Valuing the Nutritional Wisdom of Past Generations

vintage children

Image by Beverly & Pack

One of my sets of grandparents hails from Newfoundland, Canada (that’s on the East coast, in the Maritimes). This particular Papa used to work on a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean after they moved to the Vancouver, BC area, many years ago. Though many of the things that I grew up on were not so healthy, one of the nutritional highlights of my childhood was a whole lot of fish. Fresh fish. Amazing fish. And thankfully, I became a lifelong eater of these incredibly nutritionally-dense creatures.

Last night, we were over at my Nana and Papa’s for dinner, where they served us (what else?) delicious sockeye salmon steaks. For some reason or other, I asked them whether they took Cod Liver Oil as children.

My Papa immediately answered “Oh by heavens, yes!” (Try, if you will, to imagine that said quickly, in a thick rogue accent, not too dissimilar from Irish. His Newfie accent is still strong as ever!)

He went on to tell me about how along the fishing wharfs, the livers from the large Atlantic cod would be put into barrels. The livers themselves and any other impurities would sink to the bottom, and the cod liver oil would rise up the the top, perfectly clear and absolutely nourishing. As children, they were expected to take spoonfuls, which they diligently did, while plugging their noses. This was the real stuff, after all. No frou-frou lemon or orange or cocoa flavoring that we’re so lucky to enjoy. (Yes, I do know that enjoy is too strong of a word to associate with cod liver oil!)

As we finished up our delicious dinner, my 5 year old started to get full. I encouraged her to forget the rest of her broccoli and rice, and instead finish up as much as she could of that wholesome sockeye salmon. I was pleased to see that my grandparents agreed with my choice, that such a nutrient-dense food like salmon was more important than a few more bites of broccoli.

If we want to learn more about the ways that people have kept themselves strong and healthy, and free from so many of the chronic and degenerative disorders of our current culture, we need to learn from the wisdom of past generations. That includes eating those traditional foods that were favored and valued for their nutritional composition, like liver and farm fresh eggs and fish and clean raw milk.

So what are you waiting for? Go take your cod liver oil, and I won’t tell if you pinch your nose when you do it (or sneak a few chocolate chips like we do in our home). Your body will thank you.

(And speaking of past generations and nutrient-dense food, I’m really looking forward to sharing what I’ve been learning as I read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price! Coming up soon!)

Do you agree that the traditional foods of past generations far surpassed ours in nutritional wisdom? Do you try to make these foods a part of your diet? Why or why not?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post

Comments

  1. My grandpa was so excited when he found out we were giving Eowyn (my toddler) CLO; “my mom used to make me take that! She said it was good for my brain.” Seeing as he’s a nuclear chemist now, a retired professor from a big university, I’d say it worked pretty well. :)

    And my daughter loves the stuff. I’m guessing it’s an acquired taste; she’s tolerated it just fine from 4 months (straight unflavored liquid). She may have even gotten some of the taste through breast milk or amniotic fluid before that, now that I think of it. But it seems that all my friends who started their kids on it young have no problem getting them to down it now!

  2. Another Newfoundlander here too….well….a recent transplant to NL from Ontario. We started taking CLO this year, on the advice of our homeopath. We got a lemon flavoured one….the kids actually like taking it. Our youngest, who gags on everything from strawberries to macaroni even has no problem taking it.

  3. Another Newfoundlander here :-) My mom tells me the same stories about having to take cod liver oil every day. She was always such a scrawny thing that my grandparents didn’t want her getitng sick. She also had to take blackstrap molasses each day — whick I’m told was chock full of iron.

    We don’t take CLO right now, but have in the past. I would take the capsule, but my children wanted it squirt into a spoon.

  4. Actually I don’t understand the why meat is more nutritious than broccoli. There is the argument made that grassfed animals consume grass which makes it healthy and yet vegetables are considered trivial. There are so many bloggers that I have seen shunning the nutritious value of vegetables over meat and dairy. To me, this diet is merely answering the wishes of individuals who are addicted to meat and dairy since it is predominantly based on those types of foods.

