“You’ll STARVE on GAPS”–NOT!


It seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about what I call the “GAPS healing protocol” and others call the “GAPS diet” in terms of knowledge of the diet and implementation in the kitchen and at the kitchen table. (GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, is a book by the same name, and is copyrighted by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. For more information, see gaps.me.) I am going to write a series of these articles, in a effort to clear up some of the confusion. Here’s the first installment: “GAPS Does Not Equal Starvation.”

Let me note first that my knowledge base comes from working with people to help them implement the diet and from teaching the first series of GAPS Cooking Classes, which I developed last year in response to many requests from my students. (For more information about these cooking classes and to register to learn the cooking techniques you need to implement the GAPS diet, see http://www.cookingforwell-being.com/Conferences.html. I will be teaching in California in June and in Boston in September…if you’d like me to offer a GAPS Cooking Weekend in your area, contact me.)

The first bit of confusion seems to be that people think that when you are on the diet, you will be hungry all the time. I have heard multiple people say “I’m starving!” and “Heck, all I’m eating is broth, right?!” (Although broth is one of the “pillars” of the GAPS diet and is absolutely fundamental to it, you are eating much more than broth, but more on that later.) When I hear people say they are starving, I know that they are not implementing the diet as directed; in fact, they are missing one of the most important prescriptions in the book: the one about the amount of fat one needs to heal, repair and be well. And it is a lot, a lot more than we are used to. Eating saturated fat goes against everything everyone in America has been hearing for the last 30+ years. Ever since the American dietary guidelines went pro-sugar (look what that has gotten us) and anti-fat. Heck, you can’t even find full fat yogurt in the store these days; “low-fat/no-fat” has become the norm. “Low-fat/no-fat” has been proclaimed as “healthy” by the “powers that be”. There is a whole generation of children in this country that have never eaten a traditional, healthy, full-fat diet. They have been brainwashed into thinking that fat is bad. We have been brainwashed into thinking that fat is bad. That’s one of the reasons, I would venture to say, that we have so many children that are obese, have diabetes, and suffer from Attention Deficit Disorders. But that is another story for another time. Stay tuned. I am sure to write it some day soon.

The GAPS diet is one of the most nourishing, nurturing diets around. It is built to satisfy; it is crafted to nourish, and to deeply nourish. No one should be hungry if they are following Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s prescriptions about what to eat…especially the one about fats and the egg yolks. Today we’ll look at healthy saturated animal fats. Rendered fat and gristle off of pastured meats. Oh, and some avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and flax oils.

When one is “starving” or one is experiencing cravings, it is an indicator that the body needs more fat. It also indicates that your blood sugar may be on a roller coaster. How to stabilize? Eat more fat! Go for it! This is the first healing protocol that I know of that prescribes fat. Yes, go ahead. A medical doctor is prescribing that you eat more fat. An MD. And she is not the only one. All over, enlightened MDs are prescribing more healthy fats in the American diet (see Mercola and Tom Cowan. ) Note that these are healthy fats. They are not trans fats. So what are the healthy fats, and how much does one need to eat to be satisfied…to start healing?

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride tells us to eat “natural fats in their natural state” , and that the most important fats for those on the GAPS diet are animal fats. (GAPS, p 275). These healthy fats are duck fat, goose fat, lard-rendered pig fat, tallow-rendered beef or bison fat, pastured butter, and ghee. (If you want to learn how to make lard, see my post Let’s Make Lard.) Also coconut oil and cultured cream for those who can tolerate dairy or have completed the dairy protocol. Please note that the entire healing protocol is based on finding the purest ingredients one can find–organic and raised on pasture sustainably. (As toxins are stored in fat, it is very important to eat pure fats–not only on this diet, but all the time!) She also includes cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado. These are all traditional fats; they are fats the human body utilizes efficiently and needs for good health. (There are also some essential oils that are recommended, such as cod liver oil, nut/seed oils and fish oil. See the book for more details.)

So how much fat on the GAPS diet? As much fat as you need to feel sated. My experience is that when one cleans up the diet, i.e., eats pure, nutrient-dense food cooked in traditional ways and has eliminated sugar, processed foods and grains, and is eating ferments, the body self-regulates. It knows how much good fat it needs. If you are on the “Full GAPS Diet”, cook everything in a healthy fat…ghee, pastured butter, tallow, lard, duck fat, goose fat…Then when you serve, add more fat to each serving, starting with a teaspoon and adding more as you tolerate it or as you desire. An example is making a blended vegetable soup: Saute veggies in butter or ghee or…(see list above) until soft. Add homemade, nutrient-dense, gelatinous stock. Bring to a boil. Skim and discard scum. Simmer for a few minutes. Blend. Season to taste with Celtic salt and herbs. When you serve, add an additional teaspoon-tablespoon of fat. (Creme fraiche/cultured cream is my favorite. Makes any soup or stew blissful!)

