Thank you everyone for the comments on both this post, as well as all of the helpful comments, suggestions, and stories on my post asking for advice for eczema. So helpful! In fact, I loved having everyone share so much, I have all sorts of topics I would love to put on here for you to offer your thoughts. Stay tuned!
In the past few years, I’ve come to respect the work of Dr. Price and his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. He is just one man with one man’s limited research, but nevertheless it is remarkable! I don’t agree with all of his viewpoints, and some of his research isn’t spot on. But his underlying theme and conclusion is very helpful and enlightening. I wanted to introduce this remarkable man to you today.
Who is he?
Dr. Weston A Price was a dentist who lived from 1870 to 1948 when industrial foods were just starting to spread like wildfire. Spurred on by the death of his own son from a tooth infection and his own personal experience with tooth decay while eating a typical diet, he became intrigued by the question “Why do teeth decay?”.
That question led him onto a much larger journey where he studied the effect that new industrial foods had on people in comparison to their traditional diets. He literally traveled the world and studied and compared people who were eating the “new foods” such as canned foods, jams, white sugar, white flour, and vegetable oil, to those who ate their traditional fare. His discoveries are very relevant and helpful to us today.
He observed and studied 14 healthy peoples groups varying from the United States, to Switzerland, to Peru to Africa. All of these people groups ate very different diets, but they had more in common then you would think at first glance.
The first observation he had was that those who ate their county’s traditional food were robust and healthy with wide jaws to support good teeth structure, very few to zero cavities, and a resistance to the common plagues of that time such as tuberculosis. Those who ate a lot of the new foods, like refined sugar and flour and the vegetable oils, often had rampant tooth decay and little resistance to disease. He documented the pictures of people’s teeth and facial structure showing how vast of a difference there was between those who ate traditional foods and those who didn’t. The difference was often alarming.
Afterwards, he treated children who were sick and who had severe tooth decay by feeding them a very full and good lunch with excellent results. He arranged for them to be fed mineral rich stews made out of bone broths (including the marrow bones), milk (which would have been raw), vegetables, butter, some fruit, and whole wheat bread made out of freshly ground wheat, as well as cod liver oil. A very large percentage of these children started healing their cavities (something I had no idea was possible until I read his book), despite the fact that this was only their lunch. Being poor, they ate white flour based breakfasts and dinners.
While he documented a limited amount of people groups (and there are so many people groups it would have been fascinating for him to have been able to study), he was able to pick up very distinct patterns in all 14 of the healthy robust people groups he did study. While their diets varied dramatically, certain principles were true across the board. It’s those principles that best serve us.
After reading through his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, the main theme or principle I picked up on was the importance of a diet full of nutrient dense foods (which were found in a diversity of diets).
The Definition of “Nutrient Dense” Foods
“Nutrient dense” is a phrase we throw around a lot. But what does that mean? While, to my memory, I don’t think that Dr. Price actually used that phrase, his research uncovered a significant difference in traditional diets. They were full of minerals and vitamins, especially ones such as calcium, vitamin A and D, and K2. They were often in percentages much higher than the typical American diet of his time. (Dr. Price dried food samples from each group he studied and had labs analyize nutrients from the foods). I don’t think that there was a single, healthy people group that didn’t have high amounts of these nutrients in their daily diets. Dr. Price came to the logical conclusion that if we wanted to have the robust health like these people, we should also eat foods that are high in these nutrients.
And, once again, what’s interesting is that everyone ate such diverse diets, but all had such high amounts of certain nutrients! Naturals sources of vitamin A and D are found in cod liver oil, and vitamin K2 is found in butter of cows eating fast growing greens. Dr. Price used those two in conjunction together after his research, along with mineral rich stews, meats, seafood, milk and produce for foods that were familiar to Americans.
The Variability of a “Good” Diet
I feel that those who seek “the ultimate” health food diet are overlooking the fact that not only is there a wide variety of diets that could be quite healthful, but that we very well may do best on different foods. Let’s take a look at a few of the diets, Dr. Price studied.
Switzerland: Dark Rye Bread, Homemade cheese and butter from grass fed cows (with particular value placed on spring butter that was made when the grass was growing rapidly) and generally one meat dish a week as well as soups made out of the leftover meat dish.
British Isles: Oats, Seafood, Produce
Masai Tribe: Milk (often soured), blood from cattle during the dry season of milking, and meat
Maori: Shellfish, kelp, grubs, fern roots and other produce and seafood.
Peruvian: Parched corn and beans, coca leaves (as in, cocaine!), fish, fruits and vegetable (among other food items depending on which group of Isolated Peruvians he was studying).
Everyone’s menu varied some if not dramatically, yet everyone seemed to have similar health. As we consider what it means to “eat well”, it’s important to remember that there isn’t some regimented perfect diet that the whole planet should eat. It can and even should be diverse considering our genetic backgrounds.
Dr. Price was most certainly an extraordinary man who uncovered the riches of traditional diets. For that, I am very thankful.