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Which Butter is Better


Before we start this post, please take a minute to look at this video about Country Valley milk and how John Fairley is turning his farm into one large living organism.

Can you guess what the difference between the two types of butter in the photo is? I asked that question on The Food Blog’s facebook page and one of my readers commented that “one has colour added”. Though it made me chuckle a bit, it was a fair comment; since we hardly see butter with such a deep yellow color, one can assume that the butter has somehow been messed with.

In fact, both butters are completely unadulterated and are handmade butters given to me by my favourite butter man, Pepe Saya. The butter on the left is Pepe’s famous cultured butter. The other one is an experiment he did with cream sourced from a commercially available milk. Pepe’s usual milk comes from Country Valley, a local dairy based in Picton. The cream he receives from Country Valley has a rich yellow colour similar to what you see in the photo. However, when Pepe looked at the commercial cream, he saw a pasty-white cream so different from what he was used to seeing from Country Valley. A bit of digging around and the reason for the lack of colour became obvious. As opposed to Country Valley cream which comes from 100% grass-fed cows, the commercial cream comes from grain-fed cows. Grass-fed cream is pigmented by beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant and a pre-cursor for vitamin A. Grain-fed cows get no beta-carotene in their diet (beta-carotene is contained in grass).

To make a fair comparison, Pepe made both butters in the exact same way. He added cultures to the two batches of cream until they became sour, and then churned them into butter. We tried both the cream and the butter, and differences more than just colour were obvious. Where the grass-fed butter tasted complex (I swear you can taste the pasturelands), the grain-fed butter fell flat. There was little flavour, with almost a synthetic taste and an odd mouthfeel.

Grass-fed dairy is far superior to grain-fed dairy. Here’s a list of why I think you should always go for grass-fed dairy:

  1. It tastes better
  2. It’s so much better for health
  3. You will be supporting real farmers, ones interested in the health and sustainability of their land, just like we saw in the video link above.
  4. You will be discouraging feed lots, inhumane practices and mass production
  5. You will be paying more for milk. That sounds like a bad thing, but milk should never cost $1. Real food costs real money and if you buy from farmers markets, more money will be going to the producer.
  6. Cows and other herbivores are fantastic at transforming solar energy into food. The cycle is simple: sun > grass > milk. Grain feeding changes this cycle: Fossil fuels > chemical fertilisers> grains > milk (and arid land). The importance of grass-feeding is paramount to future sustainability and supply of food.
  7. Grass-fed cows are healthier than grain-fed cows. Cows can not digest grains well and it makes them sick.
  8. Sick, grain-fed cows require much more medication and antibiotics which make their way to the milk (and meat).

There are great grass-fed products on the market that you should be going for when choosing your dairy products. I personally buy Country Valley milk. In supermarkets you can find Parmalat unhomogenised organic milk (which the producer has told me is around 95% grass-fed with a 5% supplement of hay and organic, non-genetically modified grain). Do remember that organic does not mean grass-fed since you can still feed cows 100% organic grains and hay and they might never see a blade of grass. Also, I’ve noticed that the Macro organic milk at Woolworth’s contains ultra-heat treated milk, which I personally avoid.

What brand of milk do you buy and why? Can you share what the deciding factor for you when it comes to choosing dairy products is? Can you think of other reasons why grass-feeding is better than grain-feeding? Or do you perhaps you believe grain-feeding is a better alternative? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let me know.

Homemade Sauerkraut

In effort to further learn how to make specialty foods from scratch, I gave sauerkraut a go around 2 weeks ago. I’ve been eating sauerkraut in serious quantities ever since I switched to a Paleolithic diet. It ticks many boxes – sauerkraut is very low in carbohydrates, its acidity helps when eating copious amounts of butter and meat, and it’s full of beneficial bacteria that are supposed to help with gut flora population and all that. My go-to brand was a German-style sauerkraut from my local supermarket, but then I read somewhere that most, if not all, supermarket sauerkraut are actually pasteurised. In essence, my sauerkraut was dead, killed by heat. The beneficial bacteria I thought I was consuming were no longer there.

