By Sally Fallon
This presentation was given at the annual conference of Consumer Health of Canada, March, 2002.
Mankind has always processed his food; food processing is an activity that is uniquely human. One type of food processing is cooking.
Traditional food processing had two functions: to make food more digestible and to preserve food during times of scarcity. This type of processing resulted in traditional foods like sausage and the old-fashioned meat puddings and haggis. It includes sourdough bread, fermented grain products, cheese and other fermented milk products, pickles, sauerkraut, and beverages--everything from wine and spirits to lacto-fermented soft drinks.
In the past, processing was carried out by farmers and artisans such as bread makers, cheese makers, distillers, millers and so forth. This type of processing resulted in delicious foods and kept the profits on the farm and in the farming communities where it belonged--food processing should be a local cottage industry.
Most importantly, traditional processing enhances or increases the nutrient value of our foods. Traditional bread making neutralizes anti-nutrients in grains to make the minerals more available; lacto-fermentation of cabbage to make sauerkraut increases the levels of vitamin C and many B vitamins many fold; and the making of yoghurt, kefir and similar products from fresh milk makes the nutrients in the milk more available and more digestible.
Unfortunately, in modern times we have abandoned local artisanal processing in favor of factory and industrial processing, which actually destroys the nutrients in food rather than increasing them, and makes our food more difficult to digest rather than more digestible. Furthermore, industrial processing depends upon products that have a negative impact on our health, such as sugar, white flour, processed and hydrogenated oils, additives, synthetic vitamins and an extrusion processing of grains. These are the tools of the food processing industry.
Ready for breakfast? Let's have a look at the typical American breakfast of cereal, skim milk and orange juice.
Dry breakfast cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. Cereal makers first create a slurry of the grains and then put them in a machine called an extruder. The grains are forced out of a little hole at high temperature and pressure. Depending on the shape of the hole, the grains are made into little o's, flakes, animal shapes, or shreds (as in Shredded Wheat or Triscuits), or they are puffed (as in puffed rice). A blade slices off each little flake or shape, which is then carried past a nozzle and sprayed with a coating of oil and sugar to seal off the cereal from the ravages of milk and to give it crunch.
In his book Fighting the Food Giants, Paul Stitt has tells us that the extrusion process used for these cereals destroys most of the nutrients in the grains. It destroys the fatty acids; it even destroys the chemical vitamins that are added at the end. The amino acids are rendered very toxic by this process. The amino acid lysine, a crucial nutrient, is especially denatured by extrusion. This is how all the boxed cereals are made, even the ones sold in the health food stores. They are all made in the same way and mostly in the same factories. All dry cereals that come in boxes are extruded cereals.
The only advances made in the extrusion process are those that will cut cost regardless of how these will alter the nutrient content of the product. Cereals are a multi-billion dollar business, one that has created huge fortunes.
With so many people eating breakfast cereals, you might expect to find some studies on the effect of extruded cereals on animals or humans. Yet, there are no published studies at all in the scientific literature.
The Rat Experiments
Let me tell you about two studies which were not published. The first was described by Paul Stitt who wrote about an experiment conducted by a cereal company in which four sets of rats were given special diets. One group received plain whole wheat, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. A second group received puffed wheat (an extruded cereal), water and the same nutrient solution. A third set was given only water. A fourth set was given nothing but water and chemical nutrients. The rats that received the whole wheat lived over a year on this diet. The rats that got nothing but water and vitamins lived about two months. The animals on water alone lived about a month. But the company's own laboratory study showed that the rats given the vitamins, water and all the puffed wheat they wanted died within two weeks---they died before the rats that got no food at all. It wasn't a matter of the rats dying of malnutrition. Autopsy revealed dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys and degeneration of the nerves of the spine, all signs of insulin shock.
Results like these suggested that there was something actually very toxic in the puffed wheat itself! Proteins are very similar to certain toxins in molecular structure, and the pressure of the puffing process may produce chemical changes, which turn a nutritious grain into a poisonous substance.
Another unpublished experiment was carried out in the 1960s. Researchers at Ann Arbor University were given 18 laboratory rats. They were divided into three groups: one group received corn flakes and water; a second group was given the cardboard box that the corn flakes came in and water; the control group received rat chow and water. The rats in the control group remained in good health throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. But the rats receiving the corn flakes and water died before the rats that were eating the box! (The last corn flake rat died the day the first box rat died.) But before death, the corn flake rats developed schizophrenic behavior, threw fits, bit each other and finally went into convulsions. The startling conclusion of this study is that there was more nourishment in the box than there was in the corn flakes.
