Moving forward can be a good thing, but advances in technology don’t always equal progress, Over time, we begin to see the differences between what was and what is, and we may collectively come to realize that what was might have been better than what is.
The truth inevitably prevails. Just like when we finally learned and accepted that the earth was round, one day it will be common knowledge that naturally occurring saturated fats are good while the modern marvel of cultivated grains, cheap unrefined vegetable oils and processed carbohydrates in fancy packaging are bad. Only the future will tell us how much time and pressure for change it will take before mainstream institutions such as government lawmakers, the medical community and popular culture will accept these facts.
Fortunately for the rest of us, more and more great minds and authorities on human biology are joining the right side. The information highway is swift and people are learning to think for themselves. Nutrition “specialists” who still push the wrong dogma of higher carb and lower fat diets are either pushing what’s told to them without asking questions or have financial and/or egoistic interests, and it’s killing people.
As more and more educated professionals and individual parties get interested in spreading the right nutritional information, many names will be given to the approach.
- Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and Drs. Mary and Micheal Eades’ 6 Weeks Cure and Protein Power offer views very similar to a Paleo diet.
- Dr. Perricone of Rainbow Diet fame and Dr. Asa Andrews both believe that a balanced diet of whole foods from all groups, excluding industrialized processing and cereal grains, is the healthiest way to reduce and fight chronic inflammation, a major instigator of all disease.
- Jordan Rubin’s writing of The Makers Diet came about from his own difficulties and near death from Crohn’s disease, and recommends diets containing healthy animal fats.
- Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter is one of the leading authorities on how cultivated processed grains adversely affects us, and shows us in his book, Grain Brain, how the effects of wheat, sugar, and processed carbs can cause dimentia, ADHD, anxiety, and a host of other ailments.
There’s one man, however, who began studying how diet affects our well being more than 100 years ago.
Who was Weston A. Price?
Weston A. Price was a dentist that lived between 1870 and 1948. He wasn’t just any dentist though. Among other things, he was the chairman of the research section of the American Dental Association from 1914 to 1923.
In 1939, he published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in which he wrote about his observations of multiple cultures, their nutritional habits and their health. He studied traditional cultures that were still eating the same diet they’d been eating for thousands of years, and other cultures that were in the process of changing their diets to a more westernized one.
The idea that tooth decay was related to diet came to him because of all the teeth problems he saw people struggling with. It was inconceivable to him why almost everybody in a particular society had teeth and gum troubles, and other societies had none of these difficulties.
The observations he documented have proven to be invaluable. Almost all of the cultures he observed now eat a more westernized diet and the opportunity for modern studies is lost. There are simply too few examples to make this kind of investigation.
He went in to some areas of Switzerland, Scotland, Ireland, Alaska, Sudan, Australia, Peru, New Zealand and the American prairies looking for links between dental degeneration and diet.
In the scientific community, there often is a lot of criticism made towards observational and epidemiological studies because some variables can always be overlooked and can affect the outcome. In the case of Dr. Price’s study though, the cultures are very diverse, yet all show the same core diet principles and great health markers. His findings are, at the very least, important enough to warrant further investigation.
His study of cultures that were transitioning to a more westernized diet and his observations of the direct effect it had on their health are very revealing. He observed that mothers had easy delivery and children with well-formed jaws and facial bones among societies who ate animals and fat, and saw the opposite in babies born from mothers who ate a non-traditional or westernized diet. This has manifested into a physical degeneration from one generation to the next, and we now see more and more obese babies, malformed teeth, and other maladies that begin in infancy. Entire generations are growing up with poor nutrition and its accompanying illnesses because of modernization in agriculture that depletes soils, deprives plants and animals of the nutrition they need, and considers speed and profit as a priority over physical health and ecological well being
Today, the Weston A. Price Foundation, founded in 1999 by Sally Fallon and nutritionist Mary G. Enig, is a U.S. 501 non-profit organization dedicated to "restoring nutrient-dense foods to the American diet through education, research and activism”.
The Western diet
Some older studies showed that saturated fat, a large part of the standard American diet and the diets of much of the Western world, contributes greatly to obesity, inflammation and heart disease, as well as complications having to do with the liver, bowels, digestion, and overall well being.
More recent studies, however, show that saturated fats can be harmful mostly in conjunction with processed carbohydrates, another large component of Western diets, concluding that the fats are not causing problems, it’s the highly processed and chemical-containing packages the public is putting on their plates.
The Traditional diet
Is it any surprise that the traditional diets studied by Weston A. Price were very close to a Paleo diet? I don’t think so. Although the diets where very diverse depending on the climate and food availability, some important points where consistent.
All the diets contained animal products of some kind, often in high quantity. There were no plant-based or vegetarian diets. When meat or fish where not a staple in the diet, raw milk, yogurt and cheeses often were. Keep in mind here that we’re talking about unpasteurized, full-fat milk coming from pastured and grass-fed animals that grazed on plants growing in nutritionally rich soil. This makes for a completely different food than what you find in grocery stores. That milk was high in healthy saturated fat and contained high levels of carotenes, vitamin K2, butyric acid and a host of other essential nutrients.
