Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How Much is Too Much?

June 14th, 2013 · 72 Comments · Food for Thought

almonds - how much is too much

If someone has scrambled eggs for breakfast, egg salad at lunch, and egg quiche for dinner, most folks would say or think, “Wow, that’s a lot of eggs. Is that okay to eat?”

If someone else has cereal and milk for breakfast, grilled cheese for lunch, and lasagna for dinner, I would note, “Wow, that’s a lot of wheat.” Five years ago, I wouldn’t have said a thing. Someone who is lactose intolerant would probably also notice that dairy was consumed in large quantity at each meal. I might not.

One of the theories about the rise in gluten sensitivity is that people quite simply overconsume it, in basic ways that we don’t even notice, like the example above, because wheat is such a part of our food culture.

However, this is not a post about gluten.

It’s about everything else.

I’ve been wondering a lot lately whether we’ll end up overconsuming some of the other things that end up replacing wheat in a gluten-free or grain-free diet. (Or perhaps we simply overconsume, period.)

Eggs

Egg - Farm Fresh smaller

One example in our family is those eggs – although I don’t usually serve three egg-centric main dishes in a day, it’s nothing to have scrambled eggs for breakfast, grain-free coconut muffins (from Healthy Snacks to Go) for a snack, clocking in at half an egg per muffin and easy to eat two, and then grain-free cheesy biscuits (from Better Than a Box) with soup for dinner, with 8 eggs in that recipe.

I do believe eggs are healthy, so I’m not going to by swayed by the egg-white lovers or the saturated fat demonizers, but I wonder about quantity. Particularly in the dark days of winter, when chickens usually wouldn’t lay, or would at least seriously slow down production without artificial light, is four dozen eggs a week really what God intended for our bodies?

 

Coconut

Coconut (13) (475x356)

Coconut products are one of my favorite discoveries of the traditional foods lifestyle and a huge change from my previous life, when I hated all things coconut. (I think I disliked fake coconut flavor and never really knew what real coconuts tasted like.)

I’ve read advice from other real food bloggers describing ways to make sure they have coconut something-or-other at least once a day, advice about having some coconut oil with every meal, and I myself have recommended adding coconut oil in places you wouldn’t normally, like morning oatmeal, coffee, or smoothies.

Between coconut flour in my baked goods, shredded coconut in my granola, and coconut oil in a lot of parts of my kitchen life, we consume a good deal of this tropical food.

And there’s the rub: as much as I enjoy and now rely on coconut products, if I really want a traditional foods perspective, how would a northerner like me possibly have consumed this many coconuts?

coconut macaroon bars (11) (475x356)

In Dr. Weston A. Price’s world travels, he logged many cultures who would travel and trade for fish, for example, if they didn’t live by a source of water. So it’s possible for traditional food to be found outside its boundaries a bit, but I can’t see coconuts being quite so worldwide and pervasive as fish.

If coconut flour is the only option for going grain-free, then you’re probably not doing it in a real traditional or primal manner. That doesn’t make it wrong, but don’t kid yourself about origins of a diet.

If coconut oil feels like the only way to bring down high cholesterol or lose weight, then it’s worth exploring some other options, just out of respect for the distance the coconuts traveled to help you meet your goal. I cannot believe that a good and just God would have made it so that this one food was a “wonder food” and then make it only grow in the tropics.

I could make that argument for a lot of the more exotic “superfoods” being touted on the market today. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them, and I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t eat them, but I am pointing out that they’re probably not the only amazingly nutritive foods out there. (Unless of course we’ve tainted our food system so badly, which God could foresee, so He designed foods that would save us from ourselves that could only live in places untainted by big ag, which we could only transport and market effectively in the exact time in history that we needed them most. You see where you can end up if you keep asking questions…)

With five gallons of coconut oil in my basement, I’m really just blowing hot air and asking questions here, because I don’t plan to stop using it. I think it is wonderful…but I also think it can’t be lifted on a pedestal as the only magic bullet for anything, since much of the world isn’t designed with easy access to the product.

I’m just hoping that the body is adaptable enough to be able to utilize the good parts of the coconut, even though it’s not exactly indigenous to my piece of the world.

Almonds

almonds sm

In the Primal/Paleo lifestyle and any grain-free baking, almonds tend to play a major role. I’ve seen grain-free dessert recipes with almond flour in the crust, almond butter in the filling and crushed almonds on top. That particular dessert was delicious, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think, “Wow, that’s a lot of almonds.”

It’s easy to have almonds in your grain-free granola for breakfast, an almond flour muffin for a snack, almond butter banana bread at lunch and almond flour tortillas at dinner.

I have to question this one even more than eggs and coconut, I think, for a few reasons. First, the difficulty in cracking the nut. If you had to gather all your own food, do you have any idea how long cracking enough almonds for two cups of almond flour would take? Oy. (And for most of us, we don’t even see the green outer hull that has to come off before the hard shell.) Shelling nuts is a long and often painful process for the fingers, and I think that almond flour muffin would start to sound less important as you worked, and you might grab an apple instead.

So can traditional diets really include so many almonds? Likely not if one really wants to mimic traditional peoples, who I do not think baked with almond flour or made pancakes with almonds as the main ingredient.

The second real question with almonds is the nutrient profile. Although I love nuts for their nutrient density, almonds raise a few potential issues:

Omega 6s

Almonds are known to be high in omega 6s, the polyunsaturated fat that is inflammatory (think of them as the opposite on the constantly-in-the-new omega 3s, which are heart healthy and anti-inflammatory).

We all need to eat more omega 3s, because it’s all about the ratio of 3s to 6s. Opinions vary on what the ratio should be, ranging from 4:1 (more omega 6s) to 1:1 (even). Most Americans eat closer to a 20:1 ratio. (source) 

In other words, as long as you’re not eating 6s in everything and getting adequate omega 3s, you may not need to worry about every little omega 6. We need to eat them, just not in excess.

