Monday
Jun112012

Menu for Week #23

Nutrition Paradoxes

You find crazy contradictions in nutrition that, if further examined, can teach us how to live.  Have you heard of the French Paradox?  The French have more than their share of dining pleasure; they enjoy buttery sauces full of the saturated fats we’ve been taught to avoid for the sake of our hearts.  Perversely, they have much less heart disease than we do.  More butter, less heart disease—that’s a paradox worth examining.

Then there’s the Israeli Paradox.  In Israel they avoid the buttery fats for religious reasons.  Instead of saturated fats, they cook with margarine and refined vegetable oils—usually hydrogenated—that for years we were also told to use.  Unfortunately, as opposed to the French, the Jewish citizens of Israel have relatively high rates of heart disease. 

The French enjoy traditional fats and have little heart disease—for the Israelis, it’s the opposite.  They eat modern fats and suffer from heart disease.  This is a complex subject but I feel comfortable eating traditional fats and avoiding modern refined oils.  The Israelis should have stuck with olive oil.

The Calcium Paradox

We’ve been told that calcium is good for our bones.  Americans eat lots more calcium—in dairy products, pills, and plant foods—than most other nations.  Until recently, the beautiful wife’s OB-GYN was pushing her to take calcium pills.  Despite high calcium intake, we have higher rates of osteoporosis.  Worse yet, it’s not just older women.  There’s something wrong with the solutions being sold to us. 

Here’s the flip side of osteoporosis:  People with osteoporosis also usually have a problem called calcification.  Calcification is when your body deposits calcium in the wrong place—in your soft tissue, instead of your bones.  You know about the painful problem of kidney stones and gallstones, but calcium is also part of the plaque that coats and blocks your coronary arteries.  We call that atherosclerosis and it’s a giant problem.

Plaque, it’s reported, consistently contains about 20% calcium, causing the arteries to not only narrow, but to harden and lose flexibility.  Calcification is also a primary cause of heart valve replacement.   

Because heart disease is the #1 cause of premature death in America, shouldn’t reducing calcium-related atherosclerosis be our #1 health priority?

Vitamin K2

I just read the book, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.  The book presents information about why our bodies are putting calcium in the wrong place—in our plaque instead of in our bones.  Here’s a brief summary of what I learned:

  1. Bones need minerals like calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium.  Because of the modern diet of refined, processed foods, we generally get too much phosphorous and too little magnesium.  So that’s one problem.
  2. About everybody knows that vitamin D is important to bone health—it plays a role in building strong bones.  We’ve talked about this here and here.  Most people don’t get enough natural vitamin D so that’s a problem too.
  3. Few of us know that vitamin K2 is needed for strong bones—it’s critical to getting the calcium into bone, rather than in our soft tissue.  Basically, K2 is involved in calcium deposition, and its predecessor vitamin K1 is needed for blood clotting.  They’re related, but play different roles.
  4. We get K2 from animal products—eggs, butter, cheese, liver, and meat.  The animals get K1 from eating green grass, and bacteria in the animal convert K1 to K2.  So products from pastured animals provide us with K2. 
  5. Since the ‘50s, the vitamin K2 content of the American diet has steadily declined because we’ve moved animals from the green pastures into CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations, like feed lots, large hen houses, etc.).  In CAFOs, animals eat grains, industrial waste products, and dried hay but little green grass.  As a result, their level—and our level—of K2 has steadily declined and, consequently, calcification and osteoporosis have increased.

The bottom line:  We need more and better science here, but the author’s conclusion is that our health depends on the health of the animals we eat, and the animal’s health requires a traditional diet rich in green grass.  The book of Genesis tells how God gave man dominion over the animals.  Now, it seems more a partnership—our health depends on how we exercise that dominion.

My goal is to develop sources of pastured milk, eggs, cheese, and meat for our family and to share this information with you.  In the meantime, the author suggests supplementing with vitamin K2 pills.  Eventually we’ll get better guidance from the medical profession on bone health, but based on a recent conversation, that’s a few years away.  This seems a critical subject that we should return to in future posts.

This Week’s Menu

Monday—Mostly Sunday’s leftovers but a healthy meal.

  • Roast pork tenderloin.
  • Asparagus
  • Roasted potato slices
  • Green salad

Tuesday

  • Artichoke—it was the first of the season and though we steamed it for an hour it never got soft.  Why do some artichokes not cook well?
  • Cauliflower—roasted with cheese sauce.

