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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