Here are the real nutrition facts on one ounce of almonds, about 23 nuts:

  • 3408 mg omega 6s
  • 1.7 mg omega 3s
  • ratio of 2004:1 (yikes!)
  • However, the omega 6s are only 24% of the total fat, whereas 62% is actually monounsaturated fats (the same healthy fats in avocado)

Walnuts, touted as high in omega 3s, have in one ounce:

  • 2300 mg of omega 3s
  • about about 11,000 mg omega 6s
  • ratio of 5:1, still omega 6s  higher

Note: NutritionData.com was way off on walnuts, surprising me at first. The omega 3s were very low, but the USDA calculator and caloriecount.about.com both agreed on the above data.

From what I can tell – and this is a total surprise to me, please correct me if I’m crunching these numbers incorrectly – both walnuts and almonds are actually higher in omega 6s than 3s. Walnuts have a good omega 3 rep for a few reasons: omega 3s are hard to find, and they have enough to start satisfying the recommended daily value in just a few handfuls.

Minneapolis sustainable restaurant - salmon (3)

Salmon would be another food important to eat for omega 3s, ringing in at:

  • 1253 mg omega 3s
  • 175 mg omega 6s in a 3 oz. serving
  • ratio of 1:8 (finally, something with more omega 3s for real!)
    • Of course, I just read that frying salmon, our preferred method, knocks out almost all the omega 3 benefits. Le sigh.)
  • 25% of the total fat is omega 3s; monounsaturated fats are actually highest in salmon as well.

Even though the stats on nuts seem pretty abysmal, compare to the ratios on corn, which are:

  • Corn oil ratio: 46:1 (54% of the total fat is omega 6s)
  • Frozen corn ratio: 32:1 (48% of total fat is omega 6s, but still 91% less than an ounce of almonds)
  • Corn tortilla: 40:1
  • Corn chips: 33:1

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and NutritionData.com

Is it safe to say that if your diet isn’t full of highly processed, highly inflammatory corn and soy that you’re okay with almonds? Or should anyone, no matter the rest of their diet, eat no more than a handful a day?

Oxalic Acid

This guy thinks almonds should come with a warning, and that clearly no one should eat more than a handful a day, which is pretty much all you need to get a good dose of Vitamin E and other nutrients that almonds are praised for having.

His argument is based on kidney stones and oxalic acid, and he’s a doctor, although I did not follow up on all his sources. His line of thinking may be totally off the mark, but it’s another possible fault for the role of almonds in a healthy diet, particularly as a centerpiece of that diet.

Oxalic acid or oxalates are present in many plant foods naturally. For many people, they don’t cause problems, but there are a couple issues with over-consumption of oxalates (potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and soy milk are on the “high” list, along with almonds). Calcium oxalate is insoluble, and if the body can’t get rid of it all, folks can get painful kidney stones. Gout, thyroid disease, asthma and autism are on the list of other diseases that may be impacted by high levels of oxalates.

Oxalic acid is often pinned in spinach discussions: here’s a blogger who says “avoid it” and here’s one that’s a little more balanced, differentiating between natural sources, etc. I did not follow all their sources either, because this is just one piece of a very large, very complicated picture and honestly, I don’t have the time.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

Phytic Acid

This is one subject I know a little more about, although I would never claim to be an expert. Phytic acid or phytates (two sides of the same coin, basically, as far as discussing what happens in the body when consumed, even though they’re different in a scientific discussion) are “anti-nutrients” that bind certain minerals up in a form that prevents the human digestive system from absorbing them. It’s possible that eating foods high in phytic acid, like all whole grains and seeds, may even reduce the proper assimilation of the minerals you eat in other foods at the same sitting.

All nuts have this property, because as the seed of a plant, they don’t really want to be digested. Anti-nutrients prevent proper digestion – good for the plant’s potential progeny, bad for you.

Soaking and dehydrating nuts, a process often called “crispy nuts,” reduces some of the phytic acid (and makes the nuts deliciously crunchy! It’s one of the only traditional foods preparations that makes something more delicious in almost everyone’s opinion…).

However, soaking nuts and seeds doesn’t eliminate all the phytic acid, so anytime you eat almonds, you’re battling some anti-nutrients.

This only comes into play when the brown skin is still on, so blanched almonds and blanched almond flour are exempt. However, I don’t know how to get the skins off in my home kitchen, so I’d have to buy them blanched, which brings us to the last almond issue:

Chemical Pasteurization

I discussed a little bit about the almond pasteurization law in this grain-free almond apple pancake recipe, but basically:

  • Any almonds not sold by the grower must be pasteurized.
  • There are two method: steam and chemical (PPO).
  • There’s not a huge body of evidence to prove that PPO pasteurization causes health issues, but I’m just not a fan. If I can source almonds that haven’t been sprayed with noxious gases – even if it’s only for 3 seconds and then it dissipates – well, I’m going to.
  • Steam pasteurized almonds are harder to find; organic almonds are always steam pasteurized.

OR you can buy them like I do, direct from the grower. I can’t get them blanched direct from the farm! Therefore, I have to deal with the phytic acid. And the storage. (I need a bigger freezer, I’m learning, as I research almonds today. Mine are at the end of their shelf life and I have no room for 15 pounds of almonds in my tiny chest freezer! Ack!)

So How Much is Too Much?

grain free almond apple pancakes (19) (475x356)

Beats me.

In French Kids Eat Everything, I was just reading this week that it’s very important for the French to eat a vast variety of foods, from day to day, week to week, and season to season.

It’s possible that a disadvantage of our modern conveniences, being able to have any kind of food, anytime, anywhere, is that we’re going against our bodies’ natural seasonal and geographical rhythms.

We buy almonds in 25-pound portions and eat quite a few of them, eat plenty of the same foods over and over (onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, butter, ETC.), and our 4-5 dozen eggs a week and frequent coconut consumption are also suspect, so I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. I’m just asking hard questions and starting to wonder if I’m making a nutritional mistake in the name of better health…

It wouldn’t be the first mistake I’ve made…like the way I phrased the teaser to yesterday’s sunscreen post on Facebook (I really didn’t know that a ton of people get skin cancer on their face. Please read my reply near the end of the thread if you were one who pointed out my error…I learned a lot!)

What foods do you find you eat a lot of? Would they be difficult to obtain for pre-civilized man?

