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15 March, 2009

Al Sears, MD

If you think a low fat diet is the way to go, I would like you to consider this…

The Native American Indians had amazingly good health without any signs of modern day illnesses like heart disease. Their secret? A high fat diet.

They knew how to get the most out of their food. Nothing went to waste. They used every part of the animal including the muscle meat, tongue, organs, blood, intestines, fat, and even the bones.

What made the bones so special was what is hidden inside – a highly valued creamy substance full of flavor and full of fat. I am talking about the marrow. It was a staple in their diet. It provided a good source of fat. They also considered the marrow highly nutritious. An important part of nutrition of their children included various preparations of it.1

Fat was so important to their diets that they often selectively hunted for animals that had more fat. And when the hunting was good they killed animals just for their tongues, fat, and marrow, and threw the rest away. They usually ate the marrow raw and knew exactly how to break the femur bone so it would split open just right and expose the hidden treasure inside that they valued so much.2

Even though their diet was high in fat, they had remarkable good health without any signs of modern day diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. In fact, early explorers described them as tall, well built and muscular.3 They had the stamina, speed, and strength for the hunt. In fact, one early explorer wrote that the men could run after a deer for an entire day without resting and without any fatigue.4

The meat, organs, fat and bone marrow from the animals they ate (buffalo, deer, caribou, antelope, fish, etc.) provided them with protein and much of their fat-soluble vitamins and minerals and essential fatty acids.

In a Colorado State University and Perdue University study of fatty acids of ruminant animals (grazing animals such as deer, antelope, buffalo, caribou, elk, etc.) similar to that consumed by native Americans, the bone marrow was found to be a high source of monounsaturated fat.5 It also contained saturated and polyunsaturated fats, but in smaller amounts.

Monounsaturated fat is the good fat. And since Native Americans got plenty of it in their diet it can explain their good health. Because studies show that monounsaturated fats:6

Help prevent heart disease and stroke
Lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol)
Help improve insulin sensitivity
Promote healthy skin and cell development
Protect against certain cancers, such as breast cancer
Ease inflammation
So if you want the health of the Native Americans in today’s modern world, skip the low fat diet and make sure you get enough of the good fats. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are:

Olive Oil


Sesame Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

And of course a good source is from bone marrow. Now I am not suggesting you go and hunt down a buffalo, but you can get nutritious benefits of bone marrow from grass fed cattle. Actually, the same study of fatty acids that I mentioned earlier found that grass fed cattle had similar fat composition to North American ruminants.7

I know the natives typically ate bone marrow raw, but you’ll probably enjoy it much more if it is cooked. And you’ll be surprised at how tasty it really is. Give it a try.
You can also find bone marrow served in fine restaurants where chefs consider it a delicacy. For example, the marrow is often the best part of the Italian dish “Osso Bucco”. But if you would rather not spend the time searching for it in restaurants, you can easily prepare it at home. I buy it from Grassland Beef and prepare it myself. Here are some easy ways to prepare it.
Place bones in a baking pan, cut side up. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Or you can place them in a pan with water or broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.
You can use the marrow as a tasty garnish on meat or for extra flavor in stews and soups.
You can also spread it on bread or toast and top with salt and pepper. Or you can top it with onions, capers, black pepper, or some fresh herbs.
To Your Good Health,

Al Sears MD


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