The typical American meal is not satisfying because it does not provide enough fat. I am not even talking about the SAD (Standard American Diet) meal, which is highly processed and full of dead, nutrient-deficient foods. I am talking about a pastured, skinless chicken breast (low-fat), steamed broccoli with a pat of butter and a salad with homemade dressing. Not enough fat, folks. And you won’t feel satisfied. (Then it’s off to the chips–low fat and transfats– and whatever else we can find to satisfy the hunger…which won’t satisfy because it’s all low-fat!! and usually carbohydrates to boot!! read: sugar!) How to increase the healthy fat in that meal? Make blue cheese dressing and smother the broccoli once it has cooled, so you retain the enzymes. Eat chicken thighs with the skin on, and serve with a sauce made from butter or cultured cream. Make a salad dressing with raw egg yolks like a Caesar or anchovy dressing. Add a cup of broth with a spoonful of ghee stirred in, and maybe a spoonful of creme fraiche, too. A pinch of Celtic salt. Mouth watering? Yes! This is NOT a starvation diet, folks. Just break out of your brainwashing and grab a stick of pastured butter, or a bucket of cultured cream. Your body, your brain, your nervous system, your endocrine system, and even your cells will thank you. And by the way, you’ll lose weight and gain clear thinking along the way. Dive in with both spoons!! Slather on that pastured butter or ghee. I dare ya! 😉

If you would like more information about healthy fats and how that body needs them, see Dr. Mercola’s recent article, The Hidden Reason You Get Flabby, Sally Fallon’s interview on Fats and Why they are Essential, Chris Masterjohn’s brilliant blog, The Daily Lipid, Eat Fat, Lose Fat by lipid chemist Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, or The Cholesterol Myth by Uffe Ravnskov. For more information about the GAPS diet, including helpful FAQs posted by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, see her website, gaps.me.




Filed under Food, GAPS, Health and Wellness

14 responses to ““You’ll STARVE on GAPS”–NOT!

  1. What about chicken fat? I did not see chicken fat listed as healthy fat. We are on day four of the Intro GAPS Diet. This article is very encouraging and right on time! EAT FAT!

  2. I continue to be challenged with broth because it is so difficult to find chickens or turkeys that have not been raised on soy. Any suggestions on that? (Thanks for a great blog.) Thank you.

  3. gina

    I continue to be challenged with broth because it is so difficult to find chickens or turkeys that have not been raised on soy. Any suggestions on this? (Thanks for a great blog.) Thank you.

    • I would contact your local farmers (which you are probably already doing) and also check with your local Weston A. Price Chapter leaders. They usually have a bead on where to find good food. If you have already done these things, check in the back of a Wise Traditions journal, as often clean producers post there.
      HTH! be well!

      • gina

        Thanks Monica. I have tried Weston A. Price but no luck. I did find soy-free chicken through a local farmer. The chicken tastes sooo much better, but I wish I could get more volume of broth out of one chicken since I don’t want as much chicken as broth. I’d love lots of broth all the time if I could.

        Thanks also for suggesting the Wise Traditions journal.

        • Hi Gina, I know the point is that you’re struggling to find soy-free chicken in the first place, but if you were able to come across a butcher who stocked chicken you are happy with, ask them to save you some carcasses that you can freeze. I travel a little further to reach the butcher I like to buy from, but I then get carcasses in bulk (as long as you’re buying other meat, they’ll usually give them to for free) and make broth from those. Because most people want filleted meat, butchers usually throw away a lot of bones, and the other good thing about the carcasses is they take up a fraction of the freezer space that a whole chicken would. Finally, there is usually a small quantity of chicken left on the carcass -sometimes enough for a serving for one person, which is a bonus! Good luck.

  4. Laura

    I really enjoyed your article. Already today, I’m feeling more satiated, energetic and clear minded from having added more fat to my diet. My husband and kids and I have been hungry on GAPS, but now I know what to do, thanks to you. I have a question: is it good to consume the fat that we would normally drain from cooking ground beef? Like you say, the idea of eating fat on purpose really goes against all we have been told.

  5. Heidi in WI

    this answers a lot! i’ve been one of those “starving” on GAPS, quite frankly because i keep opening the fridge and there is nothing for me to eat when i’m hungry! i wait too long, then i’m “starving” and end up eating something like corn chips! I hate that i have to cut out dairy because that’s always been my “go to” like yogurt/cottage cheese/cheese/ for quick meals. I can’t do nuts as my daughter is allergic and still breast feeding. So “quick meals” are gone, and i know chips aren’t a great one, but besides sunflower seeds its the only thing “ready” to eat. You mentioned all those fats, but i’ve know experience with them, or idea where to get them. I am going to get a chicken out of the freezer right now though that was pastured!!!! I wish I lived closer to you, or someone i could purchase meals from until i regained my health, its so hard when you don’t have the energy and have a toddler to teach yourself a whole new way of cooking. sorry for the “rant”… i just get why people are starving, because you make it sound so easy, but for those of us with no “cooking knowledge” this article makes me almost feel worse, like just throwing in the towel and giving up. Just feeling sad and overwhelmed. I know i’ll feel empowered again one day when i master this stuff & my health, it’s just the low spot on my journey with food/cooking/health stuff.

  6. Jennifer

    Hi – I’ve noticed buttermilk is on the “avoid” list on the gaps website. I want to make my own buttermilk with whole milk and cultured store-bought buttermilk as a starter – would this be gaps-legal?

    • Hello Jennifer!

      Buttermilk is the liquid that is released when butter is made. The reason buttermilk is “illegal” or not allowed is that it contains the parts of the milk that are not easy to digest. Butter contains fat; buttermilk the casein and lactose that are challenging to the digestive system. I would believe that it is possible to culture cream for 24 hours (thus digesting the lactose) and then make it into cultured butter and then ingest that buttermilk. HTH. :))

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