I recently read the book “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods” and I found it to be a must-read health book that explains in a very detailed and easy-to-understand way how our diets affect us on a cellular level.
Dr. Care Shanahan provides the best explanation I’ve found for how many modern foods are not simply causing us to gain weight but are literally creating disease within our cells. She explains the connection of diet to gene health and details how poor diet choices can literally affect future generations!
The Lasting Impact of Diet
Many of us think of diet and health purely in terms of the impact to our own bodies, but as Deep Nutrition explains, the impact goes much deeper. Shanahan delves into the study of epigenetics, which is essentially the study of how existing genes can be turned on or off by lifestyle factors like diet.
Dr. Shanahan discovered many of these connections as she struggled to help her own life-long joint problems and realized that much of her conventional medical wisdom was not helping her patients. Deep Nutrition details how she studied ancient and primitive populations and found examples of life-long health and beauty that are rare in modern society.
While the entire first part of the book focuses heavily on genetic expression and how it impacts beauty (which is fascinating), the second half really provides the detailed explanation of the connection between diet and health problems, early aging, and the “diseases of civilization” we see today.
Deep Nutrition explains many of the same things found by Dr. Weston A. Price in his research with oral health, though Dr. Shanahan applies these findings to other aspects of health. Dr. Price also noted that primitive populations not only had incredible dental health without cavities or crowding, but that they had broad, beautiful faces and were naturally attractive people.
Deep Nutrition delves further into this connection between nutrition and beauty, explaining how inherited “genetic wealth” and a mother’s diet before and during pregnancy can impact a child’s appearance and lifelong health. (We see this in extreme cases like fetal alcohol syndrome, but she explains how dietary factors can have just as big of an impact in other ways).
I sincerely wish I could go back in time and give myself this book prior to conceiving my first child! Even though I have been very health-conscious in all of my pregnancies, I would have added extra of certain foods and nutrients (especially since my pregnancies have been so close together).
The Four Pillars of Traditional Diet
The “Four Pillars of World Cuisine” as Deep Nutrition explains them, are four dietary principles found in traditional and primitive cultures that manage to achieve this advanced level of health. These four nutritional commonalities occur in populations (past and present) around the world who have much better health than modern society. From the legendary Hunzas to the modern Japanese, Shanahan shows that while the specifics of their diets varied, they all had these four things in common. They consumed:
- Meat on the Bone
- Organ Meats
- Fermented/Sprouted Foods
- Fresh, Uncooked Ingredients (very specific ones!)
Our fast-paced, convenience food society has largely eliminated all of these foods, and not only do many of us not consume them daily… we often don’t consume them at all!
Much of what she suggests for optimal diet is similar to what I recommend on this site, but she provides great scientific evidence for the necessity of foods like grass-fed meats, bone broths, organ meats, fermented foods, raw dairy (if tolerated) and more.
I liked how Deep Nutrition focused largely on the positives of eating these pillar foods rather than the negatives of consuming unhealthy foods (with two important exceptions… see below).
Deep Nutrition explains how these four pillar foods literally “flip a switch” on genes, which activates certain genetic properties that otherwise remain latent.
Two Foods To Avoid Completely:
These won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with my blog, but Deep Nutrition suggests complete removal of vegetable oils and sugars (in all forms). It makes a very compelling argument for the role of vegetable oils and sugars in many diseases including diabetes, heart disease, birth defects and more. Shanahan also blows the cholesterol myth out of the water and for this reason alone, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who has been told to “get cholesterol levels down.”
If you still believe that canola oil and vegetable oils are healthy and that animal fats are unhealthy…. you must read this book!
I was already convinced of the need to avoid these foods, but reading Deep Nutrition brought a renewed desire to make sure that we aren’t consuming vegetable oils (even in hidden sources) and to up the amount of organ meats and fermented foods we consume.
Deep Nutrition makes the connection between modern over-consumption of vegetable oils/sugars and under-consumption of traditional foods and:
- Heart problems
- Various types of cancers
- Hormone imbalance
- joint problems
- Early Aging
- Birth Defects and Fetal Development Issues
- Many more
I truly believe that this book will change your perception of how foods affect the body! I’d also absolutely recommend it to any couple before conceiving a child, especially those struggling with infertility!
Weight loss certainly isn’t the main focus of Deep Nutrition, but I would expect that making the dietary changes she recommends would facilitate weight loss for many people.
There were a few minor points that I disagreed with Deep Nutrition on… mainly:
- Shanahan recommend sprouted breads as an alternative to regular breads, though many people will not tolerate even sprouted breads well (plus, these breads often have added gluten that is not neutralized by sprouting).
- There is an over-emphasis on beauty in the beginning chapters (in my opinion) and while I think the connection between good looks and health is very valid, I disagree with some of her examples of beauty
- Shanahan mentions that CLA is found only in grass-fed raw dairy, but it is found in the meat-fats of grass-fed cattle as well….
- The dietary recommendations at the end of the book are somewhat lacking and don’t provide a lot of practical tips for incorporating the 4 pillar foods. The book does explain the pillars of a traditional diet in depth though, so one simply has to find recipes to help incorporate these foods. Here are links to recipes for Bone Broth and fermented sauerkraut to get you started.
Overall, I would definitely rank Deep Nutrition in the top ten health/diet books I’ve ever read and would recommend it for its practical information and easy to read style. Dr. Cate breaks complex biological reactions into simple and easy to understand explanations and I think that Deep Nutrition will be a life-changing book for many people.
It presents much of what Dr. Price presented in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, but in a more applicable and easy to understand format. Even seasoned “nutrition-buffs” will likely gain a new appreciation and understanding of these traditional foods after reading Deep Nutrition!
I would especially recommend Deep Nutrition for any couples who are considering conceiving a child or for those struggling with health problems. Even those who don’t read the book would benefit from taking the advice to avoid Vegetable Oils and sugar and consume traditional foods instead.
Have you read Deep Nutrition? What was your opinion? Share below!