Part 3 of our ‘Nourishing our Kids’ series
We’re mid-way through a discussion of the work of Dr Weston A. Price, who studied the diets of traditional people and found them to be almost entirely responsible for their near-perfect health.
I thought I’d expand on what was arguably his most important discovery, especially with respect to the diets of our modern children – that these indigenous diets contained ten times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and what we now know to be K2) than their Western counterparts.
Just to make sure we’re clear on the impact this deviation from tradition has had, especially with the anti-fat and anti-cholesterol campaigns over the past seven decades, there are now widespread epidemics of deficiencies of these vitamins.
Some 85 per cent of Australians are now deficient in vitamin D, despite our sunny climate.
And because so little is known about vitamin K2 and deficiency has also reached epidemic proportions particularly in children and adults over forty, I’m going to dedicate an entire article to it next week.
Why we need fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2
Adequate amounts of these three nutrients are important for adults, but absolutely critical in the diets of children for proper growth and development.
They’re necessary for strong bones and teeth (without decay), proper development of the organs and tissues – especially the brain and reproductive system, a robust, well-functioning immune system and good vision.
They also protect against many of the childhood issues we’re seeing today including asthma, obesity, diabetes, oxidative stress and exposure to environmental toxins, mood and behavioural issues and auto-immune conditions.
Dr Price described these vitamins as “catalysts” or “activators” upon which the assimilation of all the other nutrients depended, but especially minerals and protein.
He observed that one could have a diet rich in minerals but be suffering the hallmark signs of deficiency, if the activators were missing.
He was able to literally change the structure, shape and beauty of a child’s jaw and face simply by supplementing with rich sources of these nutrients – usually cod liver oil (the richest source of vitamins A and D) and high vitamin butter oil (which also includes K2).
Food sources of these nutrients
Vitamins A and D in their usable forms are only found in animal fats – butter, lard, egg yolks, good quality hard cheese from grass-fed animals, fish oils and foods with fatty cellular membranes like liver and other organ meats, fish eggs and shellfish.
These foods are often great sources of vitamin K2 as well (more on that next week).
We can convert some vitamin A from the carotenes found in vegetables, however 50 per cent of the population now have a genetic defect that makes this conversion difficult and there are a large range of conditions such as diabetes, gut and thyroid issues, heavy metal toxicity and nutrient insufficiencies which also interfere with conversion.
Synergy and toxicity
Fat soluble vitamins are ‘storable’ in the body and consequently there is often a fair bit of fearmongering by the establishment about potential over-accumulation and toxicity, especially when it comes to vitamin A.
The thing many in this space fail to acknowledge is the synergy between these nutrients, not to mention the near-perfect health of the indigenous people who were eating far, far more of them than we ever will!
There’s also a huge difference in the way our bodies react to food versus synthetic supplements and the studies are mostly done on the latter (or on the vegetable sources of betacarotene, which come with a greater risk of toxicity).
We now know that taking any one of the three vitamins in absence of the others can indeed lead to a relative toxicity by causing deficiencies in the other two.
Even modest amounts of one vitamin can deplete storage supply of the others.
Many practitioners now realise this and are suggesting a supplement that combines D and K2, but they still leave out the tragically demonised vitamin A.
As usual, by far the safest and most important way to consume these vitamins is via our diet.
The benefit is that they’re always found in perfect balance in animal foods and come with all their co-factors – nutrients like zinc, selenium and saturated fat – which drastically boost bioavailability.
That’s what I love about following traditional principles – it takes the need for over-analysis out of the equation!
All we need to do is eat delicious food, sourced from good farmers.
So, without further ado, here is my all-time favourite source of vitamins A, D and K2, pastured chicken livers (which I buy from Jilliby locals, Full Circle Farm), in one of the most delicious and easy ways to consume it
Recipe – Pear and sage chicken liver pâté
Chicken or duck livers have the mildest flavour, so they’re great for anyone just dipping their toes in when it comes to nose-to-tail eating.
Enjoy your pâté with sliced apple, raw veggies or sourdough toast.
Pate can be made in big batches and frozen in small portions, making it a very convenient protein/fat snack for children. For lunchboxes, simply include a small container of it frozen and it will defrost and remain cold by lunchtime.
To introduce this nutrient dense superfood for children, you can leave out the alcohol and start with a smaller amount of livers, gradually increasing to the full 500 grams.
Yields: 4 jars or ramekins.
200g butter or ghee for sauteing
1 brown onion, roughly sliced
2 cloves garlic
5 large sage leaves
1 whole pear or apple, peeled, cored and diced
500g fresh chicken livers
Optional: 30-60ml of alcohol (brandy, grand mariner, marsala or wine)
Additional butter or ghee to seal
1. Rinse and the livers and pat them dry. In a frying pan, heat roughly a third of the butter until it’s sizzling. Sauté the onion for 5-7 minutes over high heat, then add the garlic, sage and pear. Continue to sauté for an additional 7 minutes or so, until the pear has caramelised. The longer you cook it for, the sweeter and more delicious your pate will be! Keep stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
2. Add the livers, salt and pepper and sauté just until livers have cooked on the outside. You still want them dark pink inside as they will continue to cook during the blending step – overcooking the livers will result in a grainy pate. Add the alcohol and continue to stir for around 30 seconds as it cooks off.
3. Immediately transfer the contents of your pan to a food processor or blender, add the remaining butter and process on high for 1 minute or until very smooth.
4. Pour the pate into small jars or ramekins and garnish with a sage leaf. Pate will last 4-5 days in the fridge. To preserve the pate for an extra 10 days: melt some ghee or butter and pour it over the pate to seal. Consume within 4 days after seal is broken.