And one last apology…

Yesterday was not such a good day on Facebook for Katie. I learned a lot, but I also had to go buy a gallon of humility in bulk just to get through all the comments on a few updates.

This one about the fluoride content of tea, and thereby kombucha, took quite a beating. I read an article by the Orawellness team that they asked their partners to share, and I saw the sources at the bottom and noted that they weren’t all pop culture sources, and the conclusions drawn were new to me, but they didn’t send my “no sense made” sensors ringing.

The authors of the post were very gracious to folks in the comments, and although people asked good questions about their sources and conclusions, I didn’t see anyone who positively proved that the article should be rescinded or rewritten.

Since I neither drink tea nor make kombucha, you know what? I don’t really care about natural vs. manmade sources of fluoride. There are plenty of natural things that I don’t want in my body, particularly in high levels: aluminum is one example that is also in many beverages, and the oxalates discussed above are another thing that’s natural, in food (very healthy foods, like tea!), but still a potential problem.

I’m sure I have a lot to learn about fluoride, to be honest, and if we end up with a cavity problem in our family, I’d probably pretty quickly consider fluoride back in my toothpaste, not ingested, but on the surface of the teeth. I’d also do my research a lot deeper and more diligently when it really mattered to my family’s immediate health.

As it is, I can’t possibly thoroughly research every topic about health and nutrition out there. I’m only one person, and if I actually researched it all to the extent that one should, I’d never have time to actually make the food to keep my family nourished or go to the beach to even encounter the sun/sunscreen question.

So. I promise I’ll try hard not to condemn anyone’s ignorance (I may have been a little harsh in the white flour post…), and I beg your pardon when I make mistakes based on lack of knowledge. As I said in the sunscreen update post, “I’m a stay-at-home mom who strings words together online and doesn’t use her Elementary Education certificate for much anymore…and I never claim to be otherwise.”

Thanks for sticking with me, dear readers, through the common sense and and lack thereof. I just hope and pray I have more in the end than most, just like I hope my kids have more vegetables than compromise foods by the end of each week.  

I’m all about finding the balance…

———————————————

I’d love to see more of you!  Sign up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed. You can also follow me on Twitter, get KS for Kindle, or see my Facebook Fan Page.

If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.

Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon, Honeyville, and Tropical Traditions from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.

Tags: ············

72 Comments so far ↓

  • Julie Sparks

    It is super-easy to blanch almonds at home… soak them in boiling water for 1 minute, then shock/rinse them in cold water. This loosens the skin (it will start looking wrinkly) and you can just pinch the almonds between your fingers to remove the skins… much easier than peeling hazelnuts, imo. :)

    Jill Reply:

    Thanks for that info on blanching almonds!

  • Heather

    Thank you for this article; my husband and I have been discussing this a lot ourselves, and we came to pretty similar conclusions. We will continue eating these things, but we will try to make sure they do not dominate our diet.
    As far as the questionsposed about some of your posts, I am so grateful you didn’t get defensively. I am sure that was hard, and I hope that the questions were more gracious than not. I think a constant questioning is important in the lifestyle we towards which we are all striving. How often do we avoid one hazard to replace it with another, which may be butter in some areas, but worse (or at least no better) in other ways…because we don ‘t question the associated information or our own decisions? I’m thinking agave nectar, or homemade detergents and soaps ….. yes, they may better than the conventional choices, but how much processing or chemicals have we actually avoided?
    Keep it up ; you are doing a great job! Working together to share and discuss he information we find and compile on our own is the way we busy moms are going to be able to make the best decisions…sharing research time :D

  • Amanda

    Katie,
    I’ve often had the same thoughts about coconut and it’s super powers. I’m in a northern area, and I certainly wouldn’t have it naturally occurring. I’m glad I’m not the only one who questions such things. LOL

    Okay, but what I really want to say is how much I appreciate your attitude and your willingness to retract statements. I’ve been reading many bloggers in several genres and I can’t tell you how many times I am bothered by the “final authority” mentality of bloggers. Even when someone questions them, there is no willingness to think beyond their original thought, and heaven forbid make a retraction.

    While I don’t always agree with everything you’ve said (I think it’s probably just the as you say harshness using your example of the white flour), I do so commend you for being willing to say “hey, I was wrong, I’m just a mom who….”

    Thank you for all your research and blogging. I’m often overwhelmed by technical information, but I do appreciate your no-nonsense approach. And I so appreciate your willingness to explore more and be wrong :) Because we are ALL wrong at some point or another, even those who don’t want to admit it.

    Thanks!

  • Jamie

    Question… do you really believe that just because we don’t live in a tropical climate that that somehow makes it harder for us to consume things like coconut oil? That really does not make sense… And if I am wrong please explain further to me how our bodies know what we are eating is not from the local area?

    Tammy Reply:

    Jamie,
    Did you finish reading the whole article, including the entire section on Coconuts, or did you just get your hackles up and respond?

    Please re-read that. She’s asking questions and wondering. This is not a scientific research paper. She’s wondering if we should seek out wonderful natural foods in our own climates – if there are any remaining after all man has done to our natural environments. Are there foods that would be better consumed by people living in colder climates that receive less sun throughout the year than warm, sunny, tropical ones?

    For those who state that they are eating a “paleo” diet, are people really eating a paleo diet if they are eating foods not sourced locally or nearly locally?

    These are just questions. There is no need for anger about something that she is wondering and asking her readers. Your choice of words shows that you were upset at her for asking these questions and contemplating these things. If you cannot read something like this without getting upset, what is going on inside you that does that? Research for yourself and come to your own conclusions about what is right for you and your family. Create your own blog and put yourself out there with your findings or questions.

    I for one appreciate the questions. It is certainly something to think about and determine what is right for my family. In our case, we eat a greater variety than that. But even in native cultures, that is not always possible – they eat with the changes in season and some even eat the same thing day in and day out regardless of the season and are thankful because they have full stomachs.

    Let’s be kind to one another. If you think it does not matter and our bodies cannot tell the difference in climates, simply state, “I don’t think it matters if we eat foods that are not sourced locally. I do not think our bodies could tell the difference.” It is a clear statement of opinion that way, but not an attack on the author for stating what is on her mind.

