The Great Fast: Orthodoxy, Lent And Real Food

by Michael We do not fast because we think there is anything in itself unclean about the act of eating and drinking. Food and drink are, on the contrary, God's gift, from which we are to partake with enjoyment and gratitude. We fast, not because we despise the divine gift, but so as to make ourselves aware that it is indeed a gift – so as to purify our eating and drinking, and to make them, no longer a concession to greed, but a sacrament and means of communion with the Giver. Understood in this way, ascetic fasting is directed not against the body but against the flesh. It's aim is not destructively to weaken the body, but creatively to render the body more spiritual. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

The Place of Fasting If you are a regular reader of this blog, then it's no secret that I am a fan of both intermittent fasting (IF) and longer term fasting (more than 3 days) for health and healing purposes. I personally engage in the Eat Stop Eat intermittent fasting approach championed by Brad Pilon, not because of the marvelous health and weight loss benefits that this type of fasting provides, regardless of your dietary approach, but because it tracks almost exactly with the weekly fasting schedule that is practiced in the Orthodox Church for those who closely follow the typicon on Wednesdays and Fridays. Anyone who is even remotely interested in the physical aspects of intermittent fasting owes it to themselves to purchase a copy of Eat Stop Eat for the science behind IF. Any Orthodox readers who are perusing this post, serious about the Wednesday and Friday fasts, and struggling with their weight (and any number of minor health issues), should definitely 1 read this book. You can click on the link above or on the icon located in the right sidebar to purchase a copy (disclaimer: I receive a small fee for any purchases of Eat Stop Eat). I have also mentioned in the past that I rarely fast on liquids anymore for purely physical reasons, or when I do I like to couple it with my own spiritual tradition – Orthodox Christianity, which, while relatively tiny in the US, is the second largest Christian confession in the world. This is one of the those times, as the major fast of the Church year is now upon us – Great Lent – which in all totals 47 days of abstaining from nearly all animal foods and I have a physical issue I am addressing, caused by some very poor dental work a few years back, but more about that in a future post. Given the purpose of this blog with its basic commitment to the principles of Dr. Weston A. Price, I have received a few back channel questions from readers asking how to keep the major fasting periods of the Orthodox Church (especially Lent) while following a real food diet. There are apparently plenty of Orthodox Christians in the real food blogosphere reading and participating quite freely in blogs covering the gamut from raw foodist (note: this superb blog does not promote any particular food ideology but rather the title is more a reflection of where the author's own personal experimentation in diet has led her) 2 3 to foodie, paleo, primal, WAP, WAPish (everything but the gluten grains) , WAPF and all stops in between, even when some of these bloggers (many whom I did not mention) might have a great antipathy toward Christianity as broadly understood in the West. Because of the strong emphasis on animal foods that is foundational to most of the above dietary lifestyles in terms of quality (not quantity which varies from a little to a lot depending on the writer), in large part because of the reality that animal foods are the only source of certain essential nutrients, or at least the optimal source, keeping the Orthodox fasts can often be challenging, since the Great Fast (Lent) for example, involves 47 days of essentially vegan fare except for weekends when shellfish is allowed (and in practice also allowed during the week in many corners of Orthodoxy). Here is a question I recently received from a reader after she read my post on juice fasting.