Weston Price also found that the cultures often had sacred food that they took care not to waste and would feed to pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as growing children.
Some of those sacred foods were fish eggs, liver, bone marrow, raw milk and cod liver oil. These sources of food are all high in saturated fat as well as fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2. These vitamins work in combination to activate other vitamins and important body processes. Weston Price was the first to talk about the importance of vitamin K2 and called it activator X. Among other things, these vitamins work together to create strong bones, articulations and cavity-free teeth. The functions of those vitamins explain why they are so important for pregnant and nursing women as well as growing children. The cultures studied understood this importance instinctively and by tradition.
Paleo Dietary Guidelines and Weston A. Price Foundation Dietary Guidelines
The exact guidelines to follow are up to you, but there’s evidence based science to back them up. There are some discrepancies, even in Paleo circles, regarding what Paleo is and how the diet should be undertaken. Two of the leading early proponents of Paleo, Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet, and Robb Wolf, Paleo Solution, recommend eating primarily lean meat, and plants with no added fat. However, as Paleo quickly evolved to include more experts, it was given a closer look and is now more finely tuned.
Today’s Paleo has many similarities to the Weston A. Price Foundation’s dietary guidelines, which are based on his observations. To clarify any confusion, here’s a comparison of the WAPF guidelines, and the prevailing Paleo Dietary Guidelines. (WAPF dietary guidelines reprinted with permission from the Weston A. Price Foundation).
|Weston A. Price (1)||Paleo Dietary Guideline|
|Animal foods||Eat the whole animal, including the meat, fat, organ meats, bones, cartilage and skin including poultry and pork||Eat the whole animal from hoof to snout, all meat, fat, organs, bones, cartilage and skin|
|Meat||Should be pasture-raised for higher levels of minerals, and vitamins, especially fat-soluble vitamins and minimal hormones, antibiotics and other harmful chemicals; always eat meat with the fat. If the meat is lean, prepare it with added fat||Pasture-raised or wild game animals are recommended because they forage what they need from biologically perfect food suitable to their needs. They contain higher levels of nutrients including fat-soluble vitamins and have no added hormones. Animals that need antibiotics are removed from the food program|
|Organ meats||More important than muscle meats, should be consumed frequently||Recognizes liver, kidney, and heart from grass fed animals as some of the most nutritious food available. Advises against organ meats from CAFO raised animals because of the diet, drugs, and living conditions|
|Poultry||Always eat with the fat and skin; make pate with the livers and hearts; eat the gizzards also||Eat organ meats from organic free range birds including heart, gizzard, and liver, eat skin, fat, and both dark and light meat|
|Pork||OK to consume when cured (bacon, ham), marinated in an acidic medium before cooking, or with a lacto-fermented food such as sauerkraut||Eat organically raised pigs without synthetic nitrogen fertilizers; naturally cured with salt, not chemically cured; wood smoked or fermented|
|Seafood||Wild seafood, particularly shellfish, oily fish, fish heads, fish liver oils and fish eggs. Prepare seafood with added fat. Eat the skin of the fish||Wild caught fin fish and shellfish; eat skin, heads, eyes, and eggs|
|Raw animal food||All traditional cultures consumed some of their animal food raw; so it is important to include raw dairy, raw meat, raw fish and/or raw shellfish in the diet on a frequent basis||Raw foods were the mainstay of prehistoric cultures before they learned to smoke, ferment, or fire food. Eat safe raw foods from all groups.|
|Eggs||Preferably pastured; emphasis on egg yolks rather than egg whites||Pastured/free range eggs recommended for their nutrient density, fat soluble and other vitamins, carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin; raw egg whites are only 51% digestible, cooked about 90% (2)|
|Vegetables||Raw or cooked, always with added fat, such as butter||Preferably organically grown; raw eaten with fat or cooked with added fat from olive oil, coconut oil, pastured butter, or pastured animal fat|
|Fruits||Raw or cooked, some fruits more digestible when cooked; add fat (butter or cream) or consume in the context of a meal containing fat||Organically raised or wild; raw, or cooked with added fat from refined oils, pastured butter, or pastured animal fat|
|Grains||Recommended on the observation that many healthy primitive and traditional peoples included grain in their diets; properly prepared to neutralize anti-nutrients and improve digestibility||No grains, based on the theory that Paleolithic peoples had no grains in their diet, and also because grains contain various anti-nutrients|
|Legumes||Recommended; need proper preparation to neutralize anti-nutrients; consumed as a major source of calories by many healthy traditional cultures throughout the world||To be avoided; they contain anti-nutrients and digestibility is low compared with other proteins from animal or vegetable sources (3); not strictly Paleolithic, but fermenting, soaking or sprouting will make them more digestible|
|Nuts||Good to include in the diet after careful preparation to neutralize anti-nutrients||Allowed, even though nuts also contain anti-nutrients (just like grains and legumes) so should be consumed in small amounts|