    'Becca Reply:

    Tammy, there is nothing in Jamie’s comment that makes me think she was angry or attacking Katie. She asked a question. She didn’t make “a clear statement of opinion” because her opinion isn’t clear–she doesn’t understand how Katie came up with this idea that “really does not make sense” to Jamie, and that is why Jamie is asking.

    I thought myself that Katie explained pretty well why high consumption of coconuts might not be wise for people living far from coconut habitat, but your additional explanation is helpful. It could be more helpful if you simply gave that explanation instead of scolding Jamie for asking wrong. Gosh.

    Tammy Reply:

    ‘Becca,
    Thank you for reading and responding. You could very well ask me the same question I asked Jamie, in effect, why did the way I read what she wrote bother me – and would be justified to do so…
    Where I come from, “Do you really think that…” and “That [your idea] does not make sense…” are put-downs. They are phrases designed to challenge someone’s authority, state of mind, reasoning, etc. and can be viewed as personal attacks because of the “you” factor. Maybe Jamie did not intend it to come across that way. I hope not.
    My point was that Katie’s post was not trying to come across as the authority on too much coconut, but asking a question of is it reasonable and good to use so much when it is not a locally grown item. Are there things that she could find locally that would be equally good in her climate? Beats me, but that is the first part of scientific discovery – asking questions.
    I appreciate that Katie takes the time to write her passions down and share them. I’ve seen authors recently get beaten up by commenters so often as to give up blogging. I’d really hate for Katie that because she has such a gift and it is a blessing to read her ideas.
    We become sharper when we listen to each other, listen to each other’s questions, contemplate, and respond kindly and respectfully, because then we don’t cause the other person to shut down or become defensive. Let’s explore our thoughts and ideas.
    In this age of technology, when we are miles apart and do not really know one another, and people cannot hear our voices, what we type has to be much more conscientious and thoughtful. We have become a society that attacks people for their thoughts, values, opinions, etc. because the person is not in front of us. Etiquette in what we write is critically important, develops respect, relationships, broadens our minds, and furthers our ability to contemplate and share ideas and insights.
    So, if I took Jamie’s response in a way that was not intended, I apologize. I do not want to shut her down, either, from sharing her ideas and viewpoints.
    It is important to look at our words – since we can review before posting and revise before they are spewed onto the Internet – and see if they show what we really want to say or if they can be construed in a way we would not want. Using “I believe,” “I think,” “It is my opinion that,” or even, “I don’t think I agree with your point of view on this because (it seems to me that, my research on this topic shows…)” are ways to open a healthy discussion.
    My background: I’ve worked in the computer industry for over 25 years. I worked with people locally, within the US, and around the world, including informal communications and formal newsletters and publications sent to tens of thousands of professionals around the globe.
    What we say matters, but equally important is how we say (write) it.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Tammy and ‘Becca,
    Thank you both for coming to my defense and adding to the discussion here – I think the “internet age” has really changed the way people communicate and although Tammy is right that “what we type has to be much more conscientious and thoughtful,” it usually goes the other way. I’m kind of used to it and just assumed Jamie was typing quickly, probably on mobile, and curious. ?? I didn’t even respond because I kind of did think I laid out all my knowledge in the post and established that I didn’t know much more (ha!), and clearly Jamie is not coming back to join in this discussion. You girls are wonderful! I’m edified and here to say. ;) All is well…thank you!
    :) Katie

  • Denise

    I think the world at one time was an even temp and climate. That all things were always available. The fall changed everything as did the dispersion at the tower of Babel. Maybe having what was available all the time then, now, is not such a bad thing.

    Great thoughts and a lot of time invested. Thanks!

  • Jen @ Eating My Vegetables

    Yay! I love these kinds of posts. I think about these things a lot too.

    A couple notes – if you were to be true to your heritage, living locally, etc… then you would be living right where your ancestors did and eating the same foods they did….

    But a lot of us have very confused bodies, damaged by a toxic food system and environment, and eating a little “exotic” is what helps our bodies heal. I probably would never touch coconuts and would be happy to only see them if I visited an island some day – but right now being off grains is restoring my health. Same thing with lemons and bananas and other imported foods. All of us are re-building and working toward a eat-out-of-your-backyard – healthy culture.

    The nut issues have made me relegate in the same category as other sweets – once in a while treats that I pay good money for.

    Keep the common sense coming!

  • Elise

    I’m now curious about the almond milk that my kids and I drink… but I need to stay away from soy and can’t have cow’s milk. Any suggested reading? or suggestions for alternatives?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Elise,
    The real issue with almond milk, at least in the boxes, is the additives. Tons of ‘em! If you can just blend nuts, you can make your own pretty easily, I understand. Good luck! :) Katie

    Joli Reply:

    There is a Nourishing Traditions recipe for almond milk found here: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/the-three-best-substitutes-for-a-child-allergic-to-milk/. I’ve been making it for my one-year old. It’s pretty tart plain…but he loves it blended up with banana and coconut oil.

  • Jacqueline

    I love your approach to all of these (sometimes very confusing) matters. I hadn’t really thought about that part of coconut oil, though I surely don’t intend to give it up! Like you, I do my best to compare my food choices with the question,”What was God’s design when He created this?”
    Part of the gluten issue, though, if I’m not mistaken, is that we as humans have taken the wheat God created and hybridized until it became high-gluten, and I believe we’re reaping the benefits of what we’ve sown. (No pun intended!)

  • Cory

    Hi Katie!
    Been thinking about this stuff for a while myself. It started last year when I first ventured into foraging foods. It’s amazing how much food is around us that we don’t eat! Yes, we do eat much less variety than we used to – I’ve been thinking specifically about how 1/2 our veggies are brassicas, and the other half are nightshades! We need to branch out!

    However…pretty much every culture has had a staple, and it’s frequently been a starch. For some it’s been a nut (like, say, an acorn), others a tuber, and for some others it’s meat. But there has always been something that you eat a lot of. I don’t think it could work any other way. So I don’t feel bad if we eat something three meals a day. I think that’s a natural, traditional way to eat.

