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Nourishing Traditions? Traditional diets, the Weston A. Price Foundation, and your health

Updated on June 15, 2011

One of the most controversial diet books published in decades, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats contains something to shock or outrage almost everybody.

The book was written by Sally Fallon, one of the co-founders of the Weston A. Price Foundation, an organization whose stated goal is to "restore nutrient-dense foods to the American diet through education, research and activism." The organization is named after the late Weston Price, a dentist and nutritional ethnographer.

Price traveled extensively around the world and studied the diets of many traditional cultures. What he found astounded him. The diseases that plagued the modern world, including everything from dental cavities and osteoporosis to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, were virtually unknown among societies following traditional diets, yet within a generation after the introduction of Western-style processed foods, Western-style health problems started cropping up in the populations.

Photo by jessicafm
Photo by jessicafm

As a result of his research into healthy traditional diets, Price and his followers at the Weston A Price Foundation promote a diet focusing on the following foods:

  • pasture-finished red meat and poultry, including organ meats
  • wild game
  • bone broths
  • wild-caught fish and shellfish from unpolluted waters
  • full fat dairy products, preferably raw (unpasteurized) and/or fermented
  • whole eggs from pastured hens
  • organic fresh fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains, legumes, and nuts that have been soaked, sprouted, or fermented
  • olive oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, and tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm oil
  • cod liver oil
  • lacto-fermented fruits, vegetables, beverages, and condiments
  • unrefined salt
  • fresh or dried herbs and spices
  • filtered water

In short, the Weston A Price Foundation promotes consumption of whole, minimally processed foods that have been raised and prepared according to traditional methods.

The Weston Price Foundation also encourages other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including natural light, fresh air, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.

It discourages consuming:

  • modern processed foods of any kind
  • refined grains
  • refined sugars
  • soy products, with the occasional exception of fermented soy products such as miso
  • hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • polyunsaturated oils
  • vegetable oils made from soy, canola, safflower, corn, or cottonseed
  • artificial food additives, especially MSG and aspartame
  • canned, sprayed, waxed, irradiated, and genetically modified fruits and vegetables

The Weston A Price Foundation makes many controversial claims. One of the most controversial is their statement that "human beings have been consuming saturated fats from animal products, milk products and the tropical oils for thousands of years; it is the advent of modern processed vegetable oil that is associated with the epidemic of modern degenerative disease, not the consumption of saturated fats."

In the list of recommended foods above, you probably noticed the strong focus on animal fats from meat, whole dairy products, and eggs. This seems counter-intuitive for many people. Not only have most of us been encouraged to eat a low fat diet for decades, if you look at the people in the modern world who eat the most saturated fats, they also tend to be the sickest and most overweight.

The Weston A Price Foundation argues that the saturated fat is not the problem, and correctly point out that humans have been consuming saturated fat for thousands of years, while it is only in the last 100 years or so that diet-based diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have reached epidemic proportions. Weston Price and his followers believe that processed vegetable oils, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates are the real culprits in the modern world's poor health.

I remain skeptical of their claims about the benefits of a diet high in saturated fat, but it is undeniable that modern eating patterns and farming practices have fundamentally altered the nutrient value even of relatively unprocessed animal products such as steak. Most beef sold today is fattened on anything from grain and soybeans (not natural, but comparatively okay) to stale gummy bears! You can't tell me that's healthy for the cow, or the consumer who ends up eating it. In fact, the fat profile of a grass-finished steer is leaner than than a skinless grain-fed chicken breast, and nearly as lean as grassfed bison (the staple food of the Plains Indian tribes, who may have been the healthiest societies in the world in the early and mid-19th century) or wild venison. And though the total amount of fat is lower than grain-fed beef, grassfed beef is 2-4 times higher in heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, and 3-5 times higher in another heart-healthy fat called Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA. It is also higher in several important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, thiamin, and riboflavin.

Grassfed beef is exactly the kind of nutrient-dense whole food the Weston A Price Foundation promotes, and this stance makes sense to me, even if I'm skeptical of their claims about saturated fat. Likewise, grassfed dairy products are known to be significantly higher in many nutrients, and so are eggs from chickens that are genuinely free range.

The emphasis on animal fats has also understandably annoyed a lot of vegetarians and vegans, who in other regards would seem like natural allies of the Weston A Price Foundation, particularly due to the preference for whole foods and organic techniques, which is shared by many in the vegetarian and vegan communities.

Personally, I think the Weston A Price Foundation offers a good compromise between the Standard American Diet and a vegetarian diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans and legumes. Even though it emphasizes (and sometimes overemphasizes) the importance of animal products to human health, it also places the highest value on animal products raised humanely and naturally.

Like many vegetarian and vegan groups, the Weston A Price Foundation opposes "confinement operations, feedlots, debeaking, growth hormones, routine antibiotics in feed, inappropriate feed such as soy, and other practices that harm animals' health and well-being, harm the environment, and result in animal foods that are not optimally nutritious for humans."

