Why Traditional Foods?
Why Traditional Foods?
“Recent studies show the benefits of soy…”
“Tips for how to avoid cholesterol…”
“Enjoy low-calorie snacks, like non-fat yogurt…”
I often hear these kinds of recommendations on the local radio station, in the magazines at the dentist’s office, or on fliers at the local library…
And they make me so mad!
I’m instantly red in the face.
Does non-fat yogurt not make you unreasonably angry?
Don’t even get me started on the pink Campbell’s soup labels for breast cancer awareness month!
But there’s actually a reason that canned soup and yogurt make me so mad.
Allow me explain.
I grew up on a diet of processed foods. You know, mac & cheese, hot dogs, crackers. This was followed by teen years of eating, well… not much – mostly sugar.
But when I got to college and entered into a field of study that included many dietetics classes, I became sincerely interested in health and nutrition. I soaked it all up, wanting to learn and implement everything I could.
I learned how to make all manner of low-fat, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, high-fiber, vegetarian meals.
I was an expert all right.
But you know what I wasn’t?
I wasn’t well.
I struggled with iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue, dizziness, clumsiness, and brain-fog throughout all of my early adulthood. Of course I attributed this to, well… it must be in my genes right? I’m just not an athlete.. I’m not a quick thinker..
Motherhood intensified these symptoms considerably, as you can imagine, and brought with it more difficulties such as eczema, hair loss, hormone imbalance, and a thyroid problem. I wondered… Am I just a terrible mother? Why can’t I do this? Do other people walk into walls and daydream about napping in a nearby puddle? Why can’t I EVER remember what I was about to say, or why on earth I walked upstairs?
What I didn’t know then, was that the high-carb, low-fat diet I’d been taught to prepare in my dietetics classes was not providing enough nourishment for my body, let alone for the little ones growing inside my belly one after another. And not to mention that the chemical additives, pesticides, and preservatives in my food were further robbing me of what little minerals I was consuming.
Thankfully one day, quite by accident, I stumbled upon the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
I wonder how many people would list a cookbook as the most influential and subversive book they’ve ever read?
Besides the Bible, of course.
I don’t know, but if you haven’t realized it already – I’m not most people.
This cookbook absolutely changed the direction of my life! It’s about 75 pages of in-depth (yet easy to read) historical and scientific background about traditional foods and the nutrition they provide, followed by over 600 pages of recipes.
The principles in this book are so obvious.
Why had I never thought to question my “super-healthy” diet… you know, the one that was making me terribly sick?
I don’t know, but I never did.
I never wondered how it’s possible that a bag of food can sit in my cupboard for 6 months without rotting.
Nope. Didn’t ask that.
Or why my toothpaste (which I put in my mouth twice a day every day of my life) says to call poison control if I swallow it.
Why? What’s in it?
Didn’t ask that either.
While I prided myself as being an skilled label-reader, I didn’t think to question why I couldn’t pronounce most of the ingredients on the back of my “super healthy” soy-based granola bars.
Nourishing Traditions caused me to rethink everything I’d ever learned about food. I knew suddenly that my adherence to all those modern diet rules had been my undoing. Stupid pyramid.
Nourishing Traditions was inspired by the work of a prominent Cleveland dentist, Dr. Weston A. Price. Price first published his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in 1939 after 10 years of researching indigenous people groups from around the world. He was the first modern researcher to carefully study the health and eating habits of traditional societies. He (like many of us) recognized that most all of the chronic diseases so prevalent in the modern world were largely non-existent in past centuries, and he asked… you guessed it, why? Could it be our modern processed foods? He decided to travel the world studying groups of people who were, at that time, still untouched by western industrialization. From Greek to Indian, Eskimo to Swiss… almost all tribe members of each of these people groups enjoyed robust health – free of chronic disease, dental decay, infertility, and mental illness. As you might expect, when he compared these groups to their more “civilized” counterparts (members of the same racial groups who had adopted a modern, westernized diet of processed foods) he found rampant tooth decay, infectious disease, degenerative illness, and infertility. (For more detailed information you can read Price’s finding in his book and more recent research here.)
“Dr. Price’s findings were remarkable indeed… (He) found that the native groups eating their traditional wholesome diet had less than one percent of their permanent teeth decayed. You may be thinking, ‘They must have brushed their teeth day and night!’ In fact, these cultures never used a toothbrush. The good doctor concluded that the state of one’s teeth was an excellent reflection of the state of one’s overall physical and mental health. Moreover, those consuming nutrient-dense foods produced offspring with beautifully round faces, and jaws wide enough to accommodate all their teeth with proper spacing, few or no cavities, and broad heads to allow for proper brain development. No one needed braces in societies consuming traditional foods!
Women of childbearing age had hips wide enough to give birth to a baby with relative ease. In contrast to these robustly healthy people, those who had switched to a more “civilized” diet of processed foods, sodas, and other westernized products soon began to manifest modern diseases and produce offspring with narrow jaws and crowded teeth, and more narrow faces. Diseases virtually unknown prior to exposure to processed foods, including cavities, set in at early ages, and mental unrest was common.” (Source)
What is a Traditional Foods Diet?
While the diets of these indigenous peoples varied greatly from place to place, there were several key factors that all of them had in common. In fact, these are things that ALL people groups from ALL time throughout ALL of history have had in common.
Except us, of course.
Every group of people who has ever lived on the planet has based their diet entirely on the most nutrient dense foods available, going in many cases, to great lengths to acquire these foods.
What were these sought-after foods?
- Seafood and/or other animal proteins and fats
- organ meats
- whole, raw dairy – often cultured
- fruits and veggies – often fermented
- nuts, seeds, and whole grains – soaked, sprouted, or soured
- some form of bone broth
Almost universally these traditional people groups allowed their grains, dairy products, and sometimes fruits and veggies to ferment before consuming. Fermentation not only preserves food, but makes the nutrients more available and supplies much-needed friendly bacteria for gut health – unlike our modern preservation methods which deaden and denature our food.
Thankfully, unlike our ancestors, we have access to many modern tools and resources that make traditional food preparation a little easier.
But implementing changes like these can be a bit overwhelming!
Go slow! Make one change at a time.
Any change is better than no change!
Sometimes it’s just making a simple switch at the grocery store. Other times, it requires sourcing harder to find items.
Be patient with yourself. Every change matters. It’ll be worth it.
Soon, you’ll be eating natural, wholesome, nutrient-dense foods that have been enjoyed by generations of people throughout all of human history.
And you know what?
You’ll be feeling better.
Your meals will be satisfying – no more needing a snack 20 minutes after breakfast!
No more counting calories!!!
Are you freaking out right now because you saw the words “organ meats” in that list up there?
We’ve come up with some pretty clever ways to get some of those more “acquired tastes” into our diet without having to actually acquire the taste… and if all else fails, there are some great supplements out there too.
Note: The traditional foods diet may not be possible for you in its entirety if, for instance, you are dealing with food sensitivities. We had to do some work to heal leaky gut before being able to enjoy all of the delicious traditional foods that we love. Read here to find out more details on our story.
Nutrition and Physical degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel
Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon
Don’t have time to sit down and read through all these fantastic resources?
Stay tuned and I’ll lead you through the changes we’ve made at our house, one by one.
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And as always friends, please remember that I’ve got kids sledding down the stairs on Costco boxes as I write to you…
So, if you think I’ve forgotten something important, have any questions or comments, or simply a bit of encouragement to share, please use the comments below, send me an email, or find us on Facebook.
I’d love to hear from you.