You may have decided that you need to improve your diet. You may have health problems that you hope will improve if you eat better. Maybe someone in your family who is concerned with your health has encouraged you to change your diet. Whatever the reason, you want to learn how to eat better. This post is especially for those who want to change their diet but aren’t sure how to get started.
WHY YOU SHOULD EAT A TRADITIONAL, REAL FOOD DIET
Before we look at how to get started with a Real Food diet, let’s look at why we should eat a traditional, Real Food diet. Specifically, what is the research behind these steps to good nutrition? How do we know that these guidelines will help us have better health?
THE RESEARCH OF DR. WESTON A. PRICE
For over ten years in the 1930’s, Dr. Weston A. Price, a Cleveland dentist and nutrition pioneer, traveled around the world to study groups of people who were untouched by western civilization and were still eating their traditional diets. It was possible at that time because modern factory foods had not yet penetrated to some isolated groups. 1
The groups Dr. Price studied included villages in Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, native peoples in North and South America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea islanders, African tribes, Australian aborigines, and New Zealand Maoris. 1
Dr. Price looked for healthy groups of people with the goal of discovering the factors responsible for good dental health. “His studies revealed that dental caries and the facial deformities that led to crowded, crooked teeth were the result of nutritional deficiencies, not inherited genetic defects.” 1
“The photographs of Dr. Weston Price illustrate the difference in facial structure between those on native diets and those whose parents had adopted the ‘civilized’ diets of devitalized processed foods. The ‘primitive’ Seminole (left) has a wide, handsome face with plenty of room for the dental arches. The ‘modernized’ Seminole girl (right), born to parents who had abandoned their traditional diets, has a narrowed face, crowded teeth and a reduced immunity to disease.” 1
Dr. Price’s analysis of the traditional foods eaten by these isolated peoples found that they were much higher in nutrients than the typical American diet of the 1930’s. In fact, our diet today likely contains even fewer nutrients that the diet of the 1930’s. The traditional diets were FOUR times higher in the water-soluble vitamins, calcium, and other minerals and were at least TEN times higher in the fat-soluble vitamins, such as A and D, that are abundant in animal foods like butter, fish eggs, shellfish, organ meats, eggs, and animal fats. 1
Dr. Price’s findings are documented in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Dr. Price’s research and the principles of healthy traditional diets. Most of the dietary information in this post is taken from WAPF educational materials.
What kind of diet did those isolated groups have? Let’s look at a summary of those principles:
PRINCIPLES OF TRADITIONAL DIETS 1
- Eat no refined or denatured foods, for example, refined sugar & flour, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), pasteurized & homogenized milk, skim & low-fat milk, refined vegetable oils, additives/artificial sweeteners
- Include animal foods in the diet, for example, fish, birds, red meat, eggs, milk
- Eat nutrient dense foods – high mineral and vitamin content
- Cook some foods, but eat some animal foods raw, for example, raw milk, butter & cheese, raw fish
- Eat foods with high enzyme content and beneficial bacteria, for example, raw dairy, raw meat & fish, raw honey, tropical fruits, cold pressed oils, lacto-fermented foods
- Soak, sprout, ferment, or naturally leaven seeds, grains, legumes, & nuts to deactivate enzyme inhibitors, neutralize phytic acid, neutralize tannins & lectins, pre-digest starches & sugars, and begin breakdown of gluten & cellulose
- Total fat content of the diet should be between 30% and 80%
- Eat nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
- All traditional diets contain some salt.
- All traditional cultures used bones, usually as gelatin-rich bone broth, for easy-to-assimilate minerals, nutrients for healthy cartilage, amino acids, and gelatin.
- Traditional cultures made provisions for future generations, for example, by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women, and growing children; spacing of children; and teaching the principles of a proper diet to the young.
HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH AND YOUR DIET
After reading the principles of a traditional diet, how should you change your diet to increase the nutrients? If you are just beginning your journey to health through good nutrition, it’s probably not a good idea to try to do everything at once. Remember that each and every step you take will improve your health. Look over the list below and choose one step at a time, in any order. Get comfortable with your progress at each step, then choose another and another, until you are eating a whole foods, traditional diet rich in nutrients.
These steps emphasize what you should eat rather than what you should NOT eat. Always think positively about your diet. Eat nutritious Real Foods that taste good!
