I hate to burst your bubble but store-bought chicken soup is not going to make you feel better; in fact, it will probably make you feel worse. It's mostly water, salt, a chicken-like substance, maybe some gut-irritating noodles, and a whole bunch of chemicals that your body probably won't like very much.
My chicken soup, on the other hand, could be considered magical; except it's really just a simple matter of feeding your body with bioavailable nutrients. The real star here is the bone broth. You are going to squeeze every ounce of nutrient out of this chicken, including gut-healing collagen and loads of minerals from the bones, which is going to end up feeding you with healthy energy and filling up your nutrient stores so you can take on whatever illnesses this winter has to offer. I'm willing to guarantee that you won't get sick at all this year if you have this soup at least once a week. As soon as the weather changes, make a batch and freeze it; very little nutrients are lost by freezing.
This legit chicken soup is time-consuming to make, but please don't let that deter you; after all it's nothing compared to the amount of time you will lose if you get sick. It's actually very simple, and quite versatile. I prefer mine traditionally with onions, celery, tomatoes, and carrots, but you could certainly add whatever fresh or frozen veggies you have on hand. I've also enjoyed it with chopped up green beans, zucchini, and kale.
This ain't your mama's chicken soup. But it probably is how your great-grandmother used to make it.
Legit Chicken Soup
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 24-48 hours
You will need a large soup or stock pot. Rinse your chicken with cold water and be sure to remove any paper from the cavity (sometimes they wrap the organs up in paper and put them back in the cavity). You can either use the organs in the soup (they have LOADS of vitamins), or save them to cook later. I actually chop some up and give them to my cats--they love it--and throw the rest in the soup. Place the chicken in the pot and fill the pot up with filtered water until it covers the chicken (this should not be all the way, you need room to add vegetables). Add apple cider vinegar, and you can even add a little salt at this point. Cover and bring to a boil, and then let simmer for 24-48 hours.
Note: If you aren't going to be home or feel uncomfortable leaving your stove on overnight, you can do this entire step in a crock pot. Just put it on low for at least 24, but preferably 48 hours.
2nd Note: Some people prefer to wrap their chicken in a cheesecloth and tie that with twine to keep all the bones trapped so they don't have to sift through it later. I don't mind it, but this is fine if you prefer it. They sell Soup Socks for this purpose (see below) but I can't vouch for them. If I ever try it, I'll let you know.
Pour your chicken and bone broth through a mesh strainer, being sure to retain the liquid in a very large bowl. Let the chicken caught in the strainer cool.
While it's cooling, in the same pot you just poured from heat up ghee or fat of choice over medium-high heat. Add your onions, celery, and carrots and let cook until onions and celery start to turn translucent. Add tomatoes and cook 1-2 minutes. Pour just the broth back in.
At this point your chicken should be cool. Now you're going to have to get your hands a little dirty so make sure they are clean (this is probably why people like to use the Soup Socks). Mash your chicken down with a wooden spoon. Many of the bones will disintegrate which is exactly what you want in your soup...all those minerals! Separate any hard bones and discard them. Add the chicken meat back into the soup pot, along with the fresh parsley, and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer until you are ready to serve.
Note: This article was adapted from an essay I wrote for the my certification program through the Nutritional Therapy Association.
Second Note: This is NOT a post about what dietary fats are good for you and what dietary fats are bad for you because those have been written many times. I am obviously referring to the good quality dietary fats that contribute to optimal health, and if you do not know what those are, please refer to any of the articles listed in the link above. Please do not use this as an excuse to eat deep-fried food and other bad fats and oils that are extremeley damaging to our cells and overall health.
Dietary fats are essential requirements for a healthy cell to function properly. Eating good fats in a diet contributes vital components to a healthy cell. But why is that so important?
We place a lot of emphasis on having properly functioning organs. Everyone can agree this is really important. It’s easier for us to relate to this concept because we can feel, and in some cases see, our organs. Through signs, symptoms, and bloodwork, we can usually tell if they aren’t functioning properly. When we aren’t feeling well and go to the doctor, we report back that we have a heart condition, or gallbladder attacks, or kidney disease.