Feel free to disregard this message, I know it's a personal question and none of my business. I just read your post on juice fasting, and I'm curious. Are you Orthodox? If so, would you be willing to share anything about how you manage the church fasts, and/or point me in the direction of some resources on the subject? I was chrismated three years ago, and still struggle with this. I'm a real-food kind of person, and the rest of the Orthodox 4 folks I know (mostly converts themselves) seem to rely heavily on tofu, TVP (editor: texturized vegetable protein), and peanut butter to get through the fasts. I really want to keep the fasts, but I also used to be a vegetarian and it nearly killed me, so… I'd love to find orthodox fasting info from a "real foodie" perspective. I love being able to apply the IF concept to Wednesdays and Fridays, and just not have any food, but it doesn't really work for Great Lent… Anyway, apologies for a random way-too-personal question from a total stranger. You just seem like someone who might know somethin I don't consider this a "too personal question" since I have never hidden the fact anywhere I have actively participated on the web, including my own blog, that I am Orthodox. And yes, as you know, like my reader, I do IF (intermittent fasting) although as I noted I don't do it primarily for health reasons, though I am fully aware of the health benefits. And also like my reader I was once a vegetarian (actually I was briefly a vegan as well), and have had difficulty with the modern standard Lenten fast because of my commitment to real food. Before I became Orthodox I juice fasted on a regular basis. My first fast was at 21 for about 3 weeks. My longest fast was 42 days on freshly made fruit and vegetable juices. I benefited greatly both spiritually and physically from liquid fasting (mostly juice, occasionally coconut water, lemon water or plain water). When I became Orthodox I now had a tried and true channel for incorporating fasting as a regular part of my spiritual ascesis. With the 4 major fasts of the Orthodox Church and the intermittent fasting on most Wednesday and Fridays, it was no longer an arbitrary "okay this is a good time to fast" kind of approach which had previously marked my adventures in fasting. Fasting, Abstaining, and Real Food The problem for me, who before Orthodoxy had basically thought of fasting as abstaining from all solid food, was how to incorporate a "food" fast into my spiritual regimen that involved a combination of both fasting (no solid food at all) with abstinence (no animal foods) when eating. I also observed on a number of occasions that one was quite able to eat lots of allowable food on the Lenten fast, and engage in what can only be described in a spiritual context as serious overeating which militates against the spirit of the fast. Another problem is that, health wise, I simply do not do well on the typical fasting fare in the West (and the Russian Federation), which is chock full of all manner of soy foods (it is hard to imagine that for most of agricultural history, unfermented soy was seen as unfit for human consumption, even in Asia), modern industrialized (i.e. genetically modified and ultra-processed) refined grains, loads of white refined sugar, junk food of all sorts filled with substances that while 5 addictive and tasty, aren't food, and vegan substitute "animal" foods made from high PUFA seed oils or wheat gluten I won't go near under any circumstance. Suffice it to say that until recently I had never been to an Orthodox meal during Lent (this is not true of the Nativity – i.e. Christmas fast – when fish is eaten on a regular basis) where either soy, refined grains and/or sugars weren't featured prominently at the table as part of every main meal (the exception being a monastery I am visiting, though white bread, jam and sugar are freely available – and freely consumed – and many of the vegetables like beets and pickles are packed in a liquid containing sugar or high fructose corn syrup). Since Orthodox fasting ultimately has a different aim than the enhancement of health (though in fact some of the Fathers specifically talk about the health benefits of fasting), it is not my intention to deal with the subject of Orthodox fasting per se, that is done elsewhere quite well by others. Thus I won't be dealing with issues like the frequency of shellfish consumption, the place of oils, how many meals per day, spicy versus bland foods, exemptions from the fast etc., since these practices not only vary among the Orthodox but aren't really germane to the point of this article. A good primer which does deal with these issues is an article by Mother Mary and Bishop (now Metropolitan) Kallistos: The Meaning of the Great Fast: The True Nature of Fasting. Information on what is generally allowed and not allowed on any given day, can be found here.

This article is strictly about how to enhance the value of your foods while eschewing most animal foods for the better part of 47 days. It is aimed mostly at people who live at home and have control of their food sources. If you find yourself in an institutional setting with far less control of your food, I have an upcoming article for administrators who wish to feed their clientele and guests better within such an environment. The article will also be helpful for those who are in settings such as dormitories, monasteries, temporary vacation settings (like a cruise), job provided meals, etc. – anyplace where groups of people are being served rather than individuals and families. The principles discussed here apply to the 3 other major Orthodox Fasts as well, although 2 of the 4 allow fish and so pose far less of a problem macro-nutrient wise (if any at all) for those committed to a real food diet. Only the Dormition Fast approaches the severity of Lent and it last for just two weeks. In addition there are 5 weeks in the Church year where no fasting is allowed at all. Essentially during "Christmas Lent" (the Nativity fast) I eat almost exactly like the Kitavans , that high carbohydrate eating (70%) pescatarian horticulturist group living on the Pacific Islands where all the diseases of civilization (diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, etc.) are virtually non-existent despite the enormous amount of carbohydrates (starches and fruit) that make up their diet (sorry Dr. Atkins). Each year after Pascha (Easter) I embark on The Milk Cure for 12 days followed by a raw milk and meat (cooked and raw) diet and its usually a deliciously happy time for me. It is not uncommon for me to knock back a quart of raw milk (or kefir) and two big thick rib-eye steaks dripping in homemade steak butter on a given day at a single meal (hint: you want to add a touch of cognac to that homemade butter recipe). The last week prior to Lent (where meat is excluded but all other foods are allowed) I like to consume a lot ofbanana pancakes on a daily basis for my midday meal and lots of fish with coconut for my evening meal (I rarely eat breakfast). The banana pancakes are an extremely tasty combination of just eggs and bananas. Basically for me its a delicious way to consume six incredible edible egg yolks every day. The pancakes are a very delectable way to eat them, especially fried in butter and coconut oil. A Case of Missing Nutrients For traditional real fooders who are Orthodox (no matter whether you consider yourself paleo, primal, WAP or even vegetarian), the modern Lenten fast as currently practiced presents two problems:
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As noted above, it is loaded with soy, refined white sugar, industrial refined grains, and processed junk foods, or what some like to call neolithic agents of disease. If you are a regular reader of my blog, I probably don't need to go here with you. You know soy in most of its forms is bad, industrial refined grains are mortal enemies to health, and processed junk food, while finding its way into many mouths around the world, doesn't even qualify as food in any meaningful sense of the word. For an introduction on what constitutes real food versus junk food, please see Winning the War on Good Food – Part 2. For a fun (yet sad) tromp through the kind of "displacing foods of modern commerce" foodstuff that Dr. Price warns about, and which normally appears in many folks refrigerators, see Lessons From A Neighbor's Refrigerator.

The modern practice of the Lenten fast generally lacks certain nutrients that are easily obtained from animal foods, but only obtained from plant foods when great care is taken concerning diet. This is where the rubber meets the road if you are an Orthodox real fooder. When we drop animal foods from our diet we lose the source of some very important nutrients in terms of quantity and quality: Crucifers are rich in calcium, and unlike other leafy greens…the calcium is highly absorbable. Crucifers therefore represent an excellent substitute for milk. They are also a great source of…vitamin K1, found in dark greens, and

vitamin K2, found in…fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and traditional Asian forms of fermented soy. Chris Masterjohn         calcium choline vitamin A (fat soluble) vitamin B6 vitamin B12 vitamin D (fat soluble) vitamin K (fat soluble) zinc For most of us we also lose our sources of dietary saturated (and to a lesser extent mono-unsaturated) fat, and if we rely on seed oils like canola during the fast, we simultaneously increase our consumption of polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), which in excess is a very bad choice diet wise. For a real fooder who is Orthodox the main question we need to answer is how to replace these nutrients on the one hand, and keep from adding or increasing less desirous foods on the other hand. Throughout this article I provide pull-quotes on how to obtain the "missing" nutrients mentioned above freely taken from an article Chris Masterjohn did for Orthodox students living in a university setting. In light of the above, it should be noted that I do not believe we need the same array of foods (animal or plant) on a daily or even weekly basis. It is quite possible to survive and thrive on a very un-balanced diet throughout the year when looked at on a monthly basis (for example), but balanced when looked at over a longer time period. I think such a diet is clearly reflected in the Orthodox fasting paradigm but I also think such a diet is, if you will, ancestrally sound: It was common to go for weeks eating nothing much but meat and was equally common to go for weeks, when hunting was poor, eating solely plant sources. The idea of a ‗balanced‘ diet on a day-to-day basis was not born-out in reality. Now this may not be optimal for everyone, but it is certainly possible for many. As I wrote earlier I routinely spend weeks chowing down on nothing but meat and dairy, and then other times eating pretty much like a Kitavan, and all points in-between. I really have given up paying attention to macro-nutrient ratios. Except for fasting days I just eat. What I like. When I want. Until I'm satisfied. All within a real food paradigm that works for me. End of story. A Couple of Caveats First, I have read some folks in cyberspace who seem to be allergic to the idea of eating higher quality food during the fast. Seriously. They seem to think eating every day conventional food is more in keeping with the spirit of the fast. One blogger was pointedly criticizing those who want to eat organic food (and who buy "expensive" shellfish) during the fast. While I understand what he/they are getting at ("organic" being perceived by them as part of the modern American fad-like bourgeois pre-occupation with food that has little to do with the Faith), I think the criticism is misguided. Organic food, or at least what it purports to represent, would have been the default food position of nearly every one before the 20th century. That doesn't mean junk food didn't exist in ancient times. It most certainly did, but it does mean that many of the issues with our food supply that we face today simply have never been on the radar screen before. People attempting to mimic that food supply, however imperfectly, aren't off-base, even if organic food is way overhyped. What is really sad is that these folks also recognize the need for adequate nutrition during the fast, and then go on to recommend things like texturized vegetable protein (TVP). So the gist is not what represents the proper Orthodox mindset versus an improper non-Orthodox mindset regarding foods, but rather the ideas about nutrition that certain Orthodox people have (or lack thereof). The TVP group is just wrong, and attempting, in my opinion, to lay on others their inadequate ideas about nutrition under the guise of what is or isn't Orthodox. Fail. But more about that below. If my travels have taught me anything, gone are the days in most parts of the world where we could simply eat what we wanted, thank God for it, and move on. There was a time when many folks default food supply was

