We're Not Eating What We Should

‘We're Not Eating What We Should Eat’

By Agnes Blum
Friday, February 12, 2010


Eat fat, be healthy.
It’s not nutritional advice that one hears every day, but it was the message at the Northern Virginia Whole Food Nutrition Meetup on Saturday Jan. 30. About 40 people braved the impending snowstorm and met at the restaurant Food Matters in Cameron Station to discuss how food can affect mood and health.

Paula Bass, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, spoke to the crowd as they ate a breakfast of local foods. Bass, who has been practicing in Northern Virginia for 30 years, fuses a traditional psychotherapeutic approach with nutritional wisdom.

Drawing on experiences with her patients and her own battles with health problems, she told the audience how a change in diet could dramatically alter health. One theme emerged over and over: we need saturated fat, the kind you get from animals.

"When you take the fat out, you're taking out all the good nutrients," Bass said, explaining how saturated fat helps keep the brain chemically balanced. "Without it, symptoms can mimic a psychiatric illness and then you do have a psychiatric illness, because that's the way you're feeling every day."

One little girl, for example, had always excelled in school but had begun having breakdowns and lashing out at friends and family. It turned out this second-grader had, up until recently, been eating a whole-foods breakfast with plenty of fat — pancakes, eggs, bacon — and was now eating sugar-cereal and skim milk because of the morning rush at home. Bass recommended to her parents that they ensure she eat a breakfast full of protein and animal fats. They did, and her problems disappeared.

"Food can directly influence a child's brain," Bass said. Many people who suffer from mood disorders today — everything from depression to ADD — can trace their problems to a diet lacking in nutrients and fats, she said.

“The only vegetable I saw growing up was canned string beans,” Bass joked. She traced her own turnaround in health to when she began to follow the principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation, which uses education, research and activism to promote healthy living. Their guidelines are: eat pastured meat, probiotics such as yogurt, organic fruits and vegetables and strictly avoid sugar, vegetable oils, white flour, soy and additives such as MSG. "We're not eating what we should eat,” Bass said. “And what we are eating damages the manufacture of healthy cells.”

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