Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Following the Rules

I don’t know about you, but when someone is on a special diet, I get sort of turned off listening to all the things they can’t eat.  The conversation makes me sad because it makes me think about all those delicious things that I love to eat, now forbidden by the rules of this special diet.

The flip side to my reaction is that if you give me a list of the things you can eat and like to eat, then I immediately start dreaming of how I would feed you if you came over for dinner.  I suppose this issue of special diets is philosophical: do you dwell on the bright side of things, or do you linger in the dark shadows, feeling trapped by the rules and restrictions?

I prefer to look toward the light because I like the freedom that accompanies choices.  It is with that idea in mind that I wanted to discuss exactly how I will be following the principles of the SCD this week.

There are three main principles that guide the everyday eating habits of an SCDer.  The first is to eat whole foods.  The second is to eat the right carbohydrates, namely simple monosaccharides and insoluble fiber (such as that found in apple peels).  The third is to eat foods that provide beneficial bacteria, such as cultured yogurt or fermented vegetables like sauerkraut.  My niece, by the way, loves sauerkraut and eats it like candy.

The SCD pantry is not nearly as bare as you might imagine.  While there are no grains, there are all sorts of other goodies, such as whole nuts, nut butters, almond flour, coconut (including shredded unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, and coconut butter, the latter of which my sister-in-law shared with me—she’s the nicest person ever!), and honey.  Inside the refrigerator are eggs, yogurt, different cheeses, butter (or ghee for the extremely lactose-sensitive), and pickles.  Most fresh fruits and vegetables are allowed, although starchier vegetables like potatoes and corn are not allowed.  The starch in these foods is difficult to digest because it is a more complex carbohydrate.

For non-vegetarians, meat, lard, and gelatin are SCD-friendly, but I won’t be eating any of these products because I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian.  My vegetarian philosophy is that I don’t eat products that can only be obtained by killing the animal, so that’s why eggs are in but lard is not.  As an aside, I want to mention that I am a vegetarian for environmental reasons, not for personal health reasons or because I oppose the consumption of animal products.  I cast no judgment upon people who choose to eat meat.

In addition to grains, there are a few foods that I will not be eating this week in order to adhere to the SCD principles.  This list includes fresh milk and cream and all forms of chocolate.  The chocolate ban makes me very sad, but it’s only for a week so I’m going to try not to think about it too much.  I’m trying to follow the SCD as my niece Lydia does, because this whole project is inspired by her digestive troubles.  Lydia reacts badly to canned foods that have been treated with citric acid, so I will be trying to avoid citric acid.  I am not exaggerating when I say citric acid is everywhere—canned tomato products, canned artichokes, canned coconut milk.  I believe it’s used as a preservative and may be derived from corn.  We know that Lydia is sensitive to corn, so she may be reacting to a corn impurity in the citric acid.  Lydia also reacts badly to bananas (of all things!), so I won’t be eating bananas this week.

Finally, honey is the sweetener of choice for SCDers.  The reason for this is that the sugars in honey are mostly fructose and glucose, simple monosaccharides.  Honey is also a mostly unprocessed sweetener, at least unprocessed by human hands.  One could argue that honey is very processed, but bees do the processing for us!  According to Wikipedia, honey does contain some other carbohydrates, so that might be useful for strict SCDers to keep in mind when eating honey.  I’ll be using honey in my baking and cooking this week.

I have thought quite a bit about how I want to approach the SCD principles, especially when it comes to work functions where food will be served.  I’ve decided to give myself a free pass at work functions, so I will not be adhering to SCD principles at those times.  All my home-cooked meals this week will be SCD-friendly, but if the food is prepared by someone else, and I’m expected to eat it, I’m going to bow to social pressure.  In addition, while I will not be drinking fresh cow’s milk this week, I am going to use up my storebought yogurt before making a homemade batch.  I also have half a jug of buttermilk (organic! made from the milk of grass-fed cows!) that I plan to use this week because it’s a cultured milk product and it would be a damn shame to let such fine dairy go to waste.  Frugality triumphs again!  Finally, I’m a little torn about what to do with a few leftovers that are sitting in the fridge.  I may decide to eat them because I hate wasting food.  I hope you understand, dear reader.  I believe these exceptions that I’m allowing myself are balanced by all the SCD-friendly food that I’ll be cooking this week and sharing with you via this site.

And on that note, it’s time to get a pot of soup cooking!  Happy Sunday, dear readers!  May your pantries and your bellies be filled with great food.    


Brian said...

Happy Sunday, indeed! I must say, your SCD posts are intriguing, and I'm glad that your neice has had some success on it so far. Did she really gain NO weight for all those months?

A couple of things: 1) I did some quick googling about what our normal intestinal flora actually do, and here's what I found:
1. vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin K and vitamin B12
2. increased susceptibility to infectious disease
3. poorly developed immune system, especially in the gastrointestinal tract
4. lack of "natural antibody" or natural immunity to bacterial infection

That's from a Bacteriology textbook (, which may or may not be authoritative. You decide.