That upset me for a while, but then I decided to look on the bright side and that it was a chance to have a go at making it myself. I bought half an organic cabbage from Eveleigh markets and took it home. My experience with fermented food had so far been limited to yoghurt and beer, both of which need the bacteria/yeast to be introduced from an external source. Sauerkraut is somewhat magical: its starter bacteria grow on the cabbage leaves while the cabbage is still in the field. Sauerkraut can be made flavoured by using caraway seeds, juniper berries or the like, but for my first go I decided to stick with plain sauerkraut. I tried the traditional method of fermenting the cabbage in a jar, and I also came up with a different approach and fermented the cabbage in vacuum bags. I’m yet to taste the vacuum bag patch (if that works, I’ll certainly be doing that from now on), but have tucked into the jar and it’s unlike any other sauerkraut I’ve ever tasted. There’s a delicate flavour of vinegar, but overall the flavour is earthy and somehow malty, similar to a beer. It’s delicious and the leaves are still crunchy and crisp. Making sauerkraut is easy and recipes abound on the Internet, so I won’t give detailed instructions. Find a recipe that appeals to you and try it (here’s the one I followed). But at a high level, you simply chop up the cabbage leaves and rub them with salt. Then, you put them in a clean jar, press them down and close the jar. A few weeks later, you have sauerkraut – healthy, living sauerkraut. And you become the god of millions, if not billions, of beneficial bacteria. It might be useful for you to know that my sauerkraut did not develop a bloom or scum like the recipe suggested would happen. I’m not sure if that is due to winter temperatures or anything else. In any case, the recipe worked really well is and is worth following.

Got any tips to share on making your own sauerkraut? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths and other fairytales

Doesn’t the photo of that beef look amazing? I just had to say that before I started. I’d love a slice of that.

You have most probably seen this study that just came out showing that eating red meat is going to kill you, eventually. Having read the numerous alarmist articles published on the topic, I thought it is my duty to say something, since so many media outlets have started going crazy for this piece of news. Here’s the link to the article by The Telegraph.

I don’t know how this rubbish is even considered a study. What the researchers did was survey 100,000 people over a period of 28 years, asking them every 4 years about their diet and lifestyle. Asking them? So, the study wasn’t a double blind, laboratory based study? Already, I’m skeptical. Many issues are known to happen with survey studies. Namely, people lie in surveys. They do! I know I have…

OK, but putting that aside. Let’s look at this line from the Telegraph:

Small quantities of processed meat such as bacon, sausages or salami can increase the likelihood of dying early by a fifth, researchers from Harvard School of Medicine found. Eating steak increases the risk of early death by 12%.

 Apart from people on a low-carb diet, I don’t know anyone who eats bacon without pressing it against sugar-laden barbecue sauce slathered on soft slices of bread. Sausages? Again, wrapped in bread. Salami? That comes on top of a pizza, right? So, these people are eating JUNK FOOD. Why is it that the study decided it was the meat that caused “early death”? Why wasn’t it the insulin-spiking bread, vegetable oils, and the ton of soft drinks/sodas/beer that the person likely consumed alongside that pizza? That is a major flaw of such observational science. We see what we choose to see. You can’t infer cause and effect without experimentation. To illustrate what I’m trying to say, I got the following off the Simpsons, the font of all wisdom (source):

After a single bear wandering into town has drawn an over-reaction from the residents of Springfield, Homer stands outside his house and muses, “Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol is working like a charm!”

Lisa sees through his reasoning: “That’s specious reasoning, dad.” Homer, misunderstanding the word “specious”, thanks her for the compliment.

Optimistically, she tries to explain the error in his argument: “By your logic, I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.” Homer is confused: “Hmm; how does it work?” Lisa: “It doesn’t work; it’s just a stupid rock!” Homer: “Uh-huh.” Lisa: “… but I don’t see any tigers around, do you?”
Homer, after a moment’s thought: “Lisa, I want to buy your rock…” 

So, maybe, it was the fact that those people breathed oxygen chronically that caused their death. Or maybe because they were generally unhealthy. The article continues:

Scientists added that people who eat a diet high in red meat were also likely to be generally unhealthier because they were more likely to smoke, be overweight and not exercise.