For the most part, organs don’t just stop functioning properly one day for no reason. Basic biology tells us that organs are made up of tissues and tissues are made up of cells. Cells are made up of atoms and molecules, which come from the food that we put into our body after it gets broken down via proper digestion. The “You are what you eat” principle applies here. So any dysfunction and degeneration you are experiencing at some point began at a cellular level in your body. Since what we eat either feeds and provides energy for our cells, or contributes to the formation of new cells, it is absolutely imperative that we eat a proper diet in order to maintain proper health.
Carbohydrates and proteins are equally important to contributing to the health of our cells and overall health, but those two macronutrients get all the glory. Fats are wrongly demonized so I want to explain why they are equally as important.
Quality fats are essential to providing the first layer of protection for your cells and your genetic code; without them your cells do not function properly and you leave yourself vulnerable to disease. Lipids (fats) comprise several components of the cell’s structure. The lipid bilayer makes up the framework of the plasma membrane, which separates the inside of the cell from the outside and contains the cytoplasm. This cell membrane allows for exchange of nutrition to happen in the first place.
The lipid bilayer is made up of phospholipids, cholesterol, and glycolipids; all three of which are made all or in part from fat. If you are on a low or no fat diet, you will not have the components required to properly make up a healthy cell membrane. Since the membrane regulates what goes in and out of a cell, you leave the rest of the cell vulnerable to materials that don’t belong or could harm the function of a cell.
The cell also contains RNA and DNA, which has your genetic makeup, and uses that to reproduce new cells. You do not want to leave your genetic code vulnerable to foreign or damaged materials; doing so could trigger your gene’s predisposition to disease and then it reproduces more cells that contain this faulty information.
Along with glycoproteins, glycolipids (which are composed partly of fats) in the cell membrane are cell identity markers, meaning they recognize cells of its own kind so they can form tissues together; so in order to form or heal and regenerate properly forming organs, you need a healthy supply of proper fats. Cell identity markers also recognize and respond to potentially dangerous cells; if glycolipids are not present or functioning improperly due to a low-fat, no fat, or poor quality fat diet, then you risk dangerous foreign or unstable cells roaming free and reproducing in the body.
The quality of fats your body utilizes to make up cells or contribute to cellular function is very important. Your body will easily recognize and break down quality good fats (usually found in nature like wild or naturally raised animal fats, stable oils, etc.) into usable components of the cell. On the contrary, if you eat bad fats (anything refined, processed or unstable, as well as factory farmed animal fats), you are causing your body to work harder to break down these foreign substances that your body doesn’t recognize; bad fats are also unstable and damaged, so the cell membrane and cell identity markers of which they are comprised will also be damaged and not functioning properly. This leaves the organism vulnerable to cellular inefficiency and impairment, and eventually degeneration and disease of the whole organism, or human being.
This is simple biology and this information can be found in any human biology, or anatomy and physiology textbook. When you look at it from a holistic perspective, you can recognize how what you eat becomes the building blocks for your body and how it functions. What you eat and nourish your body with influences how every cell containing your DNA is produced; knowing you pass this information on to your offspring, you can recognize Pottenger’s Cats playing out.
The best way to stop physical degeneration (and turn it into regeneration, or healing) and organ dysfunction is to start making healthy cells by fueling them with proper nutrition, of which healthy fats are imperative.
Check out Part 2: Fats Provide Energy (and other important functions)!
As some of you know, my current profession is in health sciences librarianship. I was drawn to this profession because I've always enjoyed research (though nutrition is definitely my passion). There is so much great information out there on proper nutrition, but it's scattered all over the place. I felt compelled to start a symposium series that spotlights a topic, rounds up all the facts from the experts, and puts it into to one convenient place.
Let's start with my favorite topic: fats
List of Good Fats and Oils versus Bad by Dr. Cate Shanahan
Dr. Cate is absolutely brilliant. She is a board certified family physician and also studied biochemistry and genetics. She understands on a molecular and chemical level how fatty acids interact with our body, and the effects cooking methods may have. I would encourage you to listen to one of the many podcasts she has been a guest on as well.