    However, many of those staples were processed. Acorns have to be soaked before eating to remove tannins, I think. There are several ways to do it, but it was done. The trick was, traditional cultures really only did it one time a year, during harvest, and that was it. I read about processing walnuts (since they can be foraged), and the traditional way to do it was to bury the walnuts after collection so the green hulls would rot away, and then the shells could be cracked with a pounder or something. So it wouldn’t be too horrible to do. Plus, nut milks are a traditional food.

    So. I appreciate and agree with your point, that we need to have more variety in our diets. But I disagree that we’re eating too many staples.

    BTW – to blanch almonds at home, either pour boiling water over them, or boil them for like 30 sec. Plunge into cold water. Then you can just kinda give the pointy end a pinch and the nut should pop right out of the skin. It’s a little work, for sure, but not like picking skins off chickpeas, and kinda fun.

    Amanda Reply:

    I agree with you about the staples of diet.

  • Joli

    (btw – getting the skin off almonds is super easy: just soak in water for a few hours (as if to make “crispy nuts”) and then squeeze them right out of their brown skins…they pop right out!)

  • Sheila

    Hm. I’d say that number of eggs is pretty normal, that number of coconut products is a lot, and that number of almonds is probably too much. Because of the phytates and the omega-6′s and everything else.

    As far as eggs go, do you know anyone who keeps chickens? If you have six chickens, and they each lay four eggs a week, there’s two dozen right there! And six hens is a pretty small flock. My friend who keeps chickens is always bringing eggs over to me because they have trouble keeping up with all those eggs. And as for winter — people near the equator keep chickens, and eat eggs year-round. And the Chinese preserve them (century eggs). So it’s not un-traditional to eat a lot of eggs. As far as science goes, I don’t think there’s ever been a *proven* risk to eating lots of eggs.

    With coconuts — well, people who live in areas with coconuts eat lots of them, and genetically we are 99.9% identical to any other race of human. We’re all human and incredibly adaptable. I wouldn’t worry. Are they a superfood you can’t possibly be healthy without? Nah, I don’t believe in those. There never was a society that had coconuts AND pomegranates AND acai berry AND spirulina and whatever superfood is next. If you eat a variety of stuff, I’m sure you’ll be fine with or without lots of coconuts.

    But I think variety is key, and it’s so easy to fall into a rut. Same veggies every week, same staple that we we eat all the time. If you’re grain-free, it’s very possible to eat a wide variety of stuff — but if you’re just duplicating baked goods with nut meal, I kind of wonder if that’s right. The new Primal book, Primal Cravings (which I haven’t read), was supposed to move away from all the nut-meal baked goods, and I think that’s probably smart.

    Though I know I should not lecture you on that account. If I tried to give up bread, I’d be like a heroin addict looking for a fix the first week at least. Sigh.

  • Jen

    How can any of us eat anymore without going crazy? I’m all for my husband and children eating healthy but I honestly can not examine every morsel that passes our lips; I’d lose my mind! Personally I feel like the stress that went along with examining every effect every food could have on us was worse than just eating it. I’m all for knowledge; it was just getting too ridiculous for me. I was being crazy strict with the food and the hubs was starting to really push back. I try to just eat as close to whole, organic foods as I can, the way God made them (but isn’t everything by his design?!) and put my trust in Him to guide me in the right direction for my family. What else can you do?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Jen,
    I hit that point every so often, too, and lighten up a bit. We have to find the balance that works for the whole family, for sure. :) Katie

  • pdw

    I am grain free – also vegan, so no eggs or milk, also allergic to almonds, so none of those. Coconut products are minimal, mostly coconut oil for my skin cream. Very occasional small amounts of coconut oil or meal in my foods.

    I don’t do a lot of baking. The baking I do is generally based on buckwheat and tapioca, both starches that traditional cultures used. The other major starches in my diet are quinoa, potato, and sweet potato.

    But I don’t claim to eat a traditional or locovore diet. Our growing season is less than three months, and most of our fruit and veggies are shipped from California, Mexico, or China.

  • Kris

    I have been thinking along similar lines, myself. I try to eat pretty locally, and I think eating with the seasons (in all ways – I just had chicken in our house for the first time in 2013 on Tuesday night!) is good and right. I try to come up with a better “term” for how I feel and the best that I can come up with is REDEMPTIVE. We don’t eat a ton of coconut oil – why? Because it is shipped half way across the world to get to me and the fat that I get off the lovely Berkshire pig in the fall is RIGHT IN MY FRIDGE. We don’t buy fresh peppers or tomatoes in the winter – because sourcing such a thing responsibly is nigh on to impossible. I want to bring life in all the choices that I make. Life in the sense that Jesus called us to in Isaiah 61 – and keeping people in bondage through my buying choices (banana republics, anyone?) goes directly against that. It also IS about health – and as Dr. Price found, societies have thrived on many vastly different staple foods from all things cow, to rye bread and cheese, to rotting fish. So, no one food (ahem, coconuts) is going to cure cancer, save the world, repopulate our gut flora, and end hunger. *end rant*

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Great perspective, Kris! :) Katie

  • Jennifer @ Sweet Plantains

    Great topic! I feel like as health-foodies, we tend to get so caught up in the nourishing aspects of certain foods that we often throw variety and moderation out the window.

    For example, in an effort to let their bodies recover from the effects of wheat, people will often consume an incredible amount of alternative flours, like coconut or almond flour. Both of these are very fibrous, and can be hard on the intestines – and if someone is already suffering from a food intolerance, they’re already dealing with a leaky gut! Even consuming these foods daily can have some debilitating effects for those that need their intestines to recover.

    On the other hand, many cultures have staples that they consume every day in large amounts; my own background is Brazilian – and they eat beans at every meal! Or think of the French with bread… If you look at the entire diet, though, you see lots of similarities among cultures – in addition to their staples, their other foods are extremely nourishing and usually include more than the muscle meats that Americans prefer – the French and liver/sweetbreads/etc., and Brazilians eat chicken hearts and feijoada – which has ingredients most Americans would freak out about!

    Most of all, I think we need to listen to our bodies – not every person has the same needs, and each of our needs will change over time. Right now one might need to consume a lot of coconut oil and it makes them feel great – in a year or two, that might change. It’s important that we feel satisfied, energized and nourished after the food we eat – if we don’t, then we should consider what needs to be changed.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Great perspective, Jennifer!

  • Julie

    I’ve been thinking about this quantity/moderation problem a lot lately.

    I can’t remember where I first read or heard this idea, but here’s the gist of it: If God had created (fill-in-the-blank) as the perfect food for everyone, he would have made it readily available everywhere, in all climates.

  • Rebecca

    Interesting discussion.

    I agree with the above poster. Traditional cultures seem to have often survived and thrived on some basic staples. Depending on their location, the staples would be different. What seems to add up is the actual vitamins and nutrients they were consuming, regardless of sources. Like the Inuit culture ate/eats a lot of fish and seals and consumes the oil. Other cultures eat more farm-raised products like fermented veggies and sourdough bread… I don’t think anything is particularly “wrong”, it’s just finding the most nutritious way of processing our food to make it edible and provide the nutrition we need.

    As far as the egg issue, we have ducks and chickens that partially free-range and provide all the eggs we would ever need! They produced super-well over the winter, actually, so we had lots of eggs to eat in those dark, Northern winter months.

    As far as preserving the environment by cutting down on transportation costs, eating locally is a good idea. But I don’t believe that it is necessary for good health. Why would it be necessary to eat only the things that would have been available to our neighbors 200 years ago? Just sort of playing “devil’s advocate” here, since I don’t have a strong opinion either way. As long as food is nutritious and we’re not eating tons of one food every single day, then I think we’re fine.

  • shannon

    I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I just love your ways of thinking (maybe because I ponder the same things. LOL). I suspect that if we did eat seasonally and locally, we would be well taken care of with nutrients. BUT, with the advantage of trading and shipping that we have nowadays, we can eat even more of a variety which we may need due to things like pesticides and such. There is a give and take there. I also suspect there are many things that are no longer common for us to eat that may be beneficial, and local to our area. For example, we have a ton of mulberry bushes and right now they are ripe. They are delicious but loaded with bugs! I just can’t get myself to pick them. I was feeling a little guilty the other day just thinking of how spoiled I am, that my ancestors would probably have picked all of them and preserved them too. Just a thought…

  • Dara

    I’ve been thinking about overconsuming certain foods too (all the ones you’ve mentioned, in fact), because my son with the most allergies is developing allergies to these GAPS basic foods when he wasn’t allergic to them before.
    I think more veggies might be part of the answer (like you said)…

  • Tsandi Crew

    I think you are raising good questions. My thought about coconut and coconut oils is this: If you are going to eat that much processed coconut oil, you should also be eating that much of the diet people in the tropics eat: that isn’t an American Diet, it is a Tropical person’s diet…. a lot of fruit and vegies and fish, probably not a lot of chicken, pork, beef, or lamb. The same goes for people who eat a lot of rice. They should be eating what Asian people eat with their rice: a lot of greens and fish, some fruit.

  • Cinnamon Vogue

    As a native Sri Lankan I can tell you Coconut is good for you, but the key thing is moderation. And freshly grated coconut mixed with a salad is lovely. If you have too much of it, like all things, it is not good for you. If you have Asian portions, then this is not an issue.

    We used to love drinking Coconut water from the young coconut and then scrape off the coconut meat. Watch this YouTube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNQIE9s31e4

  • Holly

    Lots of things to think about! The main message I took from this is that we (I) need more variety in our diets. I am going to start making a real effort to do that. I have started a list of the foods I eat this week to see how many different ones I can fit in. I am only adding a food once – if I eat it again it is not added to the list a second time; this is about variety, not quantity :-)

  • Anastacia

    Hi Katie,
    I enjoyed reading this post. I’ve been wanting to ask you for a while where you purchase your nuts (I’m in southeastern MI). I’ve been living here for a year now and I’m still trying to find places for almonds, beef, chickens, dairy, eggs etc. I go to my local farmers market and can find a few things but I want to find some really reputable farms especially for raw milk, pastured chickens, and pastured beef. Thanks! :)

    Katrina Reply:

    I’m in the same area. I buy my nuts at Trader Joe’s and my meat at http://www.porretthomesteadtlcfarm.com/. Very nice to work with:). Costco for Coconut oil/organic chickens (I can get them at the farm, too, but I try not to get too much chicken).. I use TJ’s for salmon, too (smoked salmon I get at Costco, though). I’ve also goten wild caught fish at Superior Fish in Royal Oak. The RO farmer’s market has lots of options for meat, too. You can get a milk share there, too. Not a great option for organic veggies, though. I use doortodoororganics.com for my veggies. Enjoy!

  • Tsandi Crew

    You might also consider that all the baking of coconut and coconut oil with wheat flour and sugar to make yummy baked goods is not tropical fare. I don’t think I’d even make any of these recipes with coconut oil at all. As someone said previously, Asian portions. Sounds about right.

  • Stacy Makes Cents

    Just one thing from me – I’m the same as you. For YEARS I said I hated coconut. Hated it. YUCK! Then I had REAL coconut and not the junk from the store that’s already sweetened. HELLO LOVER! Yes, I do like coconut. The real stuff. The other stuff in the bag? Yuckorama.

  • When There is Lots to Do… | The Days of My Life

    [...] and whether the current trends with things like coconut oil and almond flour are going overboard here, and about head coverings here, which took me to a site that sells them here (and learned that a [...]

  • Peggy

    “Unless of course we’ve tainted our food system so badly, which God could foresee, so He designed foods that would save us from ourselves that could only live in places untainted by big ag, which we could only transport and market effectively in the exact time in history that we needed them most.”

    That’s what I love about you, Katie. You don’t stop asking questions until you have questioned your original premise. I read a book the other day in which the author said if he had his way, he’d personally replace ALL lightbulbs with CFLs. When asked about mercury and their proper disposal, he attacked the questioner about having to do everything perfectly all the time!