|Dairy||Should be raw, whole, full fat; wonderful for growing children||Recommends raw, whole, full fat from pastured animals|
|Butter||Consume liberally||Recommends butter from pastured animals be used generously. If highly intolerant to dairy, ghee can be used instead of butter|
|Meat fats - lard, tallow||Consume liberally||Recommends substantial amounts of lard, tallow, and animal fats from pastured animals|
|Fish liver oil||Recommended as a daily supplement for vitamins A and D||Recommends eating wild caught fatty fish|
|Fish oil||Not recommended; can overload the body with omega-3 fatty acids and interfere with arachidonic acid; human requirements for omega-3 fatty acids like DHA are actually very low||Recommends eating wild caught fatty fish|
|Plant oils||No industrial oils (corn, soy, canola, etc); olive oil and coconut oil allowed||Recommends consuming plant oils (not cheap industrial oils) from coconut, olive, avocado, as well as oils from animal fats|
|Lacto-fermented food||Include with every meal||Recommends foods fermented without an abundance of salt. To be avoided by people with SIBO or histamine intolerance|
|Bone broths||Consume liberally||Bone broths are consistent with Paleo philosophy including bone, cartilage, gelatin, marrow, ligaments, and tendons for valuable elastin, collagen proteins, myeloid and lymphoid stem cells, amino acids glycine and proline, and minerals|
|Vitamin D||Needs to be consumed as part of food, in balance with vitamin A||Does not make recommendations for supplementation one way or another; recommends enough fatty fish and sunshine|
|Vitamin A||Animal form of vitamin A vital to health; vitamin A-rich foods need to be balanced by foods containing vitamin D. Precursors (carotenes) in plant foods are a poor source of vitamin A for humans||Does not make recommendations for supplementation one way or another; assumes enough grass fed meats eaten with green and orange vegetables|
|Calcium||Best source is raw dairy foods; cultures that don’t have dairy foods made use of bones (fermented fish bones or bones of small birds and animals ground up and added to food)||Beef, pork, lamb, bird, and fish bones and raw or fermented milk and plants are in keeping with Paleo philosophy|
|Protein||No more than 20% of calories||Recommends no less than 10% with 20% being optimal to avoid protein “toxicity”|
|Fats||Can be anywhere from 30-80% of calories, with saturated fat predominating. When fat intake is low, balance of calories needs to come from carbohydrates (which the body can turn into saturated fat)||Fats should be the main macronutrient, with smaller portions of proteins and carbohydrates|
|Saturated fats||No limit. Saturated fats are critical for good health||Fats should be the main macronutrient with predominantly saturated fats from animal tissues, butter or ghee|
|Cholesterol||Important for hormone production, production of bile salts, healing and repair, protection against cancer; very low levels of cholesterol (120-140mg/dl) are associated with cancer, intestinal diseases, violence, depression and suicide; For women at any age, and for men over 60, higher cholesterol levels are associated with longevity||Dietary cholesterol viewed as healthy; cholesterol is necessary for the body to perform many vital functions|
|Starchy carbohydrates||Can be included in the diet. Should be well cooked and consumed with a fat, like butter||Recommends organic starchy roots, tubers and other safe starches; chestnuts|
|Carbohydrates||Some carbohydrate in the diet is necessary. Avoid refined carbohydrates||Consume moderate portions of starchy tubers, roots, fruits, and other vegetables in conjunction with fats; does not allow chemically processed carbohydrates|
|Processed foods||No industrially processed foods; eat liberally of foods prepared by artisan processors (lacto-fermented foods and beverages, naturally cured meats, cheese, sourdough bread)||Does not allow chemically or industrially processed carbohydrates; encourages naturally processed foods such as lacto-fermented foods and drinks|
|Salt||Very important; adults need at least 1½ teaspoons per day; we consumed up to 3 teaspoons per day in the past||Does not recommend table salt; recommends sea salt or pink salt, which contain minerals and less sodium chloride. Care should also be taken to consume enough iodine|
|Chocolate||Not recommended||Dark chocolate viewed as an indulgence with some pros and cons|
|Coffee/Tea||Not recommended||Allowed for people who tolerate it well. Coffee can sometimes cause issues and should be avoided by some people|
|Alcohol||Alcohol,wine and unpasteurized beer in moderation with meals||Alcohol is also viewed as being in a gray area where moderation is key and complete avoidance is sometimes beneficial|
|Pregnancy diet||Nutrient-dense diet, rich if fat-soluble vitamins, extremely important to ensure the health of the next generation||Recommends the same balance of high fat diet, plants, carbs, and proteins consistent with Paleo Dietary Guidelines, with emphasis on organ meats, saturated fats, bone broths, and nutrient density|
As you can see, the cultures studied by Weston A. Price consumed foods that run very closely to the current Paleo philosophy and the modern Paleo Dietary Guidelines. Today, the work of Weston A. Price is protected and promoted by the Weston A. Price Foundation led by Sally Fallon Morell, who also wrote Nourishing Traditions. The work of the foundation is vitally important to the well being of humanity and the planet as a whole. There are chapters in all major cities that offer a great way to connect with like-minded people.