets, it seems that low- and moderate-level alcohol consumption started millions of years before we began eating meat… It’s also clear that after the domestication of grains, they were immediately used for beer and related beverages, along with bread and porridge. In Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages, archaeologist Patrick McGovern traces the development of beer from prehistory to present and reveals that alcoholic drinks were nearly ubiquitous in prehistory. They used whatever they could get their hands on to make it – dates in Mesopotamia, mare’s milk in Central Asia, corn and cacao in the Americas, cherries and berries in northern Europe. And it was made nearly everywhere they could find or grow plants with high sugar content.” (Source)
So there you have it: Meat, dairy, bread, and booze. We've essentially been eating cheeseburgers and drinking alcohol for millions of years on this planet and we've managed to stay healthy and procreate. Epidemics of diabetes, obesity, food allergies and heart disease are all relatively new to our species — within the past century.
Based on this evidence, I'd argue that it's better to stick with the tried and true than to venture out onto brand new dietary fads like veganism and paleo. I'll skip the modern food fads, thank you very much, and continue enjoying my pizza and wine.
2. It's Not Gluten or Dairy — It's the Drugs We Take and The Way Food Are Processed
What if I told you it's the chemicals in our food and the drugs that we take that are making us sick? What if it has more to do with the way foods are processed, not the actual foods themselves?
Let's talk about drugs. When I was 25 years old, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. I had constant sinus infections and seasonal allergies. I was sick all the time and so exhausted I could hardly get out of bed.
Over a matter of two years, I completely cured myself. (Well, not totally by myself — I had help from a chiropractor nutritionist, Dr. Vikki Peterson. She is the best — and still practicing.) How did I do it? Well, first of all, why did I get sick in the first place? The reason I got sick was because I grew up on antibiotics that killed off all the good bacteria in my system. I had an overgrowth of bad bacteria, which caused auto-immune disorders including the allergies, sinus infections and
For two years I removed gluten and sugar from my diet and wasn't able to digest and took strong therapeutic grade probiotics.
Two years later, I could eat gluten and sugar again with no symptoms. Fast forward to 25 years later, I've been eating gluten and sugar ever since, and I'm perfectly healthy with no symptoms.
Many people would say it was the gluten that made me sick. But if it was the gluten, or the sugar for that matter, then I would still be sick today. It wasn't the gluten and it wasn't the sugar because I've been eating gluten and sugar on a daily basis since I recovered in 1998 — 18 years ago.
What made me sick was the antibiotics that I grew up taking. Antibiotics kill good bacteria. Probiotics replace the good bacteria. It's just that simple.
It took a couple years for my gut to heal. What happens when your gut flora is abnormal is the microvilli — the tiny microscopic hairs in your digestive tract — get worn down and it takes time for it to grow back. This is why it was necessary for me to avoid gluten and sugar for a couple of years. Because gluten and sugar and any kind of starchy carbohydrates feed the bad bacteria. In order to give my good bacteria a chance to thrive, I had to go off those foods for a period of time. But it's not something I had to do for life, and it doesn't mean these foods are bad.
There's simply no evidence that gluten in and of itself makes people sick. I will say that it's better to eat grains that are soaked and sprouted or fermented, because they are easier to digest. It is likely that the modern commercial yeast people are using bakers are using is harder for people to digest. But is that the only reason for gluten intolerance? I don't think so. I think the antibiotics are a much bigger factor.
Likewise with dairy… People don't have lactose intolerance because lactose is bad. Most people who are lactose intolerant are not capable of digesting lactose because they have a leaky gut and abnormal gut flora and their microvilli are not there in their digestive tract to secrete the enzymes they need to digest dairy.
Also, most of us have been drinking pasteurized milk our whole lives. Pasteurized milk is heated in order to kill bacteria. When the milk is pasteurized, it kills the bacteria that produces the enzyme lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that helps you digest the lactose in the milk. This is why my friend, Mark McAfee, the owner of Organic Pastures, the largest raw dairy in the world, says that the vast majority of people who are lactose intolerant can drink raw (unpasteurized) milk.
So it's not the foods that are making people sick. It's the drugs we are taking that kill off our good gut flora. It's also the way the food is processed. If we can go back to traditional foods that are processed the way they've been processed for thousands of years, that's the way to maintain our health.
3. It Turns Out Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Is Good For You
If you're concerned about the cholesterol in fatty foods like cheese and butter, you can stop worrying. There's no evidence that saturated fat is bad for you. In fact, the overwhelming evidence shows that traditional saturated fats are good for you. Even Time Magazine admitted they were wrong about cholesterol and saturated fat a few years ago.
Saturated fats contain fat-soluble vitamins (mainly vitamins A, D and K2) that we need for bone health, heart health, vision, brain function, and lots of other stuff. For example, vitamin K2 is critical for building strong bones and teeth and prevents heart disease. Read this article about the health benefits of vitamin K2. Also, check out this book: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life.
I could link to loads of studies here, but honestly, there are way too many for me to even begin. You can google it yourself.
Saturated fats also help keep you young and they don't make you fat. At this writing, I'm almost 50 and I'm wearing the same clothes I wore before I had two babies. People constantly compliment me and tell me that I don't look my age. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but if it is, I think one of the main reasons is probably the way that I eat. I eat a very high fat diet — it's around 30-40% fat. I eat a lot of cheese and butter and I drink whole raw milk.