    We’ll never do everything perfectly all the time. There will be deficits and gluts and unintended consequences. I think the “what God intended” is a valid question, but so is the “born for such a time as this” question. I think most reasoning we can engage in is circular. Sure, three egg meals a day might be a menu anomaly, but it’s unlikely one would eat like that day in and day out.

    And the other side of the food mile issue is the responsible fair trade agreements for some foods that are being enjoyed by cultures all over the world. If the agreement is ethically set, their lives can be improved with our American dollars, and our health can be improved by their regionally available deliciousness. Isn’t that a good example of casting one’s bread on the water?

    Denise Reply:

    Great job, Peggy!

  • Elizabeth via Facebook

    I really appreciate the tone of your blog. It’s inviting and freeing.

  • Maria via Facebook

    Very interesting. I don’t know about you, but I get tired of eating the same thing over and over again. I will go through a phase of eating plain Greek yogurt with honey and granola for weeks, then suddenly (usually right after stocking up on yogurt) I lose interest. Same thing happened recently with trail mix – I made my own blend and was obsessed with it for weeks, but now I’m over it. I wonder if that is one of the mechanisms God gave us to keep us from eating too much of a thing. Then the makers of processed foods tamper with that and put additives in that make it addictive, so you literally can’t stop eating it.

    Tiffany Reply:

    I like this comment! I’m the same way, I go through phases with foods and I do believe that when something that I couldn’t get enough of last week is suddenly not appealing anymore, it’s time for something else for awhile. I love that my body can tell me that and I think there is a nutritional purpose for it. My mom always said that if I’m craving something, my body probably needs it. This doesn’t apply to junk food though, even though sometimes I want a bag of Doritos and some Swiss Cake Rolls. If I’m craving those things, sometimes I give in (depending on what time of the month it is, ha) but usually I try to look a little deeper.

  • Marie

    I’ve wondered that about eggs for a while, my husband eats 4 eggs for breakfast every day, so I try to not make egg dishes for other meals, but it’s hard, a quiche is such a yummy, easy dish. We eat eggs in everything, I used to go crazy with almond meal baked goods, but finally decided to cut it out completely, it’s so expensive, even in 25# bags, and real food is just better. I do use coconut flour, but not so often anymore, pancakes once a week or so, muffins every couple weeks, that’s about it.

  • Jill via Facebook

    I’ve been thinking about this recently, as well. My family just went on an ‘egg’ kick. Going through 3-4 dozen a week, and my son just got some eczema on his arm and we are wondering if we overdid it on the eggs.

  • Georganne

    I agree about the eating too much of any one thing premise. I also wonder about the effort and expense and wisdom of finding so many workarounds to copy “regular” foods. One of my daughters has problems with dairy. Some recipes work fine with coconut milk, and others don’t. At all. So, I made the decision to not butcher a perfectly good recipe that everyone else likes just to make it acceptable for her allergy. Instead, I give her an alternate something.

    In other cases, some alternate flour recipes are good, such as coconut flour pancakes, but my experience with other recipes are just gross. Why bother? I’d rather eat a few really good things than a lot of mediocre things.

    I recently had to adjust my diet to remove the oxalic acid foods due to kidney stones. I miss spinach, but it’s a small sacrifice to avoid the multiple stones I’ve experienced over the last year. If anyone has any advice for kidney stones, I’d love to hear them.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Georganne,
    Exactly: “workarounds to copy “regular” foods” are hardly ever “traditional” foods. I hope you find some relief with the oxalic acid! For spinach in cooked dishes, just use another green from a different family, right? Mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale…
    :) Katie

    Georganne Reply:

    My current substitute is kale. But I miss spinach…in like everything. There’s no replacing a spinach salad. Whoever heard of a kale salad with strawberries, feta, pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, or taste, for that matter.

  • Tiffany

    Katie!

    One of the reasons I love your blog so much is because I feel like we’re on this journey with you. I love your honesty and the fact that you will always acknowledge anything you might have been wrong about. I also love that you’re more than willing to learn from your readers. Your blog is very refreshing in that regard. The minute we stop questioning things is when ignorance starts to creep it’s way back into our lives. Keep up the great work.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Thank you so much, Tiffany!

  • Shelle via Facebook

    Jill Delanie Businelle; it may not be the eggs, it may well be the grains in the feed the chickens are eating? Your son may have a grain sensitivity?

  • Anne

    Katie,
    I really enjoyed this post because it is exactly the same thing I have been obsessing about lately. I’m pregnant and even though I normally eat a lot of nuts, I have cut way back because some doctors think overconsumption can cause the babies to have allergies. I am also trying to limit soy, dairy, and wheat (the dairy because my son is allergic) and it can be overwhelming to figure out what to eat. Sometimes I wish someone would just tell me what to eat so I could stop thinking about it! I am comforted though by what I read in Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules, because what I got out of it was that nutritional science is in it’s infancy. And we don’t really know all the ins and and outs of what we should eat, other than that we should eat a lot of leafy greens and avoid processed foods that have no nutritive value. And that’s something I can handle doing… Thanks for a great post!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Anne,
    So much to limit! That’s very tricky. In pregnancy, I really think your body is even more attuned to what it needs, so if you crave something (healthy), go with it. Even nuts. ;) (Ahem, disclaimer, non-professional opinion there!!) And yes, I remember that about Pollan’s book and it’s very reassuring! :) Katie

  • Katrina

    Katie,

    My nutritionist says 6 eggs a week is the most you should eat and you should have at least a 4 day non repeating menu of foods to be healthy… Does that help? I’ve basically gotten away from snacking so that I am not tempted to do fillers (nuts, muffins, etc.). I’m on the SCD diet, so I’m even MORE limited. I can’t say I hit it much. My breakfast & lunch is pretty much always the same…

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Phew. 6 eggs a week…we wouldn’t make it. For me and my husband, that’s only 2 breakfasts with eggs. No baking. We wouldn’t make it! Does 4 day non repeating menu mean like you can’t eat anything the same in 4 days? We eat yogurt every day. Again, I wouldn’t make it on that plan! But interesting perspective… Thanks! :) Katie

  • Heather

    Hands down BEST post ever!!! You hit the nail on the head. We are such a supersize nation. The bigger, the more, the better. Even too much carrot juice will turn you orange. Moderation in all whole and natural things is needed too.