STEPS TO A HEALTHY DIET 1
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods.
- Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry, and eggs from pasture-fed animals.
- Eat wild fish (not farm-raised) and shellfish from unpolluted waters.
- Eat full-fat milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as raw milk, whole yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, whole milk raw cheeses, cream, and sour cream.
- Use animal fats, especially butter, liberally.
- Use only traditional vegetable oils–extra virgin olive oil, expeller-expressed sesame oil, small amounts of expeller-expressed flax oil, and the tropical oils–coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.
- Take cod liver oil to provide at least 10,000 IU vitamin A and 1,000 IU vitamin D per day.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, in salads and soups, or lightly steamed with butter.
- Use whole grains, legumes, and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting, or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, and other anti-nutrients.
- Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
- Prepare homemade meat stocks and broths from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb, and fish and use liberally in soups, stews, gravies, and sauces.
- Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
- Use unrefined salt and herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
- Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, maple sugar, date sugar, dehydrated cane sugar juice (Rapadura or Sucanat), and stevia powder.
- Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in moderation with meals.
- Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass, or good quality enamel cookware.
- Use only natural, food-based supplements.
- Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and natural light.
Although it is important to be positive about the improvements in your diet, there are some foods that it is especially important to avoid.
FOODS TO AVOID 1
- Avoid commercially processed foods such as cookies, cakes, crackers, frozen entrees, soft drinks, packaged sauce mixes, and most boxed, packaged, and prepared foods.
- Avoid all refined sweeteners such as sugar, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, and fruit juices. Also avoid all artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid white flour, white flour products, and white rice.
- Avoid all hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and oils.
- Avoid all refined liquid vegetable oils made from soy, corn, safflower, canola, or cottonseed.
- Avoid polyunsaturated oils for cooking, sauteing, or baking. They should hot be heated.
- Avoid foods fried in polyunsaturated oils or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. (Unfortunately this includes almost all fried foods at restaurants and fast food chains.)
- Do not practice veganism. Vital nutrients are found only in animal foods.
- Avoid products containing protein powders as they usually contain carcinogens formed during processing and consumption of protein without the cofactors occurring in nature can lead to deficiencies, especially of vitamin A.
- Avoid processed, pasteurized milk; do not consume ultra pasteurized milk products, lowfat milk, skim milk, powdered milk, or imitation milk products.
- Avoid factory-farmed eggs, meats, and fats.
- Avoid highly processed luncheon meats and sausage.
- Avoid rancid and improperly prepared seeds, nuts, and grains found in granolas, quick rise breads, and extruded breakfast cereals. They block mineral absorption and cause intestinal distress.
- Avoid foods containing genetically modified ingredients, commonly known as GMOs. Most soy, canola, and corn products contain GMOs. Avoid canned, sprayed, waxed, and irradiated fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid artificial food additives, especially MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and aspartame, which are neurotoxins. 4 Most commercial and canned soups, sauce and broth mixes and most commercial condiments contain MSG, even if not indicated on the label.
- Individuals sensitive to caffeine and related substances should avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate.
- Avoid aluminum-containing foods such as commercial salt, baking powder, and antacids. Do not use aluminum cookware or deodorants containing aluminum.
- Do not drink fluoridated water.
- Avoid synthetic vitamins and foods containing them.
- Avoid distilled liquors.
- Do not cook in a microwave oven.
To put all of these recommendations in the simplest terms, you should choose whole, natural, unprocessed foods and avoid packaged, highly processed, and synthetic/artificial foods.
Here are some good maxims to remember . . .
IF IT TAKES A FACTORY TO MAKE A FOOD, THEN DON’T EAT IT!
IF YOU CAN’T PRONOUNCE OR DON’T RECOGNIZE ANY INGREDIENT, DON’T EAT IT!
These guidelines may seem difficult, but remember to take your journey one step at a time and know that you can still eat a healthy diet even if your time and budget are limited!
TIPS FOR LIMITED-TIME AND LIMITED BUDGET 3
- Don’t buy boxed cold breakfast cereals. They are very expensive, poor in nutrients, and difficult to digest. Buy organic oatmeal, soak overnight in kefir or whole plain yogurt, and cook. Cheaper and more nutritious.
- Make your own salad dressing, including mayonnaise.