essentially healthy. That may exist to a degree in certain foreign locales, but by virtue of trade and relatively rising prosperity, as a whole that scenario no longer exists. I will admit it is certainly easier to eat well in some countries by going native, but going native in America (unless you adopt some ethnic cuisine) probably means a boatload of white sugar, white flour, and bad oils. Not to mention the requisite trips to Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Domino's Pizza, Dairy Queen or a munching on a bunch of vegan junk food (like TVP) if one is trying to keep the fast. Technology, trade, mobility, and relative prosperity (even in the midst of our current economic crisis), in our post industrial era have made such an approach ("eat whatever") impossible, that is if you value your God given health. Unless you live in a secluded area untouched by modern civilization, the issue of food has to be thought through systematically in terms of source and quality. A more developed approach (individualized macro-nutrient ratios for example), will depend on your own particular circumstances, resources, health issues, and individual constitution. Second, when it comes to Orthodox priests and their advice concerning nutrition, I view them the same way Tom Woods views Catholic priests and their advice concerning economics, with caution. My critics notwithstanding, the primary claim I am making is not that there is no moral dimension to the economic order. Fraud, theft, and malicious failure to meet contractual obligations are crimes that amply merit the condemnation of the moral theologian. Moreover, one can raise no objection when a churchman expresses his concern regarding the material well-being of families and suggests that morally licit methods of improving it should be pursued. My point is simply this: as soon as he recommends the best or most effective way to carry out that intention — via minimum wages, various mandated benefits, heavy taxation on the wealthy, or whatever — he is entering a field in which his conclusions must be evaluated not on the basis of his authority as a churchman but instead on the rigor of the argument he makes on their behalf. If a churchman possessed some special insight into economics merely by virtue of his exalted authority, why not into other disciplines as well? Why should this special insight not extend, say, to architecture? As soon as we thus extend it, however, we see the logical problem with applying moral analysis to a valueneutral, scientific discipline. It is certainly quite acceptable to say, for example, that churches should be constructed in such a way as to give to God the proper honor that is due to him, but it is quite another to employ a moralistic idiom to pronounce upon how many supporting columns are necessary to keep them standing, or what kind of building materials are the most desirable from the point of view of structural soundness. These questions are obviously well outside the legitimate province of the moral theologian. That said, let's look at several ways we can eat during the Great Fast (Lent) without undermining our health. Make Sure You Are Eating Real Foods For most of my readers, this goes without saying. For those who need a primer on the subject, check out the following articles. o o o The War On Good Food Winning The War On Good Food – Part 2 Slaying The Low Carb Dragon

Get Acquainted with Tropical Foods Another difficult area (besides the "missing" nutrients above) during Lent for the type of real fooder addressed in this article is the question of fats, especially saturated fats. An excess of PUFA is never good for most of us, and the ability to thrive on an overall low fat diet will vary from person to person. There was a time when I could not go more than 5 days in Lent without having to add dairy to the fast. I know of other people who have had the same problem. That all changed when I accidentally stumbled upon the little known fact that even for most healthy traditional low fat groups, saturated fat makes up the majority of their fat intake. Among the Kitavans, despite the fact their overall fat intake (21%) is lower than the average in the West, their intake of saturated fat within that 21% (about

99%) is approximately 10% higher than the amount of saturated fat we consume on average in the West. Yet the Kitavans and other Pacific Islander groups who consume even more saturated fat than the residents of Kitava are not plagued by many of the diseases of civilization that plague the West (unless they "modernize" their diets). Even more interesting is that the Kitavans primary animal food is fish. So where does the saturated fat come from in their diet? From the tree that is known in the parts of the world where it flourishes as the tree of life, the coconut palm, which of course is how we obtain coconuts, whose fat is one of the most saturated fats on the planet. Now if you are new to all this and think saturated fat is bad for your health, you might want to check out this long but extremely informative article on The New USDA Dietary Guidelines: Total Hogwash, and Here‘s Why. Denise Minger pretty much clears the deck of all the pseudo-science implicating saturated fat as bad. As I wrote in my article Lessons From A Neighbor's Refrigerator, the only reason to avoid saturated fat is if you don't care about the health of the vital systems that make your body run: If your heart, bones, liver, brain, lungs, nervous system, and immune system are important to you, then ditching saturated fat puts those organs and systems at risk. It does not provide a nutritional enhancement. Thus it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my writings (do a blog search for "coconut") that the first thing I suggest is to incorporate all the products of the coconut into your diet, given that coconut fat, as mentioned above, is one of the most saturated fats on the planet. While your mileage may vary, the single most important change I made to my Lenten food habits was to make coconut fat (normally in the form of coconut milk or cream) the basis for nearly everything I eat. This may be particularly important if you normally follow a moderate to high fat real food diet, but even if you don't its importance cannot be understated. See my Kitavan commentary above. Today, I no longer have to be quite as picky about it, and can last much longer on a truly low fat protocol, though coconut milk and meat still dominate most of my weekday fasting fare. Coconut has a plethora of health benefits and should be in your diet on a regular basis even during the nonfasting seasons. You can can consume coconut as meat, milk, oil, and water (note: the previous link is the only outlet I'm aware of that sells unpasteurized coconut water (shipped frozen) in the US. They do ship their product throughout the US). Because of its highly saturated fatty acid profile, by using coconut fat during the week and macadamia and red palm oil (to a lesser extent) whenever you eat oil, one can easily keep their PUFA consumption down so long as one does not try to get the bulk of their protein from nuts. Coconut milk/cream can be used as the basis for all soups, curries, and liquids for cooking grains during the fast. It will make all these foods much more filling (and tasty). I like rice, but rice cooked in coconut cream is much superior. Same goes for buckwheat, oatmeal (link for making your own), millet, quinoa, and most other grains, pseudo-grains (like buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth) and legumes. An otherwise blah soup in terms of taste and satiation takes on a whole new life with the addition of coconut milk or cream. By the way, when cooking with coconut milk, the coco-nutty flavor completely disappears. The same is not true of virgin coconut oil, which is why I normally use refined (but not bleached and deodorized) coconut oil for cooking. Mimicking the Kitavans, even greens are more nutritious and taste better when cooked in coconut cream. Spinach is an abundant source of betaine, a nutrient that can substitute for choline. Choline is especially important for brain and liver function, and our best sources are liver and egg yolks. Since these are not allowed during the fast, spinach is an excellent replacement. Chris Masterjohn Buy young coconuts, drink the water, and eat the meat. Delicious either blended with honey/berries (the meat) or eaten alone.

