Nick Barnard, founder of British natural food company Rude Health and author of the cookbook Eat Right—an essential recipe collection for anyone truly committed to eating whole foods—sat with us recently to discuss his philosophy on food, global ancestral culinary practices, and where modern nutrition is headed.
Cooking Light: What small changes can people make to their diet or cooking routine to make a big difference in their health?
Nick Barnard: You eat less, but have higher quality food. Consider spending a little more on nutrient-dense foods, whether it’s pastured eggs, good quality butter, or grains that have been fermented. You want greater food diversity—more nutrient dense, flavorful foods—and they’re all connected with each other. Once you start to embrace flavor [that comes] through nutrient quality, and you understand it’s a very simple relationship, then you eat less, and you respect more. If you do my slow-cooked pork belly recipe, I challenge you to eat more than one slice. It’s so satiating. And if you had a side of homemade sauerkraut, you would have a meal fit for a king. That is our ancestral food at its best.
CL: You have strong opinions on butter that differ nutritionally from our magazine’s guidelines—can you make your case?
NB: It’s about debunking ridiculous notions… You can eat as much butter as you like, as long as it’s quality, pastured, grass-fed butter. Toast is a vehicle for butter. We should start to embrace the right sorts of fats. Those food categories that have been demonized, we need to challenge why they’ve been demonized, and look at what aspects of their nutrition we’ve been desperately missing in our diets. Fermented butter, and butter from grass-fed cows, these are nutrient-dense, flavorful foods.
On a side note: Barnard makes mention in his cookbook of Denmark’s love for spreading butter so thickly on bread that you can see teeth marks in it when you bite, hence their term, tandsmør, or “toothbutter.”
NB: Each of us can make our own small steps to reacquaint ourselves with food, whether it’s sprouting seeds at home, baking your own bread from flour you’ve easily ground from grain, growing a container of lettuces, or just realizing that you must eat some fermented foods three or four times a week to create more bacterial diversity in your body. This is living food. Fundamentally inexpensive, simple food. And if I can make foods like this, anybody can. I’m not a chef. They’re time-honored family recipes, and very simple.