2) I remember you saying to me once that one can inoculate milk to make yogurt using one or two tablespoons of commercial yogurt. But since some websites excluded commercial yogurt from the list of SCD-friendly foods, I thought you might be interested in buying your own cultures :) (btw, this woman rocks)

3) Nowhere have you mentioned winter squash or beets? Are they SCD-friendly? I can't imagine living without those guys :)

4) I don't want to be too picky here, but practically speaking, I have to include dairy (and to a certain degree eggs) in the list of foods that in fact can only be obtained by killing animals. The economics of milk production simply requires that male calves (and probably some female calves, or else old(er) mothers) be killed (veal, anyone?) to keep the size of the herd from increasing exponetially. The girls are only lactating for nine months or so after birth, so to have a contant output of milk they need to keep giving birth. Also, I realize that right now a tremendous and honestly, quite inexcusable quantity of grain is used to fatten animals for meat production. But it's also true that dairy cows require either grass pastures or grain as well. And though dairy cows don't consume as much as meat cows, they still require comparable amounts of land/grain. The upshot is, there's no environmental/moral free lunch for lacto-vegetarians. In the end, I don't think meat, per se, is the problem, just the amount that we (especially Americans) eat. (And this doesn't even BEGIN to touch on the way we raise animals, which as you know is even more troubling.)

Keep up the good posts! :)

Brian said...

Whoops. About that first point: that's what happens WITHOUT our normal flora. Sorry about that.

Shannon said...

these scd posts are great! a true scientist, indeed :) let us know how that granola is, it does sound deliciuos!

i agree about thinking about all the things you CAN eat... no matter what the situation :)

Rosiecat said...

Brian, wow! What a comment! Awesome.

Yes, according to her mom, Lydia didn't gain any weight for about 18 months. That's scary.

As for your list, I'll follow your format:
1) Fascinating! While I can't speak about the authoritativeness of the source, all of those things sound plausible.
2) For strict followers of SCD, I think the important thing is to eat yogurt which has been made without adding extra milk solids to it (milk solids = more lactose, among other things). But a website with a name like has my FULL attention! I'll check it out.
3) You're right--I didn't say anything about those vegetables. Winter squash and beets are SCD-friendly, as far as I can tell. My cookbook features recipes for squash and beets. I'm not great at cooking those vegetables, but I do like eating them! :-) Send me a good recipe if you've got one!
4) Clearly you know more about this subject than I do. You're right--no one gets a free pass here. But I think that since humans are not plants, we are stuck being consumers of other organisms, so everyone's choices exist along a spectrum. I will mention, though, since I've recently had a crash-course in the logistics of breast-feeding, that milk production in humans is a supply-and-demand system. I'd be surprised if the same isn't true in cows. I'm guessing that there is a way to obtain milk from cows in a way that's gentle and humane. Or at least I hope there is, because I do care about the health and general well-being of animals.

Consumption of animal products is a terribly complicated issue, and the issues even vary from person to person, especially for someone whose food choices are severely restricted by allergies or other digestive problems. Learning about the SCD has actually made me more sympathetic to people who choose to eat meat because they can't eat a lot of other foods. But I still think we all should be striving to eat foods of the greatest nutritional value, such as milk or meat from grass-fed cows, not industrially raised, corn-fattened cows.

Shannon, thank you! The granola is delicious, but my batch isn't as crunchy as I would like. I'm going to tinker with the recipe to tailor it to my tastes. By the way, I made mine with dried apricots and it was awesome. I'd never had dried apricots in granola before!

Amanda said...

Well, Lydia has now gained 5 lbs in under 3 months on the diet (Nov 3rd will be 3 months). She had been around 28 lbs from 18 months old until 3 yrs. She is looking so healthy these days. She has more energy, her speech has taken off even more, she is sleeping better, and she eats almost everything I put in front of her. She still misses certain things like chocolate and bananas (we are reintroducing bananas today though, we will see how that goes, I have successfully reintroduced them into my diet), but it is awesome to see her eating things like sauteed onions at breakfast. I am more than happy with our results so far.

Rosiecat said...

Amanda, wow, that's awesome! At the rate Lydia is putting on weight, she'll be able to carry me around the next time I see her. "Hold me, Lydia!"

I'm happy to hear that she's doing so well on the SCD. You know, she'll probably grow up and think it's weird that other kids DON'T eat sauteed onions for breakfast. But that's okay--they'll think it's weird she doesn't eat Lucky Charms for breakfast. (I'll take the onions over Lucky Charms any day. I never really liked the marshmallows anyway!)

I'm with her on the bananas and the chocolate. I hope the banana trial goes well this week! I'm glad to hear you can eat them again.