FAQs: What are safe cooking fats & oils? by Diane Sanfilippo
Diane breaks it all down for us in this post: stable and unstable fats, saturated and unsaturated fats, refined and unrefined oils. I HIGHLY recommend downloading her PDF and hanging a copy up in your kitchen and bringing a copy to the grocery store with you. She also provides a list of brands of fats that are safe to cook with. Are you a visual learner? Be sure to watch the two videos on how coconut oil is made and how canola oil is made.
The Complete Guide to Fats (Plus, a downloadable list!) by Coconuts and Kettlebells
Still confused about the science behind fats? Fellow NTP Noelle Tarr has a great explanation for you and provides an excellent list of what you should, and shouldn't be, using.
HEALTHY FATS VS. UNHEALTHY FATS: HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE by Steph Gaudreau
Stupid Easy Paleo's simple chemical breakdown of the different types of fats and which ones you should and shouldn't eat.
Oils and Healthy Fats by Primal Palate
A cooking-centric post on the proper use of fats and oils.
7 reasons FAT is your friend! by Liz Wolfe
Another brilliant NTP gives us 7 simply explained yet excellent reasons why it's ok to enjoy the good fats.
I choose butter. (You’d butter believe it.) by Liz Wolfe
Liz explains why it's actually healthy to eat butter and why the fake butters and margarine should be avoided, even though they are marketed as "healthy" (biggest scam of all time, IMO) thanks to some pretty corrupt science.
The Definitive Guide to Fats by Mark Sisson
Mark's Daily Apple provides us with a biochemical breakdown of all the different types of fats and how they relate to a healthy diet.
The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat by Mark Sisson
Saturated fats are so misunderstood (Gee thanks Ancel Keys) that they really need their own guide. Mark explains why saturated fats aren't so bad and breaks down some of the terrible science that has wrongly vilified them.
The Definitive Guide to Oils by Mark Sisson
You're going to be seeing a lot from Mark Sisson. He's absolutely brilliant. This is his simple guide on what oils you should and should not be cooking with, and why.
Good Fats, Bad Fats: Separating Fact from Fiction by Chris Masterjohn
From the Weston A. Price Foundation, Chris busts some myths about fats with some pretty solid research.
Saturated Fat Does a Body Good by Chris Masterjohn by Chris Masterjohn
Another well researched article for the WAPF on why saturated fats are essential for proper body function at every level.
The Bulletproof Guide to Omega 3 Vs. Omega 6 Fats
From the geniuses behind bulletproof coffee, here is a simple chemical breakdown of fats, and the importance of balancing omega-3s with omega-6s
Industrial seed oils: unnatural and unfit for human consumption by Chris Kresser
This entire article is fantastic and is part of a larger series. But the section on seed oils has some great information on why you want to avoid this type of fat (ironically what the government and most registered dietitians recommend)
Know your fats by Chris Kresser
Again this entire article, part of a larger series, is worth reading. But if you want to focus on fats, Kresser discusses all the different types of fats, including why and how you should eat them.
Big ‘FAT’ Blog Post - Part 1 by Amy Kubal
Big “Fat” Blog Post 2 by Amy Kubal
Big ‘Fat’ Blog Post 3 by Amy Kubal
This is a 3-part Q&A series from one of my favorite people, Robb Wolf. Topics include: why saturated fats won't clog your arteries, omega-3s:omega-6s, medium chain fatty acids, coconut oil, and endurance athletes.
Chris Masterjohn: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats, 3 Key Fat-Soluble Vitamins, & Why Some Inflammation is Good
This is a podcast from Abel James AKA Fat Burning Man featuring Chris Masterjohn, discussing the importance of fats (and which ones to avoid and why) from a science-based perspective.
Primal Docs on "fats"
The Primal Docs blog is a consortium of expert blog posts. If you are looking for more information on fats or something specific, this might be a good place to start
Why ghee is good for you (inside AND out!) by Liz Wolfe
When we think of superfoods, we think of leafy green vegetables but ghee is the superfood of fats! It's great for you skin in every way, too, as Liz explains.
Did I miss something? Do you have another great article to add? Comment below!
From the end of May through October, we have greens and beans at least once a week. Dark leafy greens are abundant and in season, and you can use any combination for this recipe (my favorite is chard and arugula, which gives it a spicy flavor). It's very simple to prepare and dark leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense foods around, all very high in vitamins A, K, and C, and rich in many minerals and phytonutrients.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
In a pot or pan with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Once garlic just becomes fragrant (about a minute), add greens and toss them into the olive oil until coated and they begin to wilt.
Add 1/4 cup broth at a time. Cover with lid and let simmer. The amount of broth you use will depend on the type of greens you use. Arugula and spinach will require less and chard a little bit more, while kale will require a lot. Keep your eye on it and add more broth if needed. You want to let the greens cook in the broth until they are soft but there is still some liquid left (enough for the beans to absorb). The amount of time this takes will also depend on the types of greens you use. Spinach, arugula and chard will cook up very quickly, while your going to wait awhile for the kale to cook down.
Once the greens are cooked, add the beans and let those cook for a few minutses while they soak up the liquid broth. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and vinegar/lemon juice to taste (I add a splash at a time).
Fall is my favorite time of year. The leaves are changing, football is on, and the weather is cool. But the best part by far is the fall harvest and the seasonal produce available this time of year.
Right now we have an abundance of winter squashes from the farm share. Kabochas, acorns, butternuts, delicatas, not to mention pumpkins and spaghetti squashes. Not only do these hearty vegetables look beautiful on display in your kitchen or dining room but can last through the winter without spoiling (hence the name winter squashes). Winter squashes are very high in Vitamin A, and also provide a decent amount of fiber and Vitamin C, which is essential to immune function. Winter squashes are so versatile: you can roast them with salt and pepper, stuff them, toss them in pasta, use them in pies, and roast the seeds. But my favorite way to use them, and a seasonally appropriate way, is in soups. I love making soups because you can make them ahead of time, so they are a great choice if you are having company over for dinner.
I used a kabocha squash for this recipe, but I have also made it using butternut squash. Both are great!
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
With a very sharp knife, cut kabocha squash in half from stem to bottom. Scoop out seeds and guts from cavity. Brush melted coconut oil on to flesh and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place face down in a glass baking dish. Chop up the apples into chunks (quarters will work) and add apples to glass baking dish. Place in oven and roast for 45-55 minutes or until squash is soft.
Take the squash out of the oven and let it cool before you handle it. While you are waiting for it to cool (now is also a good time to make the prosciutto if you are using it--see instructions below), slice the onion. In a soup pot, add the rest of the coconut oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until caramelized.
After the squash is cool, scoop out all the orange flesh and add it to the pot with the onions. Discard the skin. Add the coconut milk and 2 cups of broth of choice. Use an immersion blender to blend all the contents together until smooth (you could also use a Vitamix or a blender but I just love my immersion blender for this type of thing). Add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind if you are using prosciutto for garnish it is going to add some salt flavor).
Serve in a bowl with crumbled prosciutto and/or diced green onions or chives. I also like to serve these with the best crackers ever, Primal Palate's Herb Crackers.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 3 pieces of prosciutto on baking sheet and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool and crumble the prosciutto into each bowl of soup.
Being 100% gluten free and living a paleoish lifestyle, I cannot tell you the last time I had a cheesesteak or something that even resembled one. The stars aligned when we received thin-sliced grass-fed beef in our most recent ButcherBox, which I highly recommend! If you're like me and have been paleo for awhile, you're probably sick of grass-fed ground beef. Grass-fed steaks are not only hard to come by but expensive. I've been really impressed with the diverse cuts ButcherBox has sent me so far. It comes out to about $6.50 per meal plus free shipping, so I think it's a great deal for the quality!