  • Pat

    I really appreciated this article, made me think. My diet has become very narrow recently in my attempt to maintain an alkaline state, for general health, and specifically, to combat osteoporosis. For a grain I normally choose quinoa (to accompany my breakfast egg or to top a green salad). For nuts, almonds are my alkalizing choice. And I’m also turned onto coconut products. Therefore your Almond Power Bars are a big favorite! I’m growing kale and chard, so I’m thinking I have overdone using those raw almost daily, because of the oxalic acid. Now steaming them.

    I also appreciated the information on omegas. I’m sure I’m out of balance there.

    Thanks for reminding me to work at getting more variety into my diet. I do make smoothies and try not to use the same ingredients all the time. It is so easy to get into a rut!

    I enjoy your posts and appreciate all that you do on top of being a busy mother. I like that you are open to sharing your thoughts and questions as a real person, rather than presenting information in a dry and dogmatic manner.

    Thanks, Katie!

  • Cynthia Hill

    Thanks for this great article – I often ponder these same questions myself – especially with coconut! A couple of others I think about are vegetables – we in Northern climates would not have had fresh veggies available year round and water – we are told to drink all this water all day long – if we need to hydrate to this extent we in the past would not be able to be more than 10 ft from a water source. We were not born with a water bottle attached to our hip!

  • Weekend Links - Keeper of the Home

    [...] How Much is Too Much? @ Kitchen Stewardship [...]

  • Angela

    My husband and I were weary of the paleo/grain-free diet from the very beginning. We kept saying it was only a matter of time before health issues start cropping up. Recently we found we were right, many women especially on paleo are having thyroid issues. Women need carbs in order to regulate their hormones. Now some women depending on their ancestry can live with less carbs, others cannot. So i think it’s extremely wise to questions these diets which often up end as fads. I’m happy that people are finding a way to heal and also finding balance in their daily diets. I think diets that are healing are for a time ie. GAPS but I think it’s important to return to a variety of foods. Any time I’ve cut out a food group (except dairy) for a long season, I’ve ended up getting exhausted and putting on weight. I would say that going overboard on eggs, almonds, and coconut is not a good decision in the long-term. I wish I could intern in France and just learn how to eat. They seem to have a great handle on that.

    Amanda Yoder Reply:

    amen to interning in France to learn!!

    Elizabeth Reply:

    Everyone needs to do their own homework, and make their own decisions. And I do agree that going overboard on any one food group is not a good idea, but I don’t agree that cutting out grains means cutting out carbohydrates. There are many carbohydrates in vegetables and fruit, which are nutrient-dense sources of carbs. One cup of blackberries has more than 7 grams of fiber, compared to one cup of oatmeal, which only as 4 grams of fiber. And you’re getting a lot more nutrition for your effort with the blackberries than you are with the oatmeal. There are no nutrients in grains that cannot be found in other foods.

  • Sarah W

    Great post! Good questions! One of the topics I think about along these lines is natural ways to boost immunity/fight illness. If ever someone asks, “What can I do for this cold/flu/earache…etc” There are always TONS of different suggestions! I take this as evidence that God provided us with an ABUNDANCE of substances that can help our bodies fight illness/stay healthy and they come from all four corners of the globe (b/c there was a time when we couldn’t travel and trade for everything!). So I think they can all be good, and some might work better than others and certain people might have their favorites. The bottom line is: God provides! I also think about the fact that since God wanted us to be fruitful and multiply, he knew we would eventually form civilizations and have global commerce, that we would enjoy the “fruits” of other regions. So that is good too! But then it all comes back to balance. We are fallen, and we get ourselves out of touch with what is truly natural… so there probably, definitely, can be too much of a good thing. How do we find the balance? Who knows!! LOL! Keep asking questions, and say our meal blessing, like you often advise!

  • Amanda Yoder

    Great post! it would seem non of us knows everything, but I’m grateful for more knowledge and research! Balance does seem to be the key, but it’s hard to know what you’re balancing til you know a whole profile on each and every food!! As for white flour, I’m gluten free, but is that a similar issue of white rice vs. brown rice? Have you heard or was it you that covered that topic?

  • Christina

    I have wondered about this myself since I’ve been grain free for a year and half and both my daughters are as well (3 and almost 2). Thankfully a tight budget has forced us to resort to both alternatives to some of these ingredients, such as making flax muffins instead of coconut flour, putting seeds instead of nuts in our yogurt, and just eating less snacks in general and trying to fill up on meal foods – meats and veggies. I also try to vary our veggies and nuts by buying whatever is on sale – which thankfully changes regularly! I’m also always on the lookout for new recipes with either different ingredients or different proportions than our “usuals”.

  • Astaire Roorda

    Just discovered your blog, and I’m enjoying reading your informative and relevant posts, Katie! I completely agree with this post! If we tune into the foods that are naturally more available to us, these are often the foods we should be eating more of! It’s confusing in our culture, since we’ve lost touch with true agrarianism (if that is a word!) Re. almond pasteurization. . . did you know you can purchase truly unpasteurized almonds from Azure Standard? Their raw Spanish almonds are not pasteurized, since they’re imported. Also, Amazon sells Italian raw almonds, but they’re a lot more expensive. I LOVE Azure’s raw Spanish almonds! http://chicorganicmama.com/2013/05/20/how-to-make-almond-milk-and-some-fun-facts-about-almonds/

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Cool tip, thanks Astaire!

  • Roberta

    Re floride: as a young mother I had teeth issues at an alarming rate. Floride was added to our drinking water. No more cavities until a few years ago. We were using well water. Just for the record, I am 70 years old.

    Denise Reply:

    Must have been something else. ALL scientific data shows that fluoride taken internally does not benefit the teeth. There is some effect when applied topically.

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Roberta,
    Pregnancy and breastfeeding are very, very hard on one’s teeth, so your timing may point to life changes even more than fluoride…
    Katie

Sign up now to listen free!
Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

PTE350
Squooshi reusable food pouches