An Intro to Traditional Foods for Female Health
Updated: Feb 8
Around here you'll pick up pretty quickly that we believe food can be one of the most powerful medicines for health- but only WHEN you know how to use it, and WHEN you believe that your body wants to heal itself.
We know that our bodies are wise and want to be in homeostasis- but sometimes the way it has to go about finding it for you leads to disease, imbalances and a cascade of unwanted symptoms. We want to literally *feed* our bodies what they need to function well and keep us healthy.
For women this is especially important, as we note that the foods we eat have a direct effect on blood sugar, hormone production, regular detoxing, inflammation, gut health and even our mental health. Health in these areas keep our moods balanced, periods regulated, energy sustained, stress managed, vaginal environment harmonized and so much more.
Traditional eating habits for women not only introduce an abundance of nutrients with little to no side effects, but adopting this style of eating lends itself to an entire lifestyle full of intention, mindfulness and simplicity. Who doesn't need some more of that in their lives?
This guide will serve as an introduction to some of our favorite traditional foods. We define traditional nutrition as foods in their most whole form that are present historically across many cultures. In her book Deep Nutrition, Dr. Catherine Shanahan calls these the Four Pillars:
Meat Cooked on the Bone
Fresh Plant + Animal Products
In our discussion today, we'll hit on all of these pillars with an emphasis on introducing specific traditional foods into your own diet. Prefer to listen to this content? Find the podcast on this topic HERE.
Stay to the very end where we share our favorite resources for continued study and our very own sourdough recipe for beginners. Here's the line-up:
Bone Broth (with recipe!)
Fermented Veggies (with recipe!)
Fermented Sourdough with recipe!)
Traditional Eating Resources (best cook books and educational links)
Bone broth is made by using the leftover bones or carcass of a meat source (usually chicken or beef) and slow or pressure cooking it to the degree that the minerals from the bone and marrow transfer into the liquid it is cooked in to create a nutrient-dense broth.
Rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K2, iron, zinc, selenium, and manganese.
A great way to utilize the entire animal and diminish food waste.
Water and apple cider vinegar are needed to pull the nutrients into the broth, but any other ingredients can be added for taste, like onion, garlic, carrot, celery and various spices.
Homemade bone broth can be stored in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for several months. Some families freeze into ice cube trays to have easy access to small portions.
Use broth in soups, stews, rice or pasta cooking, or just for sipping in a mug.
Get started with our fast and simple Mineral Rich Bone Broth Recipe, you'll be a pro at this nourishing kitchen staple after your first batch!
Fermented foods are *the* original probiotic, a natural source of dozens of readily available and easily assimilated beneficial bacterial strains. A healthy gut is closely related to almost every single function inside of our bodies, but not limited to mental health, immunity, vaginal balance, and hormone regulation. Estrogen dominance, a common hormone imbalance for women, is often exacerbated by an overproduction, or under-detoxed estrogen load. Estrobolome, the gut bacteria that metabolizes estrogen, is easily disrupted when gut health is poor.
Fermented veggies can be made at home with dairy whey, or salt and some water in a sealed glass jar. Some popular choices for fermenting include: beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, garlic, kohlrabi, peppers, radishes, snap beans and turnips.
Fermenting at home puts you in control of all the ingredients, but there are some good commercial fermented veggies too, like sauerkraut and kimchi. Always buy products labeled as "raw" and "live" in the refrigerated section at the store. You can ferment cucumbers, but it is not the same as the pickling process.
For family members adverse to the fermented taste (sometimes a strong bitter or sour flavor), start by mixing in small amounts of the fermented liquid into other food dishes to slowly develop a taste for it.
Both the vegetable and the liquid make GREAT first foods for babies.
Aim for a small condiment-sized portion of ferments in every meal
Get started with our super easy Fermented Carrots Recipe, you'll be feeling confident with home ferments in no time!
Organ Meat Hacks
Organ meats far surpass any other meat source in nutrient density. This includes the liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, thyroid etc of any animal, but especially available are pasture-raised chicken and bovine. Rich in vitamin A (in the bioavailable retinol form), vitamin B12, choline, heme iron, zinc, copper, selenium, riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and folate, organ meats nourish on the deepest level- supporting normal menstruation, successful conception, healthy pregnancies and postpartum recovery. As a society, we have grown so far away from being able to tolerate the taste of organ meats that women hardly even consider it a necessary food. I have to admit myself, that there is some strategy in stomaching it.
Hack 1: Learn how to cook it. Soak overnight in milk or broth or a homemade marinade. Be careful not to overcook it, and pair with rich flavors like garlic, onion or sour and salty condiments. Liver pate is another strategy that gets organ meat in one of the most palatable forms possible.
Hack 2: Swallow it whole. Hear me out, it can be done! Slice organ into "capsule" sized pieces and glug it raw or frozen with an extra large glass of water. This is the most nutritious way to ingest organ meat, if you can handle it- it's worth a try.
Hack 3: Hide it. Buy ground organ meat, or invest in a meat grinder and use your ground organ meat mixed into ground beef or turkey. This is especially easy to hide inside pasta sauces, chilis, tacos or meatballs. This is the best way to get others in your family to take in all the nutritious benefits or liver or other organs!
You can find organ meats at your local butcher, farmers market, a small family farm nearby, or EatWild.com. If you are absolutely certain that you will not and can not eat organs fresh, desiccated liver supplements (dried and placed into capsules) are a close second best.
It's no secret that our standard western diet is totally overloaded with starchy, glutenous, processed carbs. So what makes homemade bread pass the test and make it into a traditional food category? Fermented sourdough is made from 3 simple ingredients- water, flour and salt. A sourdough starter (water and flour that is active with natural beneficial bacteria) works in place of commercialized yeast to rise the bread dough. This creates an end product that is:
Low-glycemic, preservative free, gluten reduced, easier to digest, good-bacteria fuel for your gut health and inexpensive (each loaf costs about $1.75 to make).
Rich in iron, manganese, calcium, B1-B6, B12, folate, zinc, potassium, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, selenium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin E.
Versatile: there are dozens of ways to bake and use sourdough, it could virtually replace all the bread product in you home. Fresh bread is the actual jam, but sourdough freezes nicely as well for later enjoyment.
A Beautiful One Simple Sourdough Recipe can be found HERE
Foods by Nutrient Density
A recent study done on whole food sources of nutrition identified the top foods with the greatest micronutrient content. Clearly, not all foods are created with the same beneficial components, but learn which should be prioritized (according to this research):
"Organ meat, small fish, dark green leafy vegetables, bivalves, crustaceans, goat, beef, eggs, milk, canned fish with bones, mutton, and lamb. Cheese, goat milk, and pork are also good sources. To a lesser extent, yogurt, fresh fish, pulses, teff, and canned fish without bones."
Aside from the canned fish, each item would fit into the Four Pillars of traditional foods. Also of note, every item besides the dark green leafy vegetables is an animal product.
Many of the foods we did not cover in detail in this post are easy to grab in a whole and minimally processed form: meat, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, vegetables and fruit.
Traditional Eating Resources
I hope by this point you are feeling excited about how much POWER you have over the foods you eat, and subsequently how much food-medicine you are giving your body to thrive! Although this post only serves as an introduction, we won't leave you without plenty more resources to dive into.
Vaginal Health Food Guide (with recipes for bone broth + fermented carrots)
It's exciting to think what can come out of your kitchen and your health when you embrace a way of eating (and living!) that is so full of goodness. Enjoy diving deeper into these foods, we can't wait to learn all the ways it blesses you and your family.