If you do not yet understand the importance of eating properly-raised meat, I will go over this in more detail in a future post. But in a nutshell, cows are not meant to eat grains. That's why they get so fat, because if they don't eat grass they get sick. I can't believe it needs to be said, but eating a sick animal is not good for you. The You Are What You Eat principle applies here. Additionally, conventionally raised or factory farmed meat is often treated with steroids, hormones and antibiotics. These toxins are stored in the fat, and then we eat those toxins when we consume the meat. Not to mention, it is absolutely deplorable the conditions those animals are raised in. Grass-fed cattle are humanely raised and a lot of the health concerns people have over saturated animal fats and meat do not apply if the animal is properly raised. Most studies that show that saturated fats are bad for you do not distinguish between hydrogenated fats (terrible!), conventional animal fats (bad!), or properly raised animal fats (good!). An added benefit of consuming grass-fed cattle products is that it is one of the only sources of Vitamin K2 (but grain-fed cattle do not contain this vitamin because cows convert grass into K2. Humans can make their own Vitamin K1 from eating vegetables, but not K2).
Anyways, in addition to having thin-sliced beef on hand, we also have had an abundance of peppers and onions from the farm share, so coming up with a cheesesteak recipe was a no-brainer. Funny story: The first time I made this, I sliced up what I thought were sweet peppers from the farm share. Turns out they were hot peppers! So our first cheesesteak skillet had a bit of a kick!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt your quality cooking fat. Add the onions and let them cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add the peppers and cook until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are soft, about 4-5 more minutes.
In a separate heated pan, cook the beef over medium-high heat until it is done, about 4 minutes. You could also cook your beef in the skillet prior to cooking the vegetables, just remove the beef and set it aside while you cook the onions, peppers, and mushrooms.
Add the cooked beef to the cooked vegetables. If you tolerate dairy, add the provolone cheese on top and set it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes or until cheese melts.
You can eat yours plain in a bowl, over some lettuce, or I had mine on an almond flour tortilla with lettuce and paleo mayonnaise (I like Primal Kitchen). If you do not add cheese, definitely add a dollop of paleo mayo to your serving of choice.
I love my jalapeno poppers, but one family can only eat so many. The jalapeno pepper harvest this year far exceeded our demand for poppers. I use my red cayenne hot sauce all the time, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a green hot sauce on hand, too, since taco salads are a weekly dinner staple in our household (I sub plantain chips for tortilla chips to make it paleo).
This recipe follows a similar formula to my cayenne hot sauce, but the flavor is less bold and more fresh.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Cut the green tops off the jalapenos and place the peppers in a pot with the garlic cloves and 1 tsp of salt. Add the vinegar. A general rule is to add enough vinegar to just cover the peppers; this is usually a ratio of 1 cup vinegar per 10 peppers but it depends on the size of your peppers. You can use that as a guide if you have any more or less peppers. Bring this mixture to a boil and then simmer until peppers are soft, usually about 20-30 minutes.
Add the mixture to a blender, along with the cilantro and 1 tsp each of onion powder and garlic powder. Blend until smooth. At this point, give it a taste and add more salt, garlic powder and/or onion powder to suit your taste. You can even add more cilantro if you feel it's necessary (I ended up adding about a handful because I love the taste). Once it is blended and tastes the way you want it to, strain it through a mesh strainer to get the seeds outs. Add the liquid to a glass jar. It will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.
NOTE: I used white vinegar because it was all I had on hand, but in my experience my hot sauces work well with either distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Traditionally, they are made with white vinegar but I have made my cayenne pepper hot sauce with apple cider vinegar and I think it tasted great. I would say it's a judgement call and you can use whichever one you prefer.
I love Frank's Red Hot Sauce as much as the next person. I really do put that $#!% on everything. And it's one of the few (possibly only) mainstream condiments that doesn't have an ingredients list that makes my head spin.
But nothing beats fresh homemade hot sauce.