Buy mature coconuts, use the water and flesh to make coconut milk, then dry and grind the now defatted flesh into coconut flour. I also use the meat to grate into salads, add to wraps, and in my chocomole recipe below. Buy or make your own coconut butter. It is very good alone or as a spread on bread, crackers, etc. A shake consisting of coconut milk, young coconut meat, mature coconut meat and various fruits (especially banana) is delicious and very filling. Whenever you use oil, coconut oil is great for roasting/frying potatoes and other starches. Unlike long chain saturated fats, its medium chain fats provide lots of relatively immediate energy for your body. Use it freely and liberally. Another tropical food source is red palm oil. Often you will see supplements listing beta-carotene as their source of vitamin A. Actually true vitamin A is only found in animal foods. In order for your body to utilize beta-carotenes (and other caretonoids) as a vitamin A source it must convert them to vitamin A. That conversion ratio is often very poor, and some folks don't make the conversion at all (non-responders). However whereas you might have a conversion ratio of 12:1 with your typical source of carotenes, because its an oil and has a large amount of anti-oxidants, red palm oil may convert at nearly a 2:1 ratioeven though it has a much higher content of pro-vitamin A (caretonoids) than most other plant sources, which usually worsens the conversion ratio (i.e. the higher the amount of carotenes in a particular food, the poorer the conversion ratio). Palm oil can be rather strong and is best with strong meats (won't work for Lent) or greens. My favorite way to use it is a part of a recipe called coconut "candies" which combines coconut meat, palm oil, coconut oil and macadamia oil, along with cocoa, raw honey and nuts. I will be posting the recipe very soon in an upcoming post. There is some controversy about red palm oil from SE Asia so you probably want to stick with oils produced from West Africa. You can check out this website for a source of red palm oil at retail and ideas for how to incorporate it into your diet, or you can simply purchase it through my amazon link earlier in the article or in the sidebar. Consider the Lowly Potato Just as during the nativity fast fish takes a front and center role (for me), during the Lenten fast potatoes (along with coconut fat) takes on a very prominent role. Chris Voigt, the head of the Washington State Potato Commission, recently made news by going on an 60 day all potato diet. He thought the potato was getting a bad rap as a "fattening" food and the cause of other diseases as well. His final results are interesting: Besides sleeping well and remaining full of energy during the day, I benefitted from his all-potato diet in other ways, according to my blood tests and other measurements. Check them out: Beginning weight: 197 Beginning blood glucose: 104 Beginning cholesterol: 214 Beginning triglycerides: 135 60 day weight: 176 60 day blood glucose: 94 60 day cholesterol: 147 60 day triglycerides: 75

My ending blood pressure was 112 over 70. What is equally interesting is the apparent staying power of potatoes. In an article in the local Seattle paper, Voigt mentions how incredibly filling are potatoes. "To get to 20 potatoes, Voigt said, 'You keep spooning, keep shoveling into my mouth.'" Boring for sure, but he had to shovel it in and force himself to eat enough for calories sake. One source says that 6-8 potatoes provides all the complete protein you need. I haven't found a confirming source (thus no cite) but if true that would be a rarity in the vegetable world. In Voigt's case his daily 20 potatoes consumption provided 60 grams a day. This article makes the case that potatoes provide a very high satiety factor, the highest of all foods tested within a 2 hour period.

Though most of us go longer than two hours between meals, I can tell you from personal experience that many a spartan Lenten meal (where I was a guest) that would have otherwise left me hungry in a relatively short time, was saved by the presence of potatoes. Rediscover the Pseudo-Grains One thing that has intrigued me is how many primal/paleo people and WAPF folk seems to be enraptured by nuts. Nuts are high in PUFA's (except macadamias), often rancid, and in my own experience both personally and working with others, very difficult for the body to handle in anything other than tiny amounts, no matter what you do to them. To make matters even worse, certain parts of the paleo/primal world have resorted to using nut flours in order to avoid the problems connected with modern grains. Thing is, nut flours have absolutely no history of traditional use that I am aware of, and if you think rancid PUFA's are a problem in grain flours, its even worse in nut flours because the amount of PUFA's tend to be greater. Historically seeds have been used as flours and behave much more closely and taste very similar to traditional grains, so much so that many people mistake them for grains and they are often called pseudo-grains. They are nutritional powerhouses and contain no gluten. Your mileage may vary but if you want something "grain-like" during the fast, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and wild rice are a good way to go. Of course I recognize that some people are sensitive even to these pseudo-grains, in which case you should pass them by. Rediscover the Ancient Grains If you are one of those folks who can tolerate gluten grains in some form (wheat, rye, barley), either extremely fresh, sprouted, fermented, long fermented or soaked (or some combination thereof), then you clearly have more options in a diet of this nature. Still, I have a suggestion when it comes to wheat in particular. Avoid all modern wheat. Period. Wheat has undergone a transformation over the last 30 – 50 years making it virtually unrecognizable in comparison with its ancient ancestor(s). From 3 strains 9000 years ago to over 25,000 varieties today, I don't think its a coincidence that most of the problems associated with wheat consumption have coincided with this explosion in hybridization. But all is not lost. Dr. Davis of The Heart Scan Blog did an N=1 experiment on the ancient wheat varieties emmer (farro) and einkorn, and the results were quite dramatic, to say the least. Dr. Davis, a dedicated low-carber, experienced none of the problems he normally encounters from eating conventional modern wheat. If wheat were a staple in my diet (it is not, not even during the Great Fast), in light of the above I'm not sure I would be trying to "properly prepare" modern wheat with any of the techniques mentioned above (fresh grinding, fermenting, etc.). I think I would improve the source (ditch the modern variety for its ancient counterparts) and then go from there. My Lenten Menu Vitamin D is often called the ―sunshine vitamin.‖ Getting plenty of vitamin D will reduce our need for calcium, and may have many other benefits as well. Spending time outside and getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine will help boost our vitamin D status. So what does my diet look like during Lent? Here is a sample of some of the things I eat with an emphasis on the use of coconut. For the most part it's rather simple although I have included a number of recipes that go beyond just simple. Keep in mind that this is a N=1 approach, not the gospel according to St. Paul. This is what I have found works for me. You the reader may put this together in a different way (while still focusing on real food) that works for you. Soups Two versions of coconut lentil soup (see below), along with a smashed avocado vegetable sandwich using bread

