See that picture above? That was my dinner last night: fresh carrots with sea salt and olive oil, an onion and kale salad…and bone marrow.
That's right. Bone marrow flies under the nutritional radar in most homes, but it is an amazing muscle-building, cognitive-boosting and joint-nourishing food – and to feed a family of four on the entire meal above cost a total of – brace yourself – about seven bucks. My wife simply snagged the bones from the same butcher where we get our local meat. Sadly, the butcher probably would have fed the bones to some dogs if we hadn't grabbed them.
“Traditional peoples who consumed large animals did not ignore the marrow hidden away in the bones; in fact, they valued the marrow as an extremely nutritious food.
Weston Price provides us with a good example: “For the Indians living inside the Rocky Mountain Range in the far North of Canada, the successful nutrition for nine months of the year was largely limited to wild game, chiefly moose and caribou. During the summer months the Indians were able to use growing plants. During the winter some use was made of bark and buds of trees. I found the Indians putting great emphasis upon the eating of the organs of the animals, including the wall of parts of the digestive tract. Much of the muscle meat of the animals was fed to the dogs. It is important that skeletons are rarely found where large game animals have been slaughtered by the Indians of the North. The skeletal remains are found as piles of finely broken bone chips or splinters that have been cracked up to obtain as much as possible of the marrow and nutritive qualities of the bones. These Indians obtain their fat-soluble vitamins and also most of their minerals from the organs of the animals. An important part of the nutrition of the children consisted in various preparations of bone marrow, both as a substitute for milk and as a special dietary ration” (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 6th Edition, page 260).”
To the right is my 5 year old son River, enjoying his bone marrow over a slice of easily made homemade sourdough toast (at the end of this post, I'll let you know how you can grab my wife's bone marrow and sourdough bread recipes).
So why do I feed myself and my family on seemingly strange foods like this?
The answer lies in the book Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. This book is one of my favorite new go-to sources for what author Cate Shanahan calls the “four essential pillars” of healthy cuisine:
1) Meat on the bone
2) Organ meats
3) Fermented and sprouted foods
4) Fresh, uncooked ingredients
The author of Deep Nutrition, Dr. Cate Shahanan, has heavily influenced the new ancestral diets of professional basketball players and teams like Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers – and at the end of this month, she'll be appearing on the BenGreenfieldFitness podcast for an amazing interview on naturally supporting your body's performance and fat burning fire.
But in the meantime (besides eating bone marrow) what can you do now to optimize your nutrition?
Here are Dr. Shanahan's 21 steps to optimizing your diet (and 11 foods that you need to stop eating now).
21 Steps To Optimizing Your Diet
1. Drink more milk.
Best choice: raw, organic, whole.
Next best: whole, organic.
If lactose intolerant, choose yoghurt. Do not buy low-fat or fat-free dairy.
2. Buy sugar-free peanut and nut butters, the kind with the oil on top (all that oil is typically absorbed by sugar molecules in brand-name peanut butters).
Avoid those that use palm oil, they tend not to taste very good.
3. Buy sprouted grain bread instead of whole wheat or white.
Popular brands are Ezekiel and Alvarado Street Bakery. These are usually sold in the refrigerated or freezer section because they are preservative-free and need to be refrigerated. Many are wheat-free as well.
4. Instead of boxed cereals or instant oatmeal, eat toast with butter, sugar- free peanut butter, or poached eggs for breakfast instead.
5. Use fresh, seasonal vegetables instead of frozen whenever possible.
Season with salt and add generous amounts of butter and your kids will love them. Steam vegetables (like broccoli, asparagus, carrots, and cauli- flower) instead of boiling, which leaches vitamins and minerals.
6. Buy Bubbies or other brand lacto-fermented pickles and sauerkraut and use as condiments/side dishes instead of chips or cookies at lunch.
Save the juice when the jar is empty for salad dressing and to use as a starter for making your own sauerkraut.
7. Never use margarine or low-fat, low-cholesterol “spreads.”
Buy organic butter from pastured animals. Popular brands are Organic Valley and Horizon.
8. Choose healthy oils (see table listing of Good Fats and Bad on page 173 of Deep Nutrition).
9. Make your own salad dressing.
Even easier, pour olive oil then balsamic vinegar over your salad (pouring the oil before the vinegar helps it stick
better). Use a ratio of approximately 2:1 oil to vinegar. For extra flavor fast, add 1 Tbsp of the juice in the Bubbies pickle or sauerkraut jars.
10. Boil a dozen eggs to keep on hand for a quick lunch.
11. Eat large salads three to five times a week.
Don’t bother with iceberg lettuce. For variety, experiment with other greens, including radish leaves, arugula, beet greens, or whatever looks particularly fresh. Add celery, carrots, sprouts, capers, pine nuts, sunflower seeds.
12. Use fresh herbs often.
Add basil to salads with tomatoes; add parsley to hamburger; add garlic to butter for vegetables; rosemary to chicken; mint to beef stews or fatty roasts; ginger to stir-fries.
13. Instead of canned tuna, buy salmon or mackerel with bones in.
Mix with olive-oil based mayonnaise or small amounts of regular mayo and mus- tard to use for lunch as a replacement for nitrate-laden sandwich meats.
14. Eat liver once a week.
15. Eat soups made with bone broth once or twice a week.
16. Use bone broth rather than water as the base for making rice, mashed potatoes, noodle dishes, etc.
17. For variety, substitute beets or turnips for baked potatoes.
18. For light desserts that give a sweet finish to your meal, drink Kombucha or wine.
19. Use bone-in chicken, turkey, and red meats whenever possible.
20. When eating boneless cuts of beef, like fillet, serve with bone-stock gravy (also known as demi-glace).
21. Buy fatty cuts of meat, like New York strip, and sear the fat on the grill before cooking to enhance flavor.
11 Foods You Need To Stop Eating Now
Of course, no amount of organ meats, bone marrow or raw milk are going to do you any good if you're still ordering vegetable-oil laden stir fries at the restaurant, tossing canola oil based salad dressings on your vegetables, guzzling Gatorade during your workout or grabbing a whole wheat scone at Starbucks.
So here are Cate's 11 foods you should probably stop eating…now.
1. Vegetable oil
2. Added sugar and honey (to tea, coffee, etc.)
4. Juice, except fresh squeezed. (Why not just eat the fruit? It’s got more fiber and more antioxidants!)
5. Energy bars and “health” bars
6. Boxed cereals
7. Fried fast foods
8. Powdered “proteins,” and powdered milk (note from Ben: I only support organic, cold-processed protein powders. Most protein powder out there is complete crap, so this rules applies about 99% of the time).
9. Salad dressings made with any kind of vegetable oil, including canola
10. Low-fat products, including milk, cheese, salad dressings, cookies, and other baked goods
11. Snacks and desserts – especially if you want to lose weight
What happens when you eat the 11 foods above? Click here for 2 shocking pages jam-packed with the ravages these foods produce, along with 10 additional bonus pages and recipes from Dr. Shanahan and Deep Nutrition.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, you'll definitely want to tune into my podcast with author Dr. Cate Shanahan at the end of this month. So be sure to click here to subscribe now to the podcast in iTunes so that you don't miss it!
…grab Cate's book “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food“…
…click here to join the BenGreenfieldFitness Inner Circle for 10 bucks a month if you want full access to my food logs and Jessa's amazing recipes for foods like bone marrow and sourdough bread…
…and leave your questions, comments and feedback below!
Also published on Medium.