Okay. So, here we have a bit more of a complete picture. Overweight, nicotine-addicted sedentary people who eat junk food die sooner rather than later. Maybe that should have been the real headline. But then again, if I had read that headline, I would have probably thought, “No shit Sherlock. 28 years of surveys and that’s all you can tell me?” Don’t we all ALREADY KNOW that smokers binging on pizza and Ben & Jerry’s are going to have an early death? Do we really need a study to tell us that?
What really got me excited about this study is that it showed a link between low cholesterol and increased risk of early death. Didn’t we believe the opposite to be true? So, we should eat less cholesterol, even though cholesterol seems to protect us from an early death? Huhh? (That said, I am a firm believer in a) the protective effects of cholesterol, and b) know that dietary cholesterol doesn’t translate to serum cholesterol).
I could go further in-depth about this, but, luckily, someone else has done that for me. Read Zoe Harcomb’s blog post and understand how bad the science really is. If I were you, I would think twice about switching my red meat for whole grains.

 

On Carbs

Massive Health - Carbs Are Killing You

I like Dr Mercola. Despite him pushing products, I find his advice generally well considered. “Pasta, Not Bacon, Makes You Fat. But How?” is the name of his latest blog entry. It’s a must read. But for those of you who are more visual, or want the abridged version, the above infographic from Massive Health that tells it like it is.

How I lost 24 Kilos and a Recipe for Macadamia Oil Mayonnaise

This blog post may change your life.

Back in April 2010, Amanda from Lamb’s Ears and Honey posted a Facebook link to an article in the New York Times with the title “Is Sugar Toxic”, written by a science researcher called Gary Taubes. Amanda doesn’t know it, but by posting that link, she saved me from almost guaranteed diabetes and heart disease. Thank you Amanda! At the time, I weighed 122kg and had a waist circumference of 122cm, and with those measurements, I was obese. After reading Taubes’ article, I watched the amazing video, “Sugar, The Bitter Truth” by Dr Robert Lustig that discusses the health dangers of eating high amounts of fructose. I also saw that Taubes had written a book entitled “Why We Get Fat: and What to Do About It”. Having always thought that getting fat is all about calories-in/calories-out, I was intrigued to find that there may be another explanation to the problem I had suffered with all my life (having dieted non-stop for 15 years) so I bought Taubes’ book and read it. That book changed my life forever.

Zoom forward to today, my nutritional re-education continues as I weigh 98kg and my waist circumference is 98cm. My diet has switched from one focused on carbohydrates to one that that uses fat for energy. My energy comes from grass-fed and free-range animals, fish, eggs, low-starch vegetables, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and berries. To a lesser extent I also eat full-fat dairy (cheese, cream and sour cream), bananas and sweet potatoes. I eat around 2700 calories a day, so by any definition, I am not on a diet. Having lost the weight I did without caloric restriction may seem to defy the laws of thermodynamics, but what I found out during my reading is that the well-established adage of calories-in/calories-out is a big fat lie. For almost all people, we gain weight because of hormonal issues. The main way to lose weight is to reduce insulin levels and make our body more receptive to the action of leptin (which, being a hormone discovered only relatively recently may not be known to most doctors).

Having (effortlessly) lost the weight is great, but I realize now that weight was not a problem in its own. It was merely a physiological indicator that my body wasn’t healthy. The health of our body is greatly determined by our diet. Using my newfound way of eating, I have helped many friends with their weight and health issues. My father, a long-term diabetic, now has stellar blood sugar levels. I personally enjoy vastly improved energy levels, no longer have the acne problems that plagued me throughout my life, no longer have plaque, have less/no joint pain, and I feel more clear-headed and happier.

As I continue to learn new things, I try to keep it simple to introduce people I care about to the diet that I know will change their lives for the better. I try to explain that there are 3 things I believe cause most of the health issues we encounter

1- Fructose – this is a sugar found naturally in fruit (and natural sweeteners like agave). It is used in massive quantities as a sweetener for soft drinks, junk food and mass-produced food. Though it doesn’t cause insulin spikes on its own, it does cause fatty liver disease. I highly recommend you watch Dr Lustig’s video “Sugar, The Bitter Truth“ as it will give you all the info you need on why you should avoid fructose.