or a coconut wrap, are basically my weekday go to foods during Lent. The soups incorporate lots of saturated fat in the form of coconut milk/cream and added with lentils, split peas, and/or rice they are quite filling and nutritious (and yes they are delicious as well). I can cook a large volume in advance, and either refrigerate or freeze the remaining amounts. If you freeze the soup, make sure you separate the soup into individual servings before doing so. Its quite simple if you have a vacuum sealer. Then when its time to eat you just pop the sealed bag into boiling water. Coconut Red Lentil Soup eaten over specially soaked brown rice or Haiga rice which has the bran removed but keeps the germ intact or just good old plain white rice. Garam Masala Lentil or Yellow Split Pea Soup with Coconut Milk – I had to tweak this recipe quite a bit to get the spices right. Otherwise I found it very bland which actually might be okay for Lent. I also use only coconut cream and double the amount of coconut called for in the recipe. Sweet Potatoes Sweet potato pie with macadamia nut crust or sweet potatoes/yams cooked in coconut cream Your best best is to find a sweet potato pie recipe that you like and then adjust it according to Lenten and real food standards. I use only coconut cream. I sweeten with bananas or blended dates rather than sugar. With enough coconut cream it will set up quite well in the refrigerator. For the crust it is just blended nuts and a little oil pressed into a pie shell. This recipe I usually eat for lunch when two meals are allowed (while observances vary, unless I am away from home I tend to follow the typicon very strictly) in many different variations. Sometimes as a pie, sometimes in a bowl without the crust as a "soup," and sometimes as a side dish with my smashed avocado sandwich. Baked Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Coconut Milk Soup – you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, or just add an extra can of coconut milk in place of the broth (and a little coconut water if you like). Potatoes Dum Aloo: Potatoes Simmered in Spices & Coconut Milk Fried potatoes with onions in coconut and olive oil are a fixture nearly every weekend. Yellow Split Pea Dahl Recipe with Potatoes and Coconut Milk – I use coconut cream rather than yogurt for the garnish Potatoes Baked in Coconut Milk (Parve) – replace the margarine and canola oil (used for sauteeing) with either coconut, palm, or macadamia nut oil and you are good to go. Mushrooms And Potatoes in Coconut Milk Gravy Red Potatoes and Peas in Coconut Milk Scalloped Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Chilies Fruit Bananas are best known for their rich content of potassium, but bananas are also a great source of vitamin B6…plant foods generally contain less than animal foods and what they do contain is less absorbable. Bananas, however, contain lots of B6 in a highly absorbable form. Chris Masterjohn Smashed Avocado sandwich Smashed is just a synonym for blended avocado. I spread my wrap or bread with a thick layer of avocado/guacamole, add tomatoes, onions (usually sauteed), portabello, pickles, sliced cucumber, sauerkraut,