I have made this hot sauce in years past and it is always a big hit. I usually give a few jars away as well, and I still have enough to last me a whole year. We toss it in wraps, on salads, over eggs, and cover our chicken wings in it. I have even put some on my sushi wraps! We get cayennes from our farm share and Farmer Paul always has bushels of extra cayenne peppers that we are welcome to take.
Some people think that fall smells like pumpkin, but to me it smells like spicy cayennes boiling on the stovetop. Consider this your warning: your house will smell when you make this!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Cut the tops off your cayenne peppers and put the peppers in a pot on the stove top. Add the garlic and 1 tsp of salt. Pour about 2 cups of vinegar on top (if you are using more or less cayenne peppers, just enough vinegar to cover the peppers is what you are aiming for. A good rule of thumb for me has been about 1 cup of vinegar per 10 peppers). Bring this to a boil and then let it simmer until the peppers are soft (usually 20-30 minutes). This is when your house is really going to start to smell! Maybe do this on a day when you can open your windows :-)
Pour the mixture into a blender, add 1 tbsp of garlic powder, and puree until smooth. You can add more salt and/or garlic powder to suit your tastes. Once it tastes the way you prefer and is blended, pour it through a mesh strainer to get the seeds out. I find canning to be tedious, but if you want to can these you could. I just pour mine into a glass mason jar and keep it in the fridge. It's safe in there for at least 6 months.
NOTE: Most people would say you need to use white vinegar. I have made this with both distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar, and both worked well. I would say it's a judgement call and you can use whichever one you prefer.
Two of my favorite things about fall are football and the harvest. Our pantry is abundant with squashes, apples, potatoes and peppers from our farm share, so look for some recipes coming up that feature all those things. This week we received a lot of jalapenos, and a 3:30pm kick-off is the perfect oppurtunity to make an appetizer like jalapeno poppers to hold you over until a post-game dinner.
Dairy is not paleo but it is paleoish. For a very long time I could not eat dairy products because of the digestive issues and skin blemishes they caused. After I worked with another nutritional therapy practitioner and healed my gut, I can finally eat dairy with no issues. I do eat it sparingly so I choose high quality full-fat dairy products, usually organic, raw and/or grass fed. Raw dairy is easier to digest, and grass-fed dairy will be higher in omega-3s and vitamin K2 (this important fat-soluble vitamin is not found in grain-fed cow products; cows can only make it by converting it from grass). Since I knew I would be heating this cheese, I made buying grass-fed a priority over raw.
If you do not tolerate dairy, you can omit it and just use sausage and bacon instead!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Preheat your oven to 415 degrees.
Slice the jalapenos in half long ways. Scoop out the seeds so it makes a little boat. If you are using cheese, slice it into blocks that fit nicely within the boat. If you are just using sausage, do the same. If you are using both cheese AND sausage (highly recommended!), add the cheese first and then lay a slice of sausage on top. Wrap your stuffed jalapeno with a slice of bacon. Depending on how many slices of bacon were in your package (I have seen anywhere from 8-16), you may need to cut some or all of the bacon slices long ways. If your bacon is not staying wrapped around your jalepeno, you can use toothpicks to keep it together. Just remove them when you are plating.
Place your stuffed jalapenos in a glass baking dish. Put them in the oven and cook at 415 degrees for about 20 minutes. Once they look done, take them out and let them sit for just a few minutes. The cheese will be very liquidy, so let it harden up a little bit before you plate them and serve them warm.
NOTE: The first time I made it I used the sausage, the second time I did not. It is REALLY GOOD with sausage.
SECOND NOTE: I have not tried this with prosciutto yet but I bet it would make a great substitute for bacon!
UPDATE: I think these are even better wrapped in prosciutto!
This article was adapted from an essay I wrote for the my certification program through the Nutritional Therapy Association.
Dr. Francis Pottenger was a physician in California who ran a sanitorium for tuberculosis patients in California in the 1930s. As part of the patients' treatment, Dr. Pottenger would supplement their diet with adrenal cortex he got from performing adrenalectomies on laboratory cats. The laboratory cats diet consisted of raw milk, cod liver oil, and cooked meat scraps. Dr. Pottenger was frustrated that a lot of the cats were not surviving the operation.