2- Omega 6/PUFA oils. For years, we have been told to eat margarine as a healthier alternative to butter. Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in margarine, canola, corn oil and other seed/grain/nut oils. These fats are easily prone to oxidation and as we consume them in the large quantities we do, we create an unfavorable ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 (found in fish) oils in our body. The right ratio is crucial for our liver function and the makeup of our cell membranes and many other bodily functions. I have personally cut out all PUFAs (no more margarine, canola, grapeseed, rice bran or vegetable oils) and the fats I eat are either fully saturated (butter, animal fat and coconut oils are saturated and that makes them stable and not prone to oxidation) or mono-unsaturated oils like macadamia or olive oil. I do not fear cholesterol. Cholesterol is a healthy, healing substance and is largely misunderstood. I suggest you read Gary Taubes’ life changing book, Why We Get Fat: and What to Do About It to re-educate yourself on the real science of fat.

3- Grains – It amazes me to see a diabetic being prescribed a diet high in complex carbs and whole grains and low in fat! Seriously? Diabetics have a problem with blood glucose and insulin. Why are they being fed food that will turn into sugar in the body at all? My diabetic father made the switch and only gets his carbs from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. The rest of his diet is protein and fat based and his blood sugar levels are now AMAZING. If you are not diabetic, there are still plenty of compelling reasons why grains are not a good idea for you. Grains increase gut permeability (they penetrate the gut wall and allow dangerous material in our gut to leach into our blood stream which leads to chronic inflammation) to grains’ anti-nutrient properties (which depletes the body of vitamins and minerals). People with acid reflux, coeliac or autoimmune diseases can reverse or control their condition by eliminating grains. For more details on the dangers of wheat and grain, and the amazing health benefits to be gained by eliminating them, read Dr William Davis’ book Wheat Belly.

I am not giving anyone medical advice. I firmly believe that health is a journey and that people need to make their own decisions on where they want to go. What is clear to me is that a carbohydrate centric, fat fearing diet is not the answer. Read through the links and books I suggest. You’ll feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole. If you decide that you are convinced and want to follow the advice in these websites and books, let me know. I’d love to hear from you and to learn about your journey.

When you are convinced and want to start straight away, here’s a great recipe to help kick-start things. Macadamia Oil Mayonnaise. When I stopped eating oils rich in Omega 6, I found that I can no longer eat mayo. All commercial mayo is made with either canola or soybean oil and that’s just poison. Olive oil doesn’t make good mayonnaise – the flavour is too strong and bitter. Macadamia oil, on the other hand, is a wonderfully aromatic oil with a beautiful buttery texture and a heady aroma. It’s not a neutral oil (because it’s not chemically processed unlike vegetable and seed oils). This delicious mayonnaise takes 1 minute to make, is high in monounsaturated fat from the macadamia oil and saturated fat from the eggs, and, yes, it’s SUPER-HEALTHY! Just don’t eat the bread.

Macadamia Oil Mayonnaise Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks (if you are worried about bacteria, simply pasteurise the whole eggs by keeping them at 63 degrees C water for 5 minutes)
  • 1.5 cup macadamia oil
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt (to taste) – use real salt like Celtic Sea Salt.
  • lemon juice

Method

  1. Put the egg and mustard in an upright blender and whiz it up.
  2. Add the oil (shouldn’t take more than 20 to 30 seconds) from the top opening until the mixture thickens.
  3. Add apple cider vinegar and salt
  4. Add more oil if thicker mayonnaise is needed
  5. The process should take 1 minute or less
  6. Once done, you can adjust the salt and lemon juice. Heck, you can even add more mustard if you want. Go crazy!

Resources

There are many amazing resources out there to find out more about this diet. I owe a huge debt and thank you to Jimmy Moore and his super-human efforts in getting the word out there and his inspirational podcasts. Mark’s Daily Apple, Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser are an absolute must. Both Dr Kurt Harris and Dr Jack Kruse are medical doctors that have dared to think outside the box and their websites are invaluable resources to my life-style. I also recently started exercising using Drew Baye‘s methods and have seen unbelievable results in strength, endurance and muscle building.
Disclaimer: I am not giving medical advice. I am simply sharing my story with you. You make your own decisions, and I recommend that you discuss changes in your diet and lifestyle with your medical doctor. I do suggest you find a doctor who is up-to-date, will listen to you and is open minded to guide you through your journey. 
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