My eating habits and preferences have evolved with me, as they should. From consuming small amounts of meat in high school to experimenting with being a vegetarian (on and off), trying veganism for a few months, and eventually returning to my basics, my culinary journey has been a varied one.
The book “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food” by Cate Shanahan played a pivotal role in my nutritional transformation, leading me to appreciate the benefits of an omnivore diet.
It’s essential to clarify that I believe each way of eating has its place, and some individuals thrive as vegans or vegetarians, while others thrive as carnivores.
It’s evident that there is no one-size-fits-all dietary approach. I’m not suggesting that this way of eating is the only way, but as someone who was intrigued by different variations of vegetarianism, returning to the “boring” way of eating taught me valuable lessons.
Ancestral Diets — Are They Relevant?
No matter what dietary path you choose, this book provides valuable insights into how certain foods can impact generations of people. It sheds light on how the dietary choices of our parents and grandparents have significantly shaped our physical well-being.
The book delves into the critical connection between nutrition, genetics, and overall health. Cate Shanahan, a physician and nutrition expert, explores the idea that our genes have evolved to thrive on traditional, nutrient-dense foods and that straying from this ancestral diet can lead to a wide range of health problems.
How I Relate to This Book
What particularly resonated with me in this book, more than any other nutrition literature, was the author’s honesty and personal story. We share a common ailment — knee pain.
Although our pain may be attributed to different factors and events, I felt her frustration. The fact that she managed to regain control over her pain through nutrition, something I had heard of before, piqued my curiosity about this book.
The core concept of “deep nutrition” emphasizes the importance of consuming whole, unprocessed foods that have sustained human health for generations.
Shanahan argues that modern diets filled with processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats have significantly contributed to the rise of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
She provides examples from her medical practice that compel us to reevaluate our food system and reflect on the dietary habits of our grandparents.
The Four Pillars of Deep Nutrition
Throughout the book, Shanahan lays out a comprehensive framework for achieving deep nutrition. She emphasizes the significance of four key pillars:
- Fresh, whole foods
- Dietary fats
- Organ meats
- Fermented and sprouted foods
She delves into the science behind these components and explains how they influence gene expression and overall health. You might agree with some principles and disagree with others, and that’s precisely why you should read this book. Not to change your opinion, but to evaluate each pillar with the provided examples and decide if you’d like to incorporate these principles into your life.
While not everyone thrives on dairy, Shanahan also explores this aspect. Many of us could benefit from reintroducing yogurt, milk, or cheese into our daily lives.
Shanahan explores the impact of epigenetics, elucidating how our dietary choices can influence gene expression and the health of future generations. What you eat, especially during pregnancy, has a more profound impact on your baby’s health than you might think.
It underlines the inadequacy of medical advice that tends to focus on vitamin prescriptions and guidelines like avoiding raw fish while ignoring the potential harm of heavily processed foods to a developing baby. This was eye-opening, and I realized that, whether pregnant or not, avoiding such foods has become increasingly challenging in the modern world.
The Challenges of Eating Healthy
Not all of us can frequent farmers’ markets, cultivate gardens, or keep chickens for fresh eggs. If you primarily buy your groceries from supermarkets and lead a life filled with dining out, social gatherings, and work events, maintaining a healthy diet requires more effort than the alternative, which is a concerning reality.
This book gave me even more reasons to change my dietary priorities and adjust my life to eat more whole foods. While challenging, I can say it’s rewarding, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Shanahan also addresses the role of toxins in modern food and offers practical advice on making healthier dietary choices. She also provides some recipes at the end of the book.
My Favorite Quote:
“Though you can boil, extract, and refine living tissue to isolate the protein, carb, or fat, you do so only at the cost of everything else that held the cells and organs together. Yanking certain components from living systems…and expecting them to approximate their original nutritional value is like removing someone’s brain from their body and expecting it to respond to questions. That is not science; it is science fiction. So is the idea that heavily processed food can be healthy.”— Catherine Shanahan, Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
Is This Book For You?
“Deep Nutrition” is a thought-provoking book that encourages readers to reevaluate their eating habits and consider the profound impact of nutrition on their genetic health.
It provides a wealth of information, scientific insights, and practical guidance to help individuals make informed choices that can lead to improved well-being and a deeper understanding of the relationship between food and genetics.
Cate Shanahan’s work inspires us to consider the ancestral wisdom of our diets and make healthier choices for ourselves and future generations.