I first came across this diet when I was researching raw milk. My son was having a really tough time with the milk I was buying from the store and at just 16 months (self-weaned) I was at a loss as for what to do. In my limited knowledge and research I decided that soy was out for sure and we found that goat milk seemed to work well for him. But the only stuff available in the stores was ultra pasteurized, also a no-go. I soon found a farm just down the road from my house that sold raw goat milk, but I needed to do my research first as raw milk was “scary” and was often demonized by the dairy industry and media. I was a bit hesitant to allow my very young child to drink it.
Through lots of research and reading we did make the decision to drink raw milk and I happened to pick up the book The Maker’s Diet, by Jordin Rubin, and am forever grateful for the information. Often he talked about the importance of Real Food, quoted the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morell and offered many of the recipes found in NT as well. As I began to read through these books I kept finding more and more information pointing to the fact that FOOD was so vital to my fertility….as was my lack of whole foods to struggling with infertility.
Wholeheartedly I embraced the teachings of the Weston A Price Foundation:
- Grains, nuts and legumes should be soaked prior to eating to reduce phytic acid and other enzyme inhibitors.
- Processed foods, soy, and vegetable oils should not be consumed.
- Dairy should be raw and from grass fed cows/goats/sheep.
- Meats should come from grass fed, pastured, and organic animals.
- Fats are vital to health and should be consumed often.
- Cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt, butter) is an important part of a diet.
- Fermented vegetables are also vital to a good diet.
- Organ meats should be consumed.
- Salt should be from the sea and unrefined.
- Sugar should be eaten sparingly and unrefined as well.
In following this diet I began to see dramatic changes happening to my body. I lost weight, I stopped getting migraines, and lo and behold, my rebellious ovaries began functioning normally for the first time…..ever.
So where did this “diet” come from?
Well, in short, a dentist name Weston a Price got concerned about the dental issues he was seeing in Americans so he started traveling around the world to see if the diets in indigenous societies offered better dental outcomes. What he found was rather astonishing actually. Because when a diet was completely void of processed foods, not only were the teeth straight and free of cavities, but the health of the population was fantastic as well. And while it’s no surprise that processed foods are “junk” he also went to searching for the foods that these folks consumed that offered them such terrific health.
The pros to a Nourishing Traditions Diet:
- It’s “clean”. Gone are animal products and produce laden with chemicals and pesticides. Our bodies are cleaner for this reason and have a much lower toxic body burden. The food is also fresh, gone are the overcooked and over processed foods! You’re now eating food closer to the way it came from the earth/animal.
- While our average medical community shuns most of the teachings of the WAPF, there is a large community online that offers support through multiple blogs, there are also more and more books coming out on the subject of eating “real food”, and recipes are usually easily updated with “allowed foods”. Local WAPF chapters are also popping up to teach communities and offering support locally.
- Eating this way is a supporting our local economy and local farmers, keeping money in our communities instead of us sending millions of dollars a year to the big ‘ol food industry.
- Our overall health is astronomically better! Thousands of people have testimonies on how this diet has worked for them. How they’ve overcome chronic illness, cancer, heart disease, infertility, auto immune disorders, mental illness, etc, etc. I’ve seen it happen in my own life, and in the lives of others.
The Cons to a Nourishing Traditions Diet
- Expense – Buying grass fed meats and organic produce is more expensive than conventional products. Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to overcome this, but many times it’s difficult to come up with a large lump-sum to buy it all at once.
- Time – beyond expense, time is often the biggest set back for average Americans. We’re not used to making all of our own food and many of us hurry to put dinner on the table each night. So when you add in soaking and proper food preparation like fermenting and culturing, it’s hard to fit it all in.
- Bucking the trend – this diet also seems to go against just about every medical doctors advice, it’s food pyramid is the exact opposite as the one put out by the USDA! It’s hard to find a doctor to work with that your insurance covers AND has the same dietary mindset.
- It’s hard to eat out – gone are the days of stopping at Wendy’s on the way home or grabbing a pizza when you don’t have time to make dinner before rushing off the soccer practice. When eating at friends and families homes, you have to make the decision to avoid their foods, or break your dietary rules.
My Thoughts on a Nourishing Traditions Diet
Last year after the Weston A Price foundations yearly conference, Wise Traditions, (a fantastic conference by the way) it was noted by several people that many of the attendees are…..shall we say…..plump. The primal folks kind of seemed to get their panties in a bunch saying that it was all the grains that “WAPF” pushes, others are adamant that it’s all the saturated fats and animal foods they seem to eat at every meal.
So who the heck is right?
Like most “dietary plans”, it’s the people who share the news, the recipes, the “how-to’s”. But we’re all just people. We’re not God, we don’t know the “exact” way to eat. We make mistakes, even based on research. And you know what? All of our bodies are totally different.
Now that’s a concept huh?
I also tend to think that because the foundation itself stresses the importance of fat and animal products, that sometimes, that’s ALL people eat when they’re on this “diet”. They forget that on Dr. Price’s travels that he found very healthy vegetarian tribes (albeit they had something like 6% of folks who had cavities compared to 1-2% in omnivorous tribes) One tribe in particular ate something like 90% plant foods and then bugs and insects made up the other 10%.
People forget that even Nourishing Traditions states on page 71 that we should “Aim for a diet that is 50 percent raw or enzyme-enhanced. Raw foods include vegetables, fruits, meats, fats, and milk products.” Most people I know stress the importance of only the last two, forgetting about vegetables and fruits, and totally disregarding raw meats.
It also states on the same page that “If the meal you serve consists of entirely cooked foods, then a lacto-fermented condiment is a must.” I rarely see this happening in folks that try to follow the WAPF diet.
Now, this is not to say that ALL folks following this diet are void of vegetable matter, but I do feel strongly that sometimes through books and blogs, that fats and meats are so strongly pushed that many of our “average Americans” looking for dietary advice hear only that we Must. Eat. Fat.
Yes, saturated fat is good, cholesterol is good, the findings of Dr. Price are important, but we must not forget that our diets need variety. We must also remember that while some diets were high in grains, others were high in fats, some high in meats, some high in vegetables, but each tribe had their own healthy way of eating based on location, culture, and climate. So the way folks eat in California will be very different than those who live in Maine.
I also personally have a problem with the high amount of organ meats they say we need to eat. Why? Well…..my husband hunts, so usually in the fall he’ll get a deer, possibly two. This means that the entire year, we get the organs from only two animals. So I guess I don’t understand how it would be considered” normal” to eat such high amounts of organ meats. Traditional societies would probably only have had organ meats during times of slaughter – usually in the fall when the animals were fattened up after eating growing grass all summer. the organ meats were most likely given to women of childbearing age and young children. Yes, I think organs can be beneficial, I just don’t think we need to eat liver every week.
In short, the Nourishing Traditions Diet is not bad or wrong, we just need to remember that the people teaching it are just human beings that make mistakes. If you really want to look into what Dr. Price found for yourself, I highly recommend reading the book (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration) that has all of his findings in it. Is it a thrilling read? Eh…..not really. But it does contain fascinating information and you’ll be able to find your own way into this style diet without all the noise and chatter from any particular foundation, blogger, author, or neighbor.
Which of you subscribe to the dietary “rules” of the Weston A Price Foundation? How has your health changed? What pros and cons did I miss?
Which of you don’t necessarily believe in this “diet” and why?
Other posts in this series: