The Four Pillars of World Cuisine

According to Catherine Shanahan, you’ll be very healthy if you eat daily what she calls the “four pillars of world cuisine,” that and eliminate sugar and all vegetable oils from your diet–even more importantly, however, your genes will be healthy too, and you’ll deeply affect the future generations of your family.

I recently read “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food” by Shanahan, and was utterly impressed. Shanahan presented a totally different way of looking at health. She explains how we can change our genes–and how we need to (as a result of the detrimental eating habits of the past hundred years or so). She also explains how a fat cell can morph into a totally different type of cell (this is a big deal), how a bodily tragedy results from consuming vegetable oils and sugar (even if only eaten on occasion), and how much we actually can be in control of our health–even in relation to things that we’ve genetically inherited.

Deep Nutrition by Shanahan

The first thing Shanahan recommends is completely eliminating sugar and vegetable oils from our diets. She’s so convincing that I stopped putting honey in my coffee the very day I read her on this point. I now only use cream. Some natural sugar is fine, she assures, but only in its pure state (sugar found in dairy, vegetables, fruit and berries, a little honey), not extracted form, and it should be kept under 100 grams a day. When it comes to vegetable oils, they’re extremely toxic, honestly, and can lead to all sorts of problems. She recommends that the only healthy fats to consume are olive oil, peanut oil, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil (yum!), palm oil, butter, and animal fats. And, yes, unlike what we’ve heard, she evidences how fats are truly good for you, even saturated fats and cholesterol.

I’m sure this isn’t very shocking. Many of us know this stuff. So many alternative health books these days have a chapter called something like “dispelling the cholesterol myth.” And health-food blogs are loaded with sugar-free recipes that use honey, a touch of maple syrup, or fruit as the sweetener. And I’m sure that we’ve all heard not to eat fried foods–but now add to that our abstaining from all foods whatsoever that contain these toxic oils.

Another fascinating bit of information I learned from her is that calories eaten and calories burned don’t actually seem to have anything to do with body-weight. That’s not at all what we’ve been told by the majority of nutritionists and doctors.

Shanahan’s “four pillars of world cuisine” isn’t surprising. These are natural and naturally prepared foods that have been around for thousands of years, nutrient-rich foods that taste spectacular and will curb unwanted cravings (sweets, carbs, alcohol, energy drinks) by satisfying our body’s holistic needs.

So here they are. Shanahan recommends eating foods from the four pillars everyday.

1. Meat on the bone

2. Organ meats

3. Fermented and sprouted foods

4. Raw and fresh foods

In addition to the four pillars, she stresses the importance of using the best possible ingredients that you can find. She also has lovely things to say about bone stocks and raw dairy (especially from pastured animals), and she recommends finding cookbooks or recipes that date from around 1900 and earlier, before our modern conveniences changed our cooking habits. There are, however, some modern cookbooks that still use these traditional methods (I highly recommend Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon if you haven’t yet heard of it).

A grass-fed calf at our favorite local farm.

A calf at our favorite local grass-fed farm.

I was very pleased with this book, and it’s certainly influenced my way of looking at health. I now spend even more time in the kitchen–but I’m so proud of the meals that I’m learning to make for my family!

Frederic Church (1826-1900), Ruins at Baalbek, 1868, oil on canvas

Frederic Church (1826-1900), Ruins at Baalbek, 1868, oil on canvas

Fae is still sleeping. I like to sneak out of our bed in the morning to sit by the window with some coffee.

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