and lettuce. Top it with mustard and then roast it until the bread/wrap is toasty. You will have to wrap this in foil and then cut it in half (if its on sandwich bread) and slowly peel back the foil as you eat it, in order to keep the sandwich intact. If using a wrap you can add rice or legumes and use coconut yogurt as a topping (substitute agar-agar for the gelatin). Chocolate Avocado Pudding Avocado as a base for pudding and desserts? I didn't believe it until I tried it. Simply outstanding. You won't notice the difference. It is every bit as rich as its sugar laden analogue in the conventional food world but its completely healthy. One of my favorite foods at any time of the day. Coconut Banana Tapioca Pudding Inspired by the Kitavans, tapioca (cassava) pudding is one of my favorite desserts, although I eat all foods at any time of the day so I call this dessert just because that is how most people think of it. There are many and varied versions for this recipe. With the recipe I linked to you can use additional coconut cream to replace the soymilk and the sugar isn't really necessary. In one version from the back of my tapioca pearl box I add the honey after the recipe has slightly cooled down. This is another dish you can separate into individual servings as refrigerate/freeze in advance of eating. Michael's caribbean salad – While I don't focus much on non-starchy vegetables in non-fasting seasons (though I do eat them when they are tastily prepared, thanks in large part to all the tasty vegetable recipes over at summertomato.com and my stash of bacon grease – red chard sauteed with garlic in bacon grease is the bomb), they do take on (along with fruit) a renewed importance during Lent. They are an important source of many nutrients (including vitamin C) and are well worth including in a diet short on animal products. I must say this carribbean salad recipe is amazing , both in and out Lent. Outside of Lent it can be a meal all by itself. I will share the recipe in an upcoming post. Banana shake – coconut cream or milk, banana, berries (strawberries or blueberries), cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Blend. A bowl of fresh fruit smothered in warmed coconut cream and topped with cinnamon and nutmeg Shellfish…are jam-packed with valuable nutrients. It would take just over a 1/4 pound of beef per day to meet the RDA for zinc, yet only a single serving of oysters per week…one would have to eat two servings of salmon per week to obtain the RDA for vitamin B12, but only one serving of clams per month…shellfish…help ensure a sufficient intake of nutrients that are otherwise difficult to obtain in abundance…Chris Masterjohn

On the weekends and other appointed times The following represents foods that at least according to the typicon should be consumed only on Saturdays and Sundays during Lent, when the fast is slightly relaxed. In actual practice things can be quite different. Shellfish – while I love shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, and other shellfish, unfortunately I am allergic to all shellfish except for raw oysters and clams. Oysters/clams on the half shell – in my hometown oyster happy hours are quite popular, where you can buy already shucked oysters often for less than what you would pay in the store. Olive oil dipping sauce Wine/Beer – some Slavic traditions allow beer during the week while most Orthodox relegate wine to the weekend during Lent, at least in theory.

So there you have it. An Orthodox Guide to Real Food During Lent (not *the* Orthodox guide – just one man's n=1 approach). Now go tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter all about it. Even send it to your vegan and vegetarian friends whose current approaches lack in the nutrient density department. There is something here for everyone, even if they are not real fooders or Orthodox. Notes 1 I also recommend that folks seriously interested in taking body re-composition of the really lean variety to the next level (which obviously does not appeal to everyone) take a look at the intermittent fasting work that Martin Berkhan is doing (it involves a daily 16 hour fasting and 8 hour eating window). However, where Eat Stop Eat easily fits within an Orthodox framework, LeanGains doesn't mesh so neatly for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, for those interested in an effective approach for strength, leanness and muscularity, his free LeanGains Guide is a good read. 2 In an email to me, when I erroneously stated in my 10 Notable Blogs from 2009 piece that the author of this blog, Stephan Guyenet, was paleo, he wrote, "I'm actually not paleo myself, I'm more like Weston Price minus the gluten. Although I do make an effort to keep my intake of neolithic foods modest. I try to eat at least one "paleo" meal per day." 3 I tend to distinguish between Dr. Weston A. Price and the Weston A. Price Foundation. While the WAPF is doing enormously good work, there are a number of folks who consider themselves dedicated followers of Weston Price who would nonetheless disagree with a few positions and emphases the Foundation has taken over the years. 4 For an explanation of the potential dangers of extruded foods like TVP see Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry. 5 On the danger of seed oils and excess poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) see Chris Masterjohn's special report, The PUFA Report Part 1: A Critical Review of the Requirement for Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids 6 The Kitavans on special occasions do eat pork, which of course like all meat is not allowed during an Orthodox fast. See Stephan Guyenet's Interview with a Kitavan.

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