  5. Considering I have one set of grandparents from NL and I live in BC as well, we have more in common than I thought! Maybe we’re related. You know how NL goes! ;)

  6. What does cod liver oil do for you? I’m pretty clueless about natural supplements and such. I take a multivitamin when I remember to, and that’s about it.

    • @Ashley, Cod liver oil has really good Vitamin A and D in it, both of which most North Americans do not get enough of and which are very crucial fat soluble vitamins. It also contains all those good fats found in most fish oils, like Omega 3′s (DHA, EPA).

  7. I read that if you freeze the softgels, you won’t burp up the flavor because the softgel won’t break down until it’s in your small intestine. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds like a good idea to me!
    .-= Farmer Gal´s last blog ..They’re dogs. I’m not. =-.

  8. I forgot to say you can get it on Vitacost.com for around $5.00. 1/2 the price as stores.

  9. You can get Twinlab Cod Liver Oil (flavored or unflavored- we like the mint or cherry the best) for around $5.00. It is very affordable, and is certified free of heavy metals and contaminants. You don’t have to pay $20 or $30 for the expensive stuff. We have been taking it for years and works well. My children (almost 2 and 3) ask for it all the time!

  10. I haven’t done enough research into the CLO thing. Its on my list…

    I’ve always been concerned over a lot of what seems to be information and misinformation out there about the purity/contamination and filtering issue. I’ve heard its polluted (of course) and then I’ve heard to buy one that is not filtered because that shows its polluted and must be purified….I don’t get it.

    • @Nola, I know, there’s so much different information out there. Currently, we’re going with an unfiltered/unprocessed one that is fermented. It’s called Green Pastures. A bit pricey, but supposed to be really good, and to have the correct ratio of Vit A: Vit D.

  11. It so funny that you mention the barrels of cod liver oil in your post, as my family is from Newfoundland ,( I live in Alberta). A couple of weeks ago I was telling my mom that I had been taking cod liver oil to boost my immune system as I am pregnant and trying to do what I can to avoid cold and flu season. She told me the exact same story about her grandpa!
    I cant imagine swallowing spoonfuls of that stuff!

  12. Just the encouragement I needed! I have a bottle in the cabinet for the kids and lots of gels for me, just been putting off starting them. I’m going to set them out for us to “enjoy” at snack time today. Thanks for the encouragement you provide every day!

  13. I’ve been wondering about vegetables in the winter I know that in the past they would store some of their vegetables in cellars and eat them through the winter. It just is hard to know what to buy and not buy at the grocery store because everything is always “in season” there and I’m not so sure that it’s healthy to eat when it’s not in season. I try to stay away from canned but do buy lots of frozen veggies. I guess I’m really wondering are fruits and veggies needed in the winter and if so which ones are best?

  14. Do you have a recommendation on where to get the best price on a high quality CLO? A couple weeks ago my 4 year old was drinking some juice with CLO stirred in and he stopped and said, “You are a good mom b/c you give me CLO!” Didn’t seem like a normal thing for a little one to say and it made me smile. :)

    • @Susanna, We’ve begun buying Green Pastures, which is an excellent, high-quality CLO. The best price that I have found it is from Azure Standard Coop, if you live somewhere that Azure delivers to. Otherwise, it’s cheapest if you buy it in larger quantities at once (perhaps go in on it with other people?).
      Otherwise, Carlson CLO is quite good too, and Vitacost.com is probably the best prices that I know of.

  15. My 2 yo son has been taking fermented CLO (no flavor) for about a year now. I squirt it in his mouth with the syringe that comes with it. He loves it and takes it without difficulty. I think it helps to start as early as you can. My husband takes it that way as well, and doesn’t mind it at all. Me… I REALLY tried to do it… twice. YUCK!!! :) I broke down and ordered the capsules. A little more expensive, but at least it’s just me taking them, and I can actually get them down.

