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Variety and Commonality in Traditional Diets

When Dr. Weston Price ( a dentist from Cleveland who was renowned for his dental research in his lifetime) traveled the globe in the 1920’s and 30’s, he was researching what makes for a healthy diet. Sixteen very different traditional diets (from a wide variety of environments) met his criteria (and those included dental health; ie, well-formed teeth without cavities). What is so interesting from our current day perspective, where so many “named” diets claim to be “the right one” is this very diversity and variety:

Some traditional diets had no plant foods.

Some contained few animal foods.

Some were mostly cooked foods.

Some had large amounts of raw foods.

Some contained milk products and others lacked them.

Some ate grains while others did not.

Some had fruits and some didn’t.

The underlying characteristics that these healthy traditional diets shared:

No refined or denatured foods

Every diet had some animal products

All diets were high in enzymes (and most contained fermented foods)

Seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts were soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened

Total fat content varied from 30% to 80% of calories, but only 4% of calories came from polyunsaturated oils

High amounts of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

All diets contained some salt

All traditional cultures made use of bones, usually as broth

When we examine the advent of canned, frozen, pasteurized, boxed, and increased “shelf-life,” what we see is a huge transition from “home-made” to “machine and factory-made,” as well as an emphasis on convenience and speed. The seasonal, local, hand-made and complex have been largely supplanted by supermarket brands that have homogenized our diets. Yes we gained ease and variety, but at a huge “unintended consequence” of a multitude of health problems.

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Meat Or Vegetarian Protein?

Is there a more contentious question in nutrition?

If you had asked me back when I was a vegetarian (or vegan) I would have answered very differently that I do now. I was so sure I knew the answer. Now I am only sure that some folks are very healthy as vegetarians or vegans, and others are not. Especially at our high altitude and the intense cold during winter, many women I know who were once vegetarians are now eating some meat, and feeling better. Also, many of us ate WAY too much soy (especially if, like me, you ate it as “burgers and dogs,” i.e., processed and tricked out to look and feel and sorta taste like meat). Our low thyroid function is partly a legacy from all the soy consumption.

Dealing with this question could easily be a book! Next week I’ll talk about Weston Price and his research into traditional diets, which I think is a less biased way to deal with this question. As we look at what healthy groups of a variety of people in a diversity of environments actually ate (and usually over a very long period of time), we can base our conclusions on historical facts and observations of a scientifically trained dentist. We will find commonalities that are intriguing.

 There was and is no one way for a group of people to eat healthily. And there is quite a bit of evidence that some proteins are not very healthy at all (canned meats, deep-fried fish and other meat, animals fed in feedlots with food that is not their natural diet, and anything GMO).

One caveat for those who are strict vegetarians or vegans: B12 is very hard to get in those diets. A recent Mercola article puts it well:

Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal tissues, which vegans and vegetarians do not typically eat. The few plant foods that are sources of B12 are actually B12 analogs, which blocks the uptake of true B12 and actually increases your need for it.

  • B12 is stored in your liver, kidneys and other body tissues. As a result, a deficiency may not be apparent for about seven years.
  • Initial symptoms of deficiency include: lack of motivation, apathy, mental fogginess, muscle weakness and fatigue. Chronic long-term B12 deficiency can lead to serious conditions such as depression, dementia, and fertility problems.

If you’d like to read the entire article, please go HERE.