This experiment was actually designed as a joke, but the results were far from funny. The results were never published and similar studies have not been conducted.
Most of America eats this kind of cereal. In fact, the USDA is gloating over the fact that children today get the vast majority of their important nutrients from the nutrients added to these boxed cereals.
Cereals sold in the health food stores are made by the same method. It may come as a shock to you, but these whole grain extruded cereals are probably more dangerous than those sold in the supermarket, because they are higher in protein and it is the proteins in these cereals that are so denatured by this type of processing.
There are no published studies on the effects of these extruded grains on animals or humans, but I did find one study in a literature search that described the microscopic effects of extrusion on the proteins. "Zeins," which comprise the majority of proteins in corn, are located in spherical organelles called protein bodies. During extrusion, these protein bodies are completely disrupted and deformed. The extrusion process breaks down the organelles, disperses the proteins and the proteins become toxic. When they are disrupted in this way, you have absolute chaos in your food, and it can result in a disruption of the nervous system.
So what are you going to have for breakfast? We need to go back to the old fashioned porridges, as I explain in Nourishing Traditions. These porridges should be soaked overnight in an acid medium to get rid of the anti-nutrients. Soaking will neutralize the tannins, complex proteins, enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. You soak the grains in warm water with one tablespoon of something acidic like whey, yoghurt, lemon juice or vinegar. The next morning, the porridge cooks in about a minute. Of course, you eat your porridge with butter or cream like our grandparents did. The nutrients in the fats are needed to absorb the nutrients in the grains. That was one of the great lessons of Weston Price, that without the vitamins present in animal fats (vitamins A and D), you cannot assimilate minerals and other vitamins. You can be taking mineral supplements, drinking green juices or eating organic food until it comes out your ears, but you cannot absorb the minerals in your food without vitamins A and D that are exclusively found in the animal fats.
The minute you start to process your milk, you destroy Mother Nature's perfect food. You can live exclusively on raw milk, especially milk from nature's sacred animal, the cow. We have no sense of the sacredness of our animals today. Instead, we have an industrial system of agriculture that puts our dairy cows inside on cement all their lives and gives them foods that cows are not designed to eat—grain, soy, citrus peel cake and bakery waste. These modern cows produce huge amounts of watery milk which is very low in fat.
Milk from these industrial cows is then shipped to a milk factory. Emily Green wrote an excellent article in the LA Times, August 2000 about milk processing. Milk processing plants are big, big factories where visitors are not allowed. Lots can go wrong in these factories. The largest milk poisoning in American history occurred in 1985 where more than 5,000 people across three states were sickened after a "pasteurization failure" at an Illinois bottling plant.
Inside the plants all you can see is stainless steel. Inside that machinery, milk shipped from the farm is completely remade. First it is separated in centrifuges into fat, protein and various other solids and liquids. Once segregated, these are reconstituted to set levels for whole, low-fat and no-fat milks; in other words, the milk is reconstituted to be completely uniform. Of the reconstituted milks, whole milk will most closely approximate original cow's milk. The butterfat left over will go into butter, cream, cheese, toppings and ice cream. The dairy industry loves to sell low fat milk and skim milk because they can make a lot more money from the butterfat when consumers buy it as ice cream. When they remove the fat to make reduced fat milks, they replace the fat with powdered milk concentrate, which is formed by high temperature spray drying. All reduced-fat milks have dried skim milk added to give them body, although this ingredient is not usually on the labels. The result is a very high-protein, lowfat product. Because the body uses up many nutrients to assimilate protein—especially the nutrients contained in animal fat—such doctored milk can quickly lead to nutrient deficiencies.
The milk is then pasteurized at 161 degrees F by rushing it past superheated stainless steel plates. If the temperature is 200 degrees the milk is called ultrapasteurized. This will have a distinct cooked milk taste but it is sterile and can be sold on the grocery shelf. In other words, they don't even have to keep it cool. The bugs won't touch it. It does not require refrigeration. As it is cooked, the milk is also homogenized by a pressure treatment that breaks down the fat globules so the milk won't separate. Once processed, the milk will last for weeks, not just days.