Don't get me wrong — I don't avoid carbohydrates. I don't eat a low-carb diet by any stretch of imagination. I love bread and pasta too much. But I'm also not afraid of fat.
By avoiding saturated fat, we are missing out on the fat-soluble vitamins our ancestors thrived on for centuries and millennia. Is it any wonder we are getting heart disease and osteoporosis as we age? If you want to be healthy, bring back the butter, bring back the cheese and the lard and the gravy.
4. Is It the Sugar and Carbs Making Us Sick? Or Is It Fluoride?
Founder of the Paleo Diet, Lauren Cordain, claims that it's sugar and carbohydrates that are making us fat and sick and diabetic. However, that probably isn't the case.
The new book The End of Acne by Melissa Gardner was what really opened my eyes to the fact that it is not necessary to eat a low-carb diet to be healthy. If you read my review of The End of Acne, I explain why I no longer think this is true and why I'm convinced it's not the carbs, but the fluoride.
The one thing that people eating different types of restricted diets — from vegetarian to Paleo to the Weston Price diet — all have in common is that they're all removing fluoride from their diets. I feel very strongly that fluoride is one of the biggest threats to our health. Yes, there are other things, too, like the antibiotics and other drugs I mentioned above.
My point is it's not the foods that we're eating. The vegetarians think meat and butter are causing heart disease and the Paleos say “Bacon is rad and gluten is bad.” But they're both wrong.
And they're both right. The vegetarians are right and the Paleos are right. The food they are eating is healthy. But it's not because they're avoiding bacon or bread. Eat all the bacon you want, and eat all the bread — just make sure it's organic and not sprayed with fluoride-based pesticides. And, as I said above in bullet #2 — look for food that is grown and processed properly, i.e. pastured bacon from pigs not given hormones and antibiotics, and real sourdough bread.
Here's a list of my posts about fluoride:
The End of Acne Book Review
The End of Acne: Video Interview with Melissa Gardner
Fluoride in Kombucha: Why I Stopped Drinking Kombucha and Tea
The Top 5 Sources of Fluoride: It's Not Your Toothpaste or Drinking Water
Top 10 Dangers of Fluoride
I'm also working on a fluoride calculator which will help you determine how much fluoride you are consuming — stay tuned for that.
5. Wine is Good For You
Finally, wine! Funny enough, as I write this, I'm realizing it's wine time for me. I have a couple glasses of wine every night and my doctor says that's a good thing.
Why? Because there's a lot of research that alcohol in moderation is healthier than not drinking at all. Not gonna get into the studies here — you can google it for yourself. But my doctor said 2 glasses a day is good. Not that she knows everything. ;-)
But wine, like real ale or beer, is a fermented food. In fact, it was one of the staple foods consumed by the Swiss people that Dr. Weston A. Price studied.
More importantly, as I mentioned above, alcohol has been consumed by humans for millions of years. Paleolithic humans found ways to ferment fruit and other plants that had high sugar content. Beer goes back to the Egyptians. The ancient Greeks were big on wine.
And according to A History of the World in 6 Glasses (excellent book; I highly recommend it), people drank a heckuva lot more in the past than they do today.
In fact, when I was on a tour in London (London Walks — fabulous walking tours; I recommend) the tour guide that an adult woman typically drank around a gallon of beer a day. They drank beer all day long — not water.
According to the University of Adelaide Research Centre for the History of Food and Drink, here are some examples of the amounts of wine and beer people drank in the Middle Ages and early modern period:
- In medieval England the normal monastic allowance was one gallon of good ale per day, often supplemented by a second gallon of weak ale. The daily ration for the Black Monks of Battle Abbey in Sussex was one gallon of wine a day, more if the monk was sick.
- The account books for the Percy family of Northumberland reveal that in 1512 the lord and lady shared a quart of beer and a quart of wine each day for breakfast. Their two children in the nursery, aged about 8 and 10, shared a quart of beer at breakfast.
- At the court of Henry VIII three ladies in waiting shared a gallon of ale between them each day likewise at breakfast.
- The members of the “temperance society founded at Hesse in 1600… agreed to restrict their drinking to seven glasses of wine with each meal.”
- In his Autobiography Benjamin Franklin recorded his observations while working for a London printer in the 1720s: “We had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast; a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese; a pint between breakfast and dinner; a pint at dinner; a pint in the afternoon about 6 o'clock, and another when he had done his day's work.”
If booze is so unhealthy, why didn't it kill us off thousands of years ago? If you want to read about cultures dying off, read Collapse by Professor of Geography and Physiology at the University of California, Jared Diamond.
And for those of you who are going to say that people died young in the Middle Ages… they didn't die of diseases from alcohol. They died from lack of sanitation, mostly, because they didn't have indoor plumbing or clean water. (Source)
And no, I'm not recommending that you drink a gallon of beer a day. And you have to choose the right beer and wine because a lot of it is made with fluoride. Wine is especially bad if it is not organic or imported because grapes are very heavily sprayed with fluoride-based pesticides. However, if you choose your wine and your beer appropriately there is no reason why you can't drink every day and be healthy.
Stay tuned for my upcoming post on how to buy fluoride-free wine.
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Photo Credit: Wine, Cheese, & Bread – Wits End