    I totally agree that seafood is such an important part of a healthy, traditional foods diet! One of my goals for 2010 is to serve seafood once a week. My mother never served it when I was growing up (in the landlocked Midwest), but I’ve come to love a lot of seafoods as an adult. So far, so good. Recently we’ve enjoyed crab cakes, clam chowder ( http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/My-Best-Clam-Chowder/Detail.aspx ), and delicious salmon filets with a pecan crunch topping ( http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Alaska-Salmon-Bake-with-Pecan-Crunch-Coating/Detail.aspx ). I also like to make tuna and noodle casserole, using real food ingredients. I have scallops in my freezer, so that’s next. I also want to try fish roe, so I need to find a good source for that. Finally, I want to get really brave and make fish stock… with heads. :)

    I loved the story about your Papa’s fishing days. Great post!

    • @Jen, We’ve got lots of the same fish-eating goals! Our family doesn’t eat shell fish, but I just recently found a source and tried buying our first first eggs (still need to find a good way to eat them), and am also about to try making fish broth (yes, with heads). I am also trying to get us to eat fish a minimum of once a week. I’d say right now we average more like 2-3 times a month, which isn’t too bad, but we could improve it.

  16. Oh my! I’m from Newfoundland too! It’s an Atlantic province, though. It’s not considered part of the Maritimes. At least, Newfoundlanders don’t consider themselves part of the Maritimes! The Maritime provinces are: PEI, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

    Moving on… I read Dr. Price’s book in the fall and my eyes were opened! It’s amazing how much information about our bodies has been lost! Anyone who’s interested in whole foods should take the time to read the book.
    .-= gilliebean´s last blog ..Merry Christmas! =-.

  17. My dad purchased a cottage in Newfoundland for the purpose of hunting moose and fishing. He loves it up there. Great story.
    .-= Jena´s last blog ..Day 2 of counseling class! =-.

  18. My kids love CLO as well, and we get the salty fermented kind. I have no idea why they like it (they’re 1 and 3), I don’t. I chase mine with a lot of water!

    I was just reading about fish roe in Real Foods for Mother and Baby and hubby assures me that he’ll be populating our freezer with tons of it this fishing season. I’m going to have to find out for sure if trout roe is okay, or if you have to do anything to it, but I’m guessing it’s great.
    .-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Hamburgers on Portobello Mushrooms with Squash Fries =-.

  19. I haven’t tried cod liver oil but it sounds… interesting! ;)
    .-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..I Can’t Bring Myself to Pay Extra on the Mortgage =-.

  20. I’m not so sure, I think we tend to romanticize the past. That said, it’s not so very long that we’ve had an agrarian society in the big scheme, so I tend to think that vegetables and meat (real meat, not factory farmed) are what our bodies need the most.
    .-= The Local Cook´s last blog ..Can eating locally save Michigan’s economy? =-.

  21. Looking forward to hearing what you’re learning in the Price book. I am currently ready “In Defense of Food” and finding it most interesting. Pollan quotes from “Nutrition… Degeneration”

  22. I definitely believe the food of past generations far exceeds ours in terms of nutrition. My grandparents ate organic whole foods all the time, only they didn’t have the title of “organic” or “whole food” because that was the norm, not the exception. Cooking from scratch and eating real food is the exception rather than the rule now, it seems.

    With regards to cod liver oil, 3 of my 5 kids will happily take the softgels and actually remind me that it is time to take them. :) The other 2, well, I sneak the liquid into their food or drink. LOL
    .-= Cindy´s last blog ..How Does Your Garden Grow? =-.

  23. Mine will chew softgels to get it! It’s great as I only have to buy one kind for our whole family! At this point it’s what ‘ve found is the most potency for the least $$ and I have a hard time taking the oil straight (though a raw milk chaser does help a ton!!!).

  24. Nancy Wang says:

    Luckily, my kids love cod liver oil!! :)