The Diet Series Part Three The Traditional Diet
In the 1920s a dentist from Cleveland by the name of Weston Price noticed that many of his younger patients had cavities, narrow dental arches, crooked teeth, as well as problems in overall health that hadn't been seen in previous generations. He theorized that the changes in diet that were taking place at that time in the United States were to blame.
He decided to study isolated, indigenous peoples who had managed to maintain their traditional diets. He wanted to find out if their health was significantly different from modern Americans who ate refined, "civilized" foods.
Over the next decade, Dr. Price and his wife spent their summers studying isolated cultures which had continued eating their traditional diets. What he discovered was that these people had straight, strong teeth, excellent overall physical development in bones and muscles, and an almost complete lack of "modern" diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and osteoporosis.
When he then visited neighboring traditional peoples who had changed over to the refined foods of Western civilization, what he found seemed to prove his theory. Not only did these people suffer from tooth decay and crooked teeth, they also had the "modern" health problems that he had seen as a growing problem in his practice in Cleveland.
What Dr. Price discovered was that even though the diets of these isolated cultures varied widely, they all ate lots of animal proteins and fats. They prized animal fats as essential to vibrant good health and successful reproduction.
They also included lacto-fermented foods like kefir and cultured vegetables in their diets. Their seeds, nuts and grains were soaked, sprouted, or fermented to remove harmful anti-nutrients and to increase digestibility and nutritional value. And they ate many foods in their natural, unrefined state. In addition a lot of their diet consisted of raw foods, from both animals and plants.
Traditional diets contained at least four times the calcium and other minerals and TEN times the fat soluble vitamins from animal fats as the American diet. When we abandoned our traditional rich, nutrient-dense foods for the empty foods of the Western world, we acquired all the health problems of "modern" civilization -- diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Today one in three people in the US develops cancer and almost half suffer from heart disease.
So what are the traditional diets of some of these indigenous people?
First they visited a Swiss village where the inhabitants lived on unpasteurized milk, butter, cream, and cheese, dense rye bread, meat, bone broth soups and the few vegetables they could cultivate during the short summer months.
Then there were the hearty Gallic fishermen living off the coast of Scotland. They consumed no dairy products. Fish formed the mainstay of their diet, along with oats made into porridge and oatcakes. Fish heads stuffed with oats and chopped fish liver was a traditional dish.
The Eskimo diet, composed largely of fish, fish roe and marine animals, including seal oil and blubber, allowed Eskimo mothers to produce one sturdy baby after another without suffering any health problems or tooth decay.
Well-muscled hunter-gatherers in Canada, the Everglades, the Amazon, Australia and Africa consumed game animals, particularly the parts that civilized folk tend to avoid--organ meats, blood, marrow and glands, particularly the adrenal glands--and a variety of grains, tubers, vegetables and fruits that were available.
African cattle-keeping tribes like the Masai consumed no plant foods at all--just meat, blood and milk. South sea islanders and the Maori of New Zealand ate seafood of every sort--fish, shark, octopus, shellfish, sea worms--along with pork meat and fat, and a variety of plant foods including coconut, manioc and fruit. In Thailand, the delicious, spicy foods are rich in saturated fat from coconut oil and lard.
Whenever these isolated peoples could obtain sea foods they did so--even Indian tribes living high in the Andes.
Insects were another common food, in all regions except the Arctic. The foods that allow people of every race and every climate to be healthy are whole natural foods--meat with its fat, organ meats, whole milk products, fish, insects, whole grains, tubers, vegetables and fruit--not newfangled concoctions made with white sugar, refined flour and rancid and chemically altered vegetable oils, which become hydrogenated just from processing, and are an inferior form of fat for the human body.
Animal fats are carriers for vital fat-soluble vitamins A and D, needed for a host of processes, from prevention of birth defects to health of the immune system, to proper development of the bones and teeth.
The richest sources of vitamins A and D are the very foods modern man avoids: animal fats, organ meats, lard, fish eggs, shellfish, eggs and butter.
Vitamin A from animal sources is not the same as the carotenes found in plant foods. The conversion of carotenes to vitamin A in the human body is not efficient enough to supply the amount of the true vitamin found in the diets of healthy isolated populations.
The diets of traditional groups noted for longevity are rich in animal fats. The people of Hunza consume large quantities of fermented goat milk products.
The inhabitants of Vilcabamba in Ecuador consume fatty pork and whole milk products; and the long-lived inhabitants of Soviet Georgia also eat liberally of pork and whole milk yogurt and cheeses. In fact, a Soviet study found that longevity was greatest in rural communities where people ate the most fatty meat, compared to town dwellers who ate more carbohydrates.
Yet carbohydrates, in the form of whole grains and related seed foods, are present in healthy traditional diets, even in the diets of hunter-gatherers. Dr. Price found that millet and corn were eaten throughout Africa. Quinoa and amaranth are eaten in South America. American Indians consumed wild rice, corn and beans. Australian Aborigines gathered a species of wild millet and consumed a large variety of legumes.
Seed foods--grains, legumes and nuts--are prepared with great care in traditional societies, by sprouting, roasting, soaking, fermenting and sour leavening. These processes neutralize substances in whole grains and other seed foods that block mineral absorption, inhibit protein digestion and irritate the lining of the digestive tract. Such processes also increase nutrient content and render seed foods more digestible.
For example, in India, rice and lentils are fermented for at least two days before they are prepared as idli and dosas. In Africa the natives soak coarsely ground corn overnight before adding it to soups and stews, and they ferment corn or millet for several days to produce a sour porridge called ogi. A similar dish made from oats was traditional among the Welsh.
In some Oriental and Latin American countries rice receives a long fermentation before it is prepared. Ethiopians make their distinctive injera bread by fermenting a grain called teff for several days. Mexican corn bread cakes, called pozol, are fermented for several days and for as long as two weeks in banana leaves. Cherokee bread was similar, but wrapped in corn husks.
Before the introduction of commercial brewers yeast, Europeans made slow-rise breads from fermented starters. In America the pioneers were famous for their sourdough breads, pancakes and biscuits. Throughout Europe grains were soaked overnight, and for as long as several days, in water or sour milk before they were cooked and served as porridge or gruel.
Grains carefully prepared in this manner confer far more nutritional value than modern quick rise breads, granolas, rice bran concoctions, extruded breakfast cereals and, of course, denuded white flour products. It is important to note that during his research, Dr Price found the tribes that ate a hunter gatherer type diet were more healthy and lived longer than the tribes that settled down and grew grain.
There are many healthy milk-drinking populations including disease-free traditional Europeans, Americans up to the first World War, Greeks and other inhabitants of the Mediterranean, Africans, Tibetans, the long-lived inhabitants of Soviet Georgia and the hearty Mongols of Northern China.
Modern milk is denatured through pasteurization and homogenization, stripped of its valuable fat content, filled with antibiotics and pesticides, laced with additives and synthetic vitamins, and comes from cows bred to produce huge amounts of milk and fed everything under the sun except what cows are supposed to eat--green grass. There is evidence to link such denatured milk with the whole gamut of modern ailments including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, breast cancer, osteoporosis, autism and allergies.
Other practices common to traditional groups throughout the world include the use of animal bones, usually made into broth that is added to soups, stews and sauces. Vegetables, fruits, grains and even meats are preserved through the practice of lacto-fermentation to make condiments, meat products and beverages. Salt is also used for preservation. In areas where salt is not available, sodium-rich grasses and other plants are burnt and added to foods.
The lessons learned from a study of traditional diets are that healthy food can and should taste good. That we can put butter on our porridge and cook in lard. That it's OK to consume whole milk, fatty meats, liver and onions, lox and cream cheese, shrimp and lobster, even insects if you like them, and that heavenly sauces made from bone broth and cream confer more benefits than pills and powders and low-fat concoctions pawned off as health foods. Noting once again that these fats come from pasture fed animals, not grain fed. Grain is not a natural diet for cows or any animal, as it is acidic and causes great distress to the animal. Besides which grain feeding changes the chemical makeup of the meat and all important fat. The CLA content, a great heart helper, is diminished and even wiped out with modern grain feeding practices.
Dr. Price proved his theory that a traditional diet is responsible for strong, healthy teeth, bones, muscles, and babies. He also proved that today's "modern" diet is responsible for the epidemics of heart disease, cancer, rotten teeth, osteoporosis, neurological diseases, diabetes, obesity, and infertility.
One of the items that Dr. Price's foundation has been trying to inform people about is the wonderful health benefit from consuming raw milk products. He was adamant about the harm that comes from the denatured, pasteurized dairy products found in today's grocery stores. He insisted that only raw dairy products would give children the strong, straight teeth and bones that Americans used to have.
I can tell you from personal experience that this is true. My son, Kevin, was playing basketball. He jumped up, came down wrong, and broke his ankle. At the hospital the doctor told his wife, Tricia that he had to put a pin in Kevin's ankle. He said he'd have Kevin fixed up in no time and would be out in a half hour.
A half hour came and went, then an hour. Finally the doctor came out to tell Tricia that he had broken the pin on Kevin's bone, and that he had to call in a colleague to help him get the pin in. He said that he had never seen bones as strong as Kevin's.
For many years we lived on a small farm. We raised our own goats and drank their raw milk. Kevin is the proof that Dr. Price was right.
The information for this article came from the website detailing the work of Dr. Price -- The Weston A. Price Foundation. To read more on this subject go to: www.westonaprice.org.
An absolute must read for anyone interested in this way of life is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon