“Processed food, conventional wisdom, and calorie restriction wage war on health and hormonal balance.”
—Liz Wolfe, Eat the Yolks
It seems you can’t turn around these days without a new book being released by someone in the Paleo, Primal, and real food worlds. Mostly, this is a good thing, but I do wonder if the market isn’t going to be saturated at some point—and honestly, we might already be there. Many of the books that have come out in the past couple of years explain the exact same things, just using slightly different words and with different colored packaging. This doesn’t mean these books aren’t valuable, or that whoever decides to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) doesn’t have a right to contribute to the conversation. It just means that we get a lot of repetition. Same thing, different day.
The good news is, there are also books coming out that step outside those lines and bring something slightly different to the table. Eat the Yolks, by Liz Wolfe, is one of them.
I’ve enjoyed Liz’s work for a while now, so when I heard she was writing a book, I knew I’d be reading it as soon as it was published. For those of you who don’t know who Ms. Wolfe is, she’s one half of the Balanced Bites podcast, and also the woman behind the Real Food Liz website, which used to be called CaveGirlEats. She transitioned away from the cavegirl thing because although she’s still a very well-known figure in “Paleo” circles, she aligns herself more comfortably under the more permissive, somewhat more relaxed umbrella of traditional diets and “ancestral health.” But really, it’s all just semantics, because I suspect that Robb Wolf, author a book with “Paleo” in the title, would say the same thing about himself. (You start off “strict Paleo” to reset yourself and then gradually add foods back in to see if they agree with you, and it doesn't really matter if those foods are “Paleo” or not. Paleo schmaleo.)
If you’ve been around the block with this approach to diet, there won’t be much new here for you. That being said, this would be a very good resource to put into the hands of a friend, family member, or coworker, who might not be ready (or have any desire) to “go Paleo,” but who’s still buying into the low-calorie, low-fat, whole grains “thing.” You know who I’m talking about: the lady at work who brings Lean Cuisines and snacks on 100-calorie packs and laments that she’s not losing any weight. Or your sibling, who orders egg white omelets and turkey bacon and spreads margarine on their whole wheat toast when you hit the local diner for breakfast. Eat the Yolks is a good book to gently introduce these people to a different concept.
The concept of eating real, whole, unprocessed foods, the way nature (Nature?) packages them: with their fat, with their cholesterol, with their organs, skin, and other gnarly bits.
Eat the Yolks takes a different approach to real food in that it’s not a diet book. There are no recipes, no meal plans, and no numbers: no guidelines as to how much carbohydrate, protein, fat, or vitamins and minerals you, as an individual, should consume. It’s not a how-to book, but a why to. Or, rather, a how and why book: how we came to believe that saturated fat and cholesterol were bad for us and whole grains, soybeans, and “vegetable oils” were good, and why we should go back to eating the foods people valued before we were led astray.
Liz gives enough science to allay newbie fears about eating red meat, coconut oil, and liver, without endless statistics, charts, and graphs that might make non-biochem geeks run for the hills. (If you want the down and dirty on some aspects of that story, I recommend The Oiling of America. There’s a video presentation of the information here, for those of you who prefer that to reading. Ms. Fallon isn’t always the most effervescent speaker, but the material is good stuff and worth watching on a rainy day.)
Oh, and did I mention that Liz is HILARIOUS? (Ex: she refers to chicken breasts as “clucker boobage.” Classic!) If you’ve listened to her podcast or read her blog, then you know she’s the queen of pop culture references. (Especially 1980s movie quotes, which are probably my personal favorite.) She’s probably the most intelligent person I know of who makes a point to dedicate brain space to 2014 reality TV. (Not that I’m judging. If I spent half the time I devote to cooking shows writing instead, I’d have a couple novels under my belt by now.) Anyway, Liz presents her nifty nutritional myth busting in a way that is completely accessible. It’s casual without being oversimplified. When you read the book, you feel almost like you’re sitting on the couch with her having a fun conversation about this stuff (preferably over a cup of coffee with heavy cream). It’s edutainment at its finest.
I only have two issues with this book, neither of which is a big enough deal that it should make you think twice about reading this if you’re on the fence. First, the book is well sourced (meaning, Liz cites scientific journal articles, other books, researchers, etc.), but there are no numbered citations in the actual text. That means that even when she uses a direct quotation from a study, I have to sift through the references for that whole chapter and see if I can ferret out which one it came from. This is kind of a bummer for readers who would be interested in going directly to the primary literature when a quotation or even just a statistic sparks their curiosity. Not a deal breaker, just something that I would like to see remedied in a future edition if possible.
The second drawback—and this is just a personal preference—is that while I very much appreciate the casual, fun narrative voice Liz uses, and the pop culture references she peppers throughout the book, there are sometimes two or three of the latter per page, and they can get a little distracting. I’m probably dating myself here, but a handful of people born before the Carter administration might not get some of the references. (Heck, I was born right around then and I don’t get some of ‘em. Then again, that’s less because of my age and more because of my total and utter lack of interest in anything to do with “real housewives” in any county, and my only minimal exposure to teenage vampire fiction.) Again, absolutely not a deal breaker, just something to be ready for if you pick up a copy of this book and devour its buttery, egg-yolky, cod liver oily goodness. (Which I recommend.)
And just so you don’t finish reading this post with those itty bitty negative things clouding your judgment of this otherwise valuable book, I’ll share with you some of the awesome quotes she’s got in here. (For some great ones on fat, check out this post from last week.) All emphasis (italics, bold) are mine.
Want to know why vegetarian diets aren’t necessarily the best way to go? She’s got that covered:
“There are, in fact, consequences to relying exclusively on plants for protein, even if they aren’t immediately recognizable. We may not be wasting away sans protein from animals or fish, but many of us are wasting perfectly good opportunities to feel better.” (p.88)
She’s also got a few lines that go hand-in-hand with things I talked about in my recent post about the FDA’s proposed changes to U.S. food labels:
“The diet industry wants us to think about counting calories rather than establishing a baseline of health by nourishing our bodies. They act as if our problems are the result of too many calories when most of us are actually suffering from a nourishment deficiency.” (I believe the phrase I used was, “overfed but undernourished.”)
“We’re given recommended intakes for individual nutrients and are never told that the action of one nutrient also involves the actions of others.” (Which is exactly what I said about calcium, and how we’re not lacking calcium in the U.S.; we’re lacking the critical cofactors for its proper absorption and assimilation.)
Liz is also a fervent supporter of buying local foods. Here’s what she has to say about supporting small-scale local producers:
“…for some reason it’s harder to hunt and fish legally than it is to buy the carcass of a mistreated, antibiotic-laden animal, from the local supermarket. The next best thing is to support local, ethical, pasture-based producers of traditional foods like beef, bison, pork, and poultry—an excellent alternative to do-it-yourself.”
And quite possibly the single best line in the book doesn’t come from Liz, herself, but from chemist and researcher Shane Ellison:
“The cholesterol-lowering myth being spread by pharmaceutical companies worldwide could rightfully be considered the deadliest health myth in the history of mankind.”
There’s plenty more, but if you want to know what they are, you’ll just have to buy the book!
Seriously, eat them!
Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.