At the same time, the number of cats Dr. Pottenger was housing began to exceed their food supply, so he started giving some of the cats raw meat scraps from the local butcher, which consisted of nutrient-dense organ meats. He noticed that the cats on the raw meat diet were surviving the operations, had more lively offspring, and were healthier in general. He decided to do a multi-generational controlled experiment focusing on two components of the cats’ diet: a meat study and a milk study. In one study, he observed the difference between cooked meat and raw meat in the cats (all the cats in the meat study were given raw milk), and another study observed the difference in raw milk, pasteurized milk, condensed milk, sweetened evaporated milk, and a raw vitamin D fortified milk from either grass fed cows or grain fed cows (all the cats in the milk study were given raw meat).
Dr. Pottenger observed that the cats given raw meat and raw milk, and subsequently their offspring, maintained better health than the cats given cooked meat and processed milks. The cats given condensed milk, sweetened evaporated milk, and grain fed Vitamin D fortified milk degenerated the quickest. In fact, the cats given the Vitamin D fortified milk from grain fed cows ironically developed rickets—a disease caused by a deficiency in Vitamin D! Dr. Pottenger maintained the same exact diet throughout the generations of cats, and while the first generation of cats on the processed milk diets did degenerate, their offspring had exponentially more health issues. Details of the study can be found here and here, as well as in this book.
Some of the health issues observed in the cats on the processed diets include: facial and structural deformities, allergies, behavioral and social issues, infertility and other reproductive health issues, and other degenerative diseases. These multi-generational observations parallel what we are currently seeing in human families, now that processed and refined foods have sadly become the norm in today’s society: mental issues, behavioral problems, chronic disease, increasing food and environmental allergies, and infertility. For example, heart disease and diabetes were not common health issues prior to the 1900s; the increase of these issues correlates with the addition of hydrogenated fats, processed vegetable oils, refined sugar, low-fat fortified dairy products, and factory-farmed meat in our diet. And for what we believe is the first time in human history, the latest generation has a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
There is some hope. Dr. Pottenger was able to reverse the health of some of the third generation kittens by feeding them a completely raw meat and raw milk diet (the third generation of degenerating cats who continued their deficient diets died before reaching adulthood and were not able to reproduce). However, it took FOUR generations of the adequate diet to bring those kittens and their eventual offspring back to normal health. So we have a lot of work to do!
I think it's important to look at the overall context of this study. Obviously at the time of the study, we were not aware of the importance of taurine in a cat's diet, and now all cat food is supplemented with the essential nutrient. No one is advocating for a completely raw milk or raw food diet in neither humans or cats. But it is interesting to observe how their bodies responded to a more natural diet versus a processed one. You cannot deny that we are seeing the same effects of such diets in humans today. The founder of the NTA wrote a book discussing these parallels in more detail.
I also want to note that as the owner of two rescued cats and a pet lover (we feed them Taste of the Wild), I wasn't too fond of learning this study and reading some of the details or seeing the autopsy photos (I've spared you from seeing those, and have included a photo of my spoiled cats instead). But the results of Pottenger's experiment is a very important foundation to the study of nutritional therapy. It also serves as a good reminder that it may be possible to reverse some of the effects of our increasingly poor diet by eating nutrient-dense foods in their whole and natural form, instead of the processed and refined foods that are so prominent in today's standard diet. And while it seems cruel to feed the cats such terrible food that we know is bad for their health, how is it any different than all the refined sugar, nutrient-stripped milk, and other processed foods we currently feed kids? We can't do anything to save the cats now, but we can save our future generations from experiencing a similar fate.
If you have a few minutes, this video on the study is worth watching and is not too graphic for my fellow animal lovers. If anything, I highly recommend skipping to the 13:30 mark. "The cat that got away" is my little furry hero. I think those of you who have figuratively given a middle finger to the Standard American Diet and our flawed government dietary recommendations, and have begun the process of restoring your health through primal and other whole food nutrition concepts, can also relate to her like I can.