- Always buy butter. If the cost of butter is too much, buy lard.
- Make stock at least once a week. Stock is very nourishing and inexpensive to make. Use the congealed fat from making stock for cooking and the leftover meat for soups, meat salads and other dishes.
- Take cod liver oil. A daily teaspoonful is one of the least expensive supplements.
- Good dairy is worth the price. The best solution is to find a local raw milk dairy. Next best, buy low temperature non-homogenized whole milk in stores. Last, buy commercial whole milk from hormone free cows. Low fat, skim, and all ultra high temperature pasteurized milk should be avoided.
- Some of the less expensive vegetables are also some of the most nourishing: potatoes, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, onions, broccoli, chard, beets, and kale. Serve the vegetables with lots of butter.
- Eggs are very nourishing, and, even at prices for pastured eggs, are one of the least expensive foods per serving. You can get 4 to 6 servings from one dozen eggs. At $4.00/dozen, that’s only $0.67 to a $1.00 per serving. Even at $5.00/dozen, a serving of 3 eggs is only $1.25. Eggs from pastured chickens are one of the least expensive, excellent quality, nutrient-dense foods.
- Make soups a part of your regular meal plan. They can be made from leftovers or from scratch. If you like blended soups, a handheld blender can be found for $25 to $30.
- Eat liver occasionally. It is usually not expensive, but it is very nutritious.
- Make kombucha. It costs less than 20 cents per quart, and it tastes better and is far healthier than soft drinks.
- Buy the best quality, unprocessed food you can afford. Cut out expensive junk food–such as soft drinks, chips, packaged cakes and cookies, and anything labeled snack. Use the savings to buy whole foods.
For support in your journey to better health, join your local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. If you live in the Houston area, the Houston-Galveston Chapter has a Meetup group, Houston Real Food Nutrition, where all chapter events are scheduled. There is no cost to join Houston Real Food Nutrition or any local chapter.
All of this may sound impossible and overwhelming, but just take one step at a time and remember that none of us in today’s environment is 100% compliant with ALL of these guidelines ALL of the time. Maybe if you lived on a farm, grew, raised, and prepared all of your own food, you just might get close to 100%, but it’s almost impossible today to do that. So, the goal is to get as close as possible, and you will see benefits from each step further on your journey.
IMPORTANT: If you don’t see the improvement you need by changing to a traditional, real food diet, it is possible that you have a damaged gastro-intestinal system (gut), often called a “leaky gut,” which prevents you from absorbing the essential nutrients that you eat. I highly recommend that you look into the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The diet is designed to heal your gut, which would allow you to eat the properly prepared foods mentioned above, I know of amazing improvement in health in even very serious cases after following the GAPS protocol.
This post is a work in progress and will be updated periodically as needed.
1 Principles of Healthy Diets by the Weston A. Price Foundation
2 Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price, DDS
3 Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon
4 Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD.
Web resources for more information about healthy diets:
Know Your Fats
Cod Liver Oil
The Dangers of Modern Foods
Obesity and Weight Loss
Soy Alert! Soy Dangers Summarized
Traditional Diets from Around the World
Genetically Engineered Foods May be Far More Harmful than We Thought
Myths of Vegetarianism
Twenty-two Reasons Not To Go Vegetarian
The China Study Myth
How Much Fluoride is Too Much Fluoride: Who Really Benefits?
Study finds significant new evidence that GMOs can cause harm
It’s Not Pretty Behind the Biotech Veil, an Interview with Howard Vlieger
Books for further research:
Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.
Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You by Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD. What REALLY Causes Heart Disease.
Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats by Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon
Life Without Bread: How a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life by Christian B. Allan, PhD, and Wolfgang Lutz, MD.
Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition by Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD
The WAPF booklet, Principles of Healthy Diets, is available online in several languages in addition to English, including Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.
For another approach to getting started on a traditional, real food diet look at Nourishting Our Children’s post, First Steps Guide.
Photo credit: Photo Copyright © Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation®, All Rights Reserved, www.ppnf.org. The mission of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation (PPNF) is to teach the public and professionals about foods, lifestyle habits, healing modalities, and environmental practices that can help people attain vibrant health. The Foundation is committed to being a leading resource for the work of Weston A. Price, DDS, Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD, and others who have discovered the underlying causes of disease and degeneration and how to prevent or reverse these conditions.