It’s no lie when I say cod liver oil is a traditional food and has been around for hundreds of years.
Before battle Roman soldiers used to take fish liver oils to give them strength and stamina. Cultures ranging from the South Seas, the Eskimos, and the Scandinavians valued fish liver oil for it’s health-giving properties. Hippocrates understood the medicinal uses of fish oils and even doctors at one point were recommending daily dosages of cod liver oil to babies.
Cod liver oil, more notably the fermented kind, is rich in fat soluble vitamins A and D (and may even contain small amounts of vitamin K) which plays a role in the over all well-being of your health — particularly your reproductive health. Cod liver oil also contains omega-3 fats which are vital to brain and visual function.
Let’s take a little closer look on why cod liver oil, especially the fermented kind by Green Pastures (the only kind I recommend), is crucial to the health of you and your family. I’m going to use the abbreviation FCLO when talking about fermented cod liver oil.
Rich in Fat Soluble Vitamins A & D
First, let’s clarify what a “fat-soluble” vitamin is. When a vitamin is fat-soluble it simply indicates the vitamin is dissolved in fat. This means, we need to eat fat in order to obtain these vitamins. More importantly, we need to consume animal fats in order to assimilate these vitamins properly. The higher quality the fat the more prevalent these fat soluble vitamins are. Studies have been shown that when humans consume beta-carotene (vitamin A) with beef tallow rather than sunflower oil, the amount of beta-cartoene absorbed jumps from 11 to 17 percent. (source)
We need vitamin A for:
- mineral metabolism,
- strong bones,
- normal growth,
- successful reproduction,
- healthy skin,
- good eyesight
- mineral metabolism,
- nervous system function,
- insulin production,
- protection against depression
Sadly due to the modern fad diets suggesting we eat a no-fat, low-fat, or even vegan diet, the average intake of these crucial fat soluble vitamins are disturbingly low. The reason these diets are low in fat soluble vitamins is because of the lack of fat consumption in them — which, if I can just state are NOT traditional diets. The dramatic reduction of fats in modern day low-fat/no-fat diets result in deficiencies — especially vitamin D. Being deficient in these vitamins (even if only slightly) make it difficult to stay healthy and at the worst, cause serious health problems. (source)
Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids as Well
While the purpose of FCLO is not necessarily for presence of the omega-3’s as it is for the abundance of fat soluble vitamins, the omega-3 fatty acids that are present in FCLO are definitely a bonus. DHA and EPA are vital for optimum brain function and visual function. In Nina Planck’s book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, she states that “the brain is actually an astonishing 60 perfect fat of which half is docosahesaeonic acid (DHA) which is only found in fish.” (source) If you don’t feed your brain with these omega-3’s then you are basically starving your brain of the nutrition it needs.
Some may argue the body can actually convert these omega-3 fatty acids from plants in the form of Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) but the conversion is actually inefficient. In order to make DHA and EPA from the plant source of omega-3, ALA, the body needs other minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium and zinc. Unfortunately, these are hindered by the things that are so prevalent in our modern diets; trans fats, cortisol, alcohol, and sugar. (source) Which is why we can not entirely depend on ALA to convert our daily need of omega-3s.
In numerous studies, the elongated omega-3 fats found in cod liver oil have been shown to improve brain function, memory, stress response, immune response, allergies, asthma, learning and behavioral disorders, including bipolar syndrome and manic-depression. (source) DHA and EPA also help resolve inflammation and supports the immune system.
Why Green Pastures Brand?
Green Pastures is the only brand on the market that naturally ferments using a slow, natural lacto-fermentation process. The lacto-fermentation allows all the beneficial nutrients to be retained and not damaged. (source) Note that most cod liver oils/fish oils have a pale yellow color to it — this is due to the loss of nutrients. The color of the FCLO from Green Pasture’s is a deep, golden color. It’s literally screaming “I’M NUTRIENT-DENSE, EAT ME!”
Also, because the heat sensitive vitamins A and D are not damaged it is unnecessary to add any synthetic vitamins. Although scientists can argue that the chemical compound of a synthetic vitamin A is the same as the chemical compound of a true vitamin A, I believe synthetic is not as usable to our bodies because it is isolated. In nature, there is not just ONE vitamin occurring in a food, there are multiple and they all work synergistically. Another thing to note is that as a result of no synthetic vitamins added, the FCLO from Green Pasture’s contains the proper amount ratios of vitamin A to vitamin D, thus eliminating the worries of toxicity.
Check out what David Wetzel of Green Pasture’s has to say about fermentation and cod liver oil–
In Tahiti, shark’s stomach’s containing the liver is hanging to ferment
“Cod liver oil was always fermented until 1850, when we learned to render. If heated, we could extract oil in day instead of fermenting which takes 6 months. They didn’t understand oxidation and that they were cheating the system, so as we started to industrialize fish oils, we lost a lot of the nutrition. I suspect the product wasn’t as effective, but we have no samples so it’s just a guess. Likely this heated oil would oxidize very quickly. When you heat the viscera, you break bonds and create free radicals which causes oxidation.
Around the turn of century, cod liver oil started to lose favor. The industry used heat and pressure, and they found that nitrogen would clean up the free radicals. Unfortunately, this tasteless, colorless product was also probably nutrient less. It was all about marketability.
Making fermented cod liver oil is taking it back to its historical roots. Throughout history FCLO was commonly used, and people knew what it did and that it was important without understanding nutrients. I don’t think regular cod liver oil is even the same product that was revered for centuries.” (source)
Some other cool facts about fermented cod liver oil
- Cod liver oil contains more vitamin A and more vitamin D per unit weight than any other common food
- Cod liver oil alters the linings of the arteries in such a way as to improve healing after damage from a heart attack
- Cod liver oil is most famous for contributing to bone health, preventing and reversing rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults
- In women, higher levels of vitamin D from cod liver oil improve bone mineral density
- Cod liver oil taken by nursing mothers improves the fatty acid profile in breast milk to promote optimal brain development and also increases levels of vitamin A to prevent infections
- In the 1930’s and 1940’s cod liver oil was recommended in books on feeding infants but it was until a doctor by the name of Dr. Spock replaced this wisdom with recommendations for vaccinating
- Vitamin D in cod liver oil helps lower blood pressure because the vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium and magnesium
- As a great treatment for diaper rash and other skin conditions, you can mix cod liver oil with zinc oxide
- The vitamin A in cod liver oil has been shown to be protective against cancer (source for all listed above)
- FCLO can even contain small amounts of vitamin E and K2, CoQ10 (also rich in heart tissue and some fish like sardines) and various quinones (known for anti-tumor, anti-microbacterial, and anti-cardiovascular disease properties) (source).
“Dr. Price was right. . . we all need to take cod liver oil (and eat plenty of good butter). For growing children, and for almost every disease condition, cod liver oil is the number one superfood, the supplement of choice.” (source)
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Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul
Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck
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