Fat lot of good

When “bad” food goes good

Bari Caine looks at the label of a sour cream container at Whole Foods.

Bari Caine looks at the label of a sour cream container at Whole Foods.

Photo By kat kerlin

Animal fats. Cream. Pure butter. These are the real health foods, according to Weston A. Price Foundation, which now has an active Reno chapter.

Sound crazy? That’s what chapter leader Bari Caine first thought when she heard about it on a Bay Area radio show in 1997. At the time, Caine was concerned about her husband’s high meat intake and considered a low-fat, low-meat diet more healthful.

“I was really agitated listening because I thought she was giving out wrong information,” says Caine. Yet she kept tuning in. The third show featured Sally Fallon, author of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. Impressed, Caine immediately bought the book, which changed her view of food “by 180 degrees.” Caine has since formed three chapters of the WAPF, in California, New Zealand and now Reno.

Dentist Weston A. Price studied indigenous peoples worldwide in the 1930s. He found that those eating traditional foods had nearly perfect teeth and health compared to American diets. Those foods include eating all parts of animals—meat, organs, bones (in soups)—full-fat dairy, unprocessed foods, unrefined oils, natural sweeteners in moderation, grassfed meat, wild fish, organic vegetables and fruits, pickled vegetables like sauerkraut, and whole grains that have been soaked and sprouted. Practitioners of the traditional diet tend to have kitchen counters resembling science labs—full of pots always fermenting or sprouting something.

Several modern diets agree that refined foods are a problem, as they pull nutrition out of the body to digest. More contentious is the diet’s advocacy of saturated animal fats. WAPF maintains that these fats aid in digestion and provide key nutrients not supplied by vegetarian and vegan diets.

“We educate people about the difference between food marketed as healthy, which it isn’t, versus healthy foods that have been demonized,” says Caine sitting outside Whole Foods, the aisles of which are stocked with both types of food, from organic soy “chicken” nuggets to wild salmon. The group does this through discussions of Fallon’s cookbook and by screening a new DVD called Nourishing Our Children.

Perhaps what most excites Caine is evidence that when some people who’d never eaten this way go on the diet before conceiving and while pregnant, their children end up healthier. “This is reversible,” she says.

But what about all of the fat meat eaters out there, gnawing on hot dogs and hamburgers and keeling over from heart attacks; and what about all those slim vegans and raw foodies?

Caine attributes the health issues of average meat eaters to the processed bread and condiments the burger is sitting on, as well as other processed foods in their diet. She says studies critical of saturated animal fat are industry funded. And it doesn’t surprise her that people feel better after switching from a diet rich in sweets and processed foods to eating mostly whole grains, fruits and vegetables. That can be a good cleanse, she says, but eventually, the body will need animal foods.

She adds that food alone won’t make someone healthy.

“If you never get out in the fresh air, or if you’re under a lot of stress—you need to do a whole spectrum of healthy activities.”