What an adventure I’ve been having! I’ve just got back from the Wise Traditions Conference in Montgomery Alabama. Wise Traditions is hosted by the Weston A Price Foundation.
Weston A Price was a dentist who lived between 1870 and 1948. He was interested in the connection between healthy teeth and diet and made it his mission to travel to various cultures across the globe to see what indigenous people with healthy teeth were eating and what we in the West could learn from it.
This survey took place in the 1930’s and took him to various cultures across the globe including villages in Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, Eskimos and Indians of North America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori and the Indians of South America.
Dr Price soon saw a correlation between diet and beautiful teeth, disease resistance, absence of decay and strong physical health of the people he met. All diets were rich in essential nutrients and void of white flour, processed vegetable fats and sugar. He also noticed that when exposed to Western influences the dental health of these individuals would decline.
So what was in the diets of these healthy folk?
Well according to Weston A Price these diets consisted of nutrient dense foods that were based around animal fats, raw milk products and whole grains. They were void of any processed foods, sugar or refined wheat and contained vegetables and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut. The food was produced sustainably without the use of chemicals. What I like about this information is that it looks at the importance of how our food is produced, where many diets don’t give that a mention. It also quite rightly contradicts the more recent propaganda circulated about fat, which we now know is actually good for us!
However some of this information is conflicting with other advice we receive about decreasing meat consumption. When we look at the Blue Zones which are the cultures in the world with healthy centenarians, we see that their diets are heavily vegetable based and there is plenty of evidence to back up those health claims too.
I eat meat along with most of the other foods Weston Price advocates and a lot of what Weston Price says resonates with me but what about the other health claims in the world?
Here’s what I think (and it is the opinion of one humble vintage loving Nutritional Therapist) I think that the main reason all of these folk thrived, had perfect teeth and lived to a ripe old age is probably a combination of the following factors:
- No refined or processed foods including sugar
- Diet based on whole foods (that is foods that come directly from nature)
- Some healthy fats
- Foods available according to the seasons
- Foods that are produced sustainably (that is without chemicals)
- Foods that are produced using age old traditions eg fermenting
- Exercise, fresh air, sunshine and living in harmony with nature
- Minimal mental stress
- Strong community networks
I think the human species can thrive on many different diets – The Inuits feast on fat, the Mongolians base their eating on dried meat and dairy, Okinawans eat a largely vegetable based diet but to quote Michael Pollan ‘the Western diet has been very cleverly designed to kill us’.
What I love about the Weston Price approach is that is really embraces the traditions around food production and preparation. Many of these have been lost with the influx of convenience foods and that is a great shame.
I shall continue to fly the flag of wise traditions and support my local, sustainable food producers, base my diet on nutrient dense whole foods and enjoy the process of eating from farm to fork
… that reminds me to check on my sauerkraut!