Are you confused about what to eat? Do you find it difficult to navigate the conflicting claims for different diet plans? Unfortunately, these dietary plans share little with the way healthy humans have eaten for thousands of years.
At the Weston A. Price Foundation, we turn to the pioneering work of Dr. Weston A. Price to answer the question, “What is a healthy diet?” In 1939, Dr. Price published his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in which he describes the diets of healthy non-industrialized peoples throughout the world. He studied many groups that had perfect dental health and perfect overall health. He found a wide variety of foods in these diets.
Given the variety of foods in traditional diets, is it possible to come to any conclusions about how to eat? In fact, we can—it is possible to formulate basic principles to guide us through the maze of modern food choices. The Weston A. Price Foundation advocates eleven principles of healthy, traditional diets. A diet based on these principles is called the Wise Traditions Diet.
People can apply these principles to a diet that includes a variety of animal and plant foods, or to a diet that is restricted by what’s available and affordable; or to a diet that requires the elimination of certain foods due to food allergies and sensitivities—or simply to a diet determined by individual preferences.
The Wise Traditions Diet does not dictate specific ratios of macro-nutrients—protein, fat and carbohydrates—nor does it mean we have to eat unfamiliar foods like insects, seal oil or fermented fish. There are modern ways to obtain the nutrients we need using foods that appeal to us—and more importantly, appeal to our children. The Wise Traditions Diet does not eliminate any category of foods—such as meat, grain, fats or dairy products—but rather emphasizes proper preparation techniques which allow most people to include foods in their diet that would otherwise be problematic.
Everything that traditional peoples did with their food resulted in the maximization of nutrients—from their agricultural practices, to their food choices, to their preparation techniques. We can do the same with our modern diets—it just requires care in purchasing our foods and attention to detail when we prepare them. See our chart outlining the differences between traditional diets which maximized nutrients and modern diets which minimized them. Applying these principles to your food choices has many rewards. Many feel more satisfied and healthier eating this way.
#1 – AVOID REFINED AND DENATURED FOOD
The diets of healthy, nonindustrialized peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or lowfat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; synthetic vitamins; or toxic additives and artificial colorings.
#2 – INCLUDE ANIMAL FOODS
All traditional cultures consumed some sort of animal food such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed—muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred.
#3 – EMPHASIZE NUTRIENT-DENSE FOODS: ORGAN MEATS, ANIMAL FATS, EGGS, RAW DAIRY, SHELLFISH AND FISH EGGS
The diets of healthy, nonindustrialized peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and ten times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and Activator X, now thought to be vitamin K2) as the average American diet.
4 – EAT SOME ANIMAL FOODS RAW; COOK MOST PLANT FOODS
All traditional cultures cooked some or most of their food, especially plant foods like grains and vegetables, but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw.
5 – ENJOY LACTO-FERMENTED CONDIMENTS AND BEVERAGES
Primitive and traditional diets contain a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments.
#6 – PREPARE SEEDS, GRAINS AND NUTS PROPERLY TO MINIMIZE ANTI-NUTRIENTS AND ENHANCE DIGESTIBILITY.
Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid.
#7 – ENJOY SATURATED FATS; AVOID INDUSTRIAL SEED OILS.
Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from poly- unsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
#8 – CONSUME ANIMAL FOODS FROM LAND AND SEA TO BALANCE OMEGA–6 AND OMEGA–3
Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Modern diets based on industrial seed oils can contain almost 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3, because industrial seed oils contain very high amounts of omega-6.
#9 – USE UNREFINED SALT LIBERALLY
All traditional diets contain salt.
#10 – INCLUDE GELATINOUS BONE BROTH IN SOUPS, STEWS, GRAVY AND SAUCES
All traditional cultures make use of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
#11 – EMPHASIZE NUTRIENT-DENSE FOODS BEFORE AND DURING PREGNANCY, AND FOR GROWING BABIES
Traditional cultures make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents- to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by adequate spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.