Wednesday—We had two young men for dinner guests so thawed the last of the pork roast.

  • Roast pork tenderloin.
  • Boiled potatoes with gravy.
  • Salad
  • Banana Bread

Thursday

  • Stuffed bell pepper—I had the stuffing left over from last week.  The beautiful wife was suspicious of bacterial growth and declined the treat.  We have differing views on bacteria in food; I enjoyed her half.
  • Salad

Sunday—Our son and his beautiful wife are remodeling their kitchen so we had guests.

  • Chuck roast
  • Potatoes, onion, and carrots, baked with the roast.
  • Corn
  • Green salad
  • Apple

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Reader Comments (9)

I urge you to look into the process of "farming" foie gras before you try it. Even though you aren't the vegetarian sort (and there's nothing wrong with that at all), it's worth knowing that creating foie gras is inhumane. This Wikipedia entry summarizes the process without sensationalizing it, so you can see the facts without a hidden agenda: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras#Production_methods If you do try it, look for naturally fatted livers, also mentioned in that Wikipedia entry. They don't meet the French definition of foie gras, but I expect that the experience will be similar and without the questionable methods of production.

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

If you do choose to try foie gras, you only have until the end of the month before it's banned in California.

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

My husband and I are the same way about "bad" food. Too funny!

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRik

Hi, I used to get my pastured milk, meat, and eggs from an Amish co-op which I found through the Weston A Price foundation's website, after contacting my local chapter leader. They have a great list of resources, no doubt you've heard of them. The milk was super, super delicious. I am taking a break from it right now for various reasons (a little nervous about the recent campylobacter breakout in Pennsylvania from a well-known and trusted farmer who regularly tests his milk, plus I am Asian where milk has historically not been part of the native diet, so I reason that I probably don't need it...). Anyhow, good luck! I still think raw milk tastes amazing. I just wish each batch came with a crystal ball!

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Very interesting post! As a woman, I've felt guilty most of my life about not taking calcium supplements (I'm just not a pill-popper, even when it comes to vitamins. I'd rather just try to eat heathfully.) It's reassuring, in one way, that I won't get Osteoporosis as a result of not taking vitamins, but it's alarming that this information isn't more widely known and that most of us have no idea we need more K vitamins in our diet! Thank you so much for the info. We don't eat much meat around here, but I think I need to make sure that the meat we buy is from pasture-fed animals. It's too bad it's so stinkin' expensive these days! Thanks again!

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Sara and Carol, thanks for the foie gras information. Here's the problem: Until pastured animal products become widely available, Japanese natto and French foie gras are the only concentrated forms of natural vitamin K2. The availability of K2 is a life and death issue for many, many people. It's not clear how the synthetic forms compare. As many people find natto inedible and too smelly to endure, a good solution would be a humane source of foie gras. What do you think?

Michelle, thanks for noting the Weston A. Price foundation and their resources. It was Dr. Price, in the '30s who predicted there was a dietary "activator" essential to bone health. His work was overlooked and forgotten after WWII by many but his "activator" is now believed, by some, to be vitamin K2.

Stephanie, there should be vitamin K2 information on the nutrition panel of foods, like eggs, butter and cheese. And a market will develop to supply these pastured products.

June 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

Great post! I've just been reading about magnesium and think I may be deficient so I'm going to try some supplement drops made from evaporated salt water from the Great Salt Lake. I normally try to stick to food for my nutrients, but I have a lot of symptoms of deficiency (one symptom is that my kids have narrow jaws and crooked teeth) so hopefully these drops will help.

We are lucky enough to get (free!) pastured beef from my in-laws and we also get raw milk and pastured eggs and chickens from a local farmer. Hopefully these foods are supplying enough K2.

What do you think about eating less or no meat in the summer? I know some who interpret that phrase in the word of wisdom very literally and avoid meat in the summer but I haven't decided what to do.

June 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Dad, I've figured out artichokes!! They are Bee's favorite food, so we have them a lot. Someone told me to look at the stems when you buy them. The thicker the stem, the meatier the artichoke. Some of the little artichokes I was buying before had puny little stems and would cook forever and never get soft. And then you would try to eat them and they barely had any "meat". But now I just buy the big thick ones, and they are meaty and soft and delicious! Best tip ever!

June 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke Reynolds

I've read that book, too about vitamin K2 and yeah, I learned a lot form it as well.

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia L.

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