It also promotes a diet high in nutrient-dense plant foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and even acknowledges that ovo-lacto vegetarianism and pescetarianism (eating fish but not red meat or poultry) are healthy alternatives for most people.

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    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 

      5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      There's something for everybody on Hubpages. Everybody has different tastes.

      I have found some really wonderful stuff on Hubpages, even some of the "unpolished" Hubs can be very good. If I don't like a Hub, I just move on.

    • anniebetty profile image

      anniebetty 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I've been slogging through a bunch of rubbish and wondering if HubPages is for me. Your HUB has restored my faith! I know there are good writers here who offer substantive articles with a fresh point of view, but wow there's a lot of nothing on here, too. Thanks for this! I have been working toward a more Weston A. Price Foundation style of living for some years now with success that ebbs and flows. What I do know is that I alays feel more energetic, more alert, and more BALANCED when I comply with the guidelines you've set forth above. You've done a fine job of coalescing the information for the average reader. Kudos! (P. S. Yay Butter!)

    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 

      7 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I read Nourishing Traditions almost three years ago, and I was not shocked or outraged at all. I thought it made perfect sense, and I loved it.

      Since then, my (adult) kids and I have joined a group of WAP folks. We have found a source of local, unpasteurized, grassfed dairy and meats.

      As well as other things --- coconut (not local) lacto-fermented veggies, and soaked, fermented hot cereals.

      Amazingly delicious and healthy.

    • Sara W. Harding profile image

      Sara W. Harding 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      I enjoyed this hub. I've been reading from the Weston A. Price Foundation website for awhile and eventually would like to get Fallon's book. Although I prefer a vegetarian diet, not getting these nutrient rich animal foods began to take a toll on our childrens' dental health, so I have focused on grass fed raw milk, organic cheese and butter, eggs from our free range chickens, some fish, cod liver oil and an occasional organic chicken cooked into broth and try to stay away from eating other mammals. But sometimes I like my seeds and nuts raw and crunchy. If we have the right lactobacilli balance in our gi tracts, they can do a lot of fermenting there, right? Grass feeding definitely makes a difference on the amount of fat, as well as the quality. Check out eatwild.com. Just goes to show that getting moving in the sunshine is needed for healthy animals and healthy people.

    • lelanew55 profile image

      lelanew55 

      8 years ago

      Great hub! I agree grass fed is the way to go. I think there is some truth as to high fat diet is not as harmful or even can be beneficial to health as long as the high fat comes from organically (grass fed free to roam) raised animals. I come from such a tradition and people are not even overweight granted they may be more active. Thank you for sharing.

    • revybaby profile image

      revybaby 

      8 years ago from On the Road

      Will need to read the Fallon book and appreciate hearing about the Weston Price Foundation. Here's to hoping that in 3 months I'll be able to come back to the blog and give a ringing endorsement.

    • entertianmentplus profile image

      entertianmentplus 

      8 years ago from United States

      I try to eat only organic.Nice hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      I believe fully in organic. That is the only answer to all our health problems and until they accept it and switch back to the old ways there will be problems. They rather spend millions on medical instead of doing it the most simplest way Thank you for your interesting hub.

    • kerryg profile imageAUTHOR

      kerryg 

      8 years ago from USA

      GreenGardenGuy, that's great to hear! I'm so glad it's worked for you!

    • GreenGardenGuy profile image

      GreenGardenGuy 

      8 years ago from Fort Myers, FL

      Hi KerryG,

      I've been on a similar diet for about six months now. I've lost a lot of weight, my blood pressure has come down some, and I also have been able to quit my diabetes medicine. It's a long road to good health, but I feel sooo much better now. Great Hub!

    • Joy At Home profile image

      Joilene Rasmussen 

      8 years ago from United States

      I own and have read the book cover to cover. It is one of the most life-changing books I've ever read.

      I grew up eating a fairly fresh, in many cases organic diet which my family and I raised on our farm. In many respects, not that different from what is recommended in Fallon's book. I never had any major health problems until I moved away from home and began eating additive-laced college cafeteria meals. The food preparation was far superior to many other places (such as fast food joints), but was inferior to the food I had grown up on. I was still healthier than many of my classmates, but could feel that I wasn't what I had been.

      This trend continued for a few years while I married and began raising a child. I wasn't aware then what the real problem was, and tried the low-fat route, among others, trying to fix the issue.

      It wasn't until I read Fallon's book that I began to see just why the diet I had grown up on worked so well.

      Since I began to incorporate the strategies in my own family meals, we have all increased in general well-being, including greater spiritual and emotional health. As long as the animals were raised under healthy conditions to start with, animal products of many sorts can indeed be an integral part of a healthy diet.

      Consider this comment a testimony to the effectiveness of Fallon's diet princples.

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