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The Eleven Characteristics of Traditional Diets

created by Sally Fallon Morell, based on the findings of Dr. Weston A. Price

  1. No refined or denatured foods such as refined sugar or corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or low-fat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; artificial vitamins or toxic additives and colorings.
  2. Some sort of animal protein and fat: from fish and other seafood; water and land fowl; land animals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects.
  3. Nutrient density: Traditional diets contain at least four times the calcium and other minerals and TEN times the fat soluble vitamins from animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and the Price Factor -- now understood to be Vitamin L) as the average American diet.
  4. Some animal products are eaten raw.
  5. High food-enzyme content from raw dairy products; raw meat and fish; raw honey; tropical fruits; cold-pressed oils; wine and unpasteurized beer; and naturally preserved, lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, meats and condiments.
  6. Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened in order to neutralize naturally occuring antinutrients in these foods, such as phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, tannins and complex carbohydrates.
  7. Not low fat! Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30% to 80% but only about 4% of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, pulses, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
  8. Nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  9. Some salt.
  10. Consumption of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
  11. Make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.


The Weston Price Story 

Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948), a Cleveland dentist has been called the “Isaac Newton of Nutrition.”

Seeking to understand the causes of dental decay and physical degeneration that he observed in his practice, particularly in the children and even grandchildren of his original patients, he turned from test tubes and microscopes to unrecognized--and quickly disappearing--evidence among living human beings. In his search for the causes of ill health in the world around him, he discovered the source of vital health among the people who still possessed it--traditional societies uncorrupted by modern agriculture and food processing. 

Before World War II, there were still many of these small thriving groups around the world. Price traveled extensively in the 1920s and '30s, gathering evidence wherever he went. His findings led him to the belief that dental decay and deformed dental arches, which he witnessed throughout the industrialized world, were signs of broader degeneration caused by nutritional deficiencies. While dental health was his gateway, his research led to fundamental insights about nutrition and health in the modern world.

Price traveled to snow-bound villages in the Swiss Alps, Polynesian South Sea islands, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, to the Inuit of North America, East African tribal groups, Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Maori and the native people of North and South America. Wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, resistance to disease, ease of childbirth and even admirable personal characters were typical of indigenous peoples on their traditional diets. These stalwart people stood in sharp contrast to those subsisting on the impoverished foods of "civilization"--white flour, pasteurized milk, cheap vegetable oils, sugars and processed foods filled with extenders and additives.

Dr. Price presented his discoveries and conclusions in the classic volume, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. The book contains striking photographs of handsome, healthy indigenous people, and illustrates in an unforgettable way the degeneration that occurs--and often occurs quite quickly--when human groups abandon nourishing traditional diets in favor of modern convenience foods. The book is a compendium of traditional dietary practices from societies that had learned over centuries to make the most of the resources in their local environments, that were fast disappearing in the rush or modernity.

In 1999, Price's work was revived in the landmark book, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morell and Mary Enig, which launched a movement and galvanized the community that gave birth to Three Stone Hearth. There is now a blog called The Nourishing Cook, which documents the preparation of all 773 recipes in Nourishing Traditions. In 2014, Sally Fallon Morell published Nourishing Broth, focussing on one of the most fundamental healing foods Price discovered in traditional cultures around the world -- slow-cooked bone broths from pasture-raised animals. She has also published Nourishing Diets: How Paleo, Ancestral and Traditional People Really Ate, The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care, The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children, and Nourishing Fats, among others. 

In addition to his work on nutrition, Dr. Price conducted extensive research into the destructive effects of root canals, detailed in his two-volume work, Dental Infections Oral & Systemic and Dental Infections & the Degenerative Diseases. His conclusions, ignored by the orthodox dental establishment for over 50 years, are gaining renewed acceptance as holistic practitioners are discovering that the first step to recovery from degenerative disease often involves removal of all root canals in the patient’s mouth.

Price was a passionate scientist, and a deep thinker. In his words:

“We can now visualize our universe, its light, gravity and heat, its seasons, tides, and harvest, which prepare a habitation for the universe of vital forms, microscopic and majestic, which fill the oceans and the forests. We have a common denominator for universes within and around each other. Our world, our food and our life have potentials so vast that we can only observe directions, not goals. We sense human achievements or ignominious self-destruction. Every creed today vaguely seeks a utopia... Yes, man’s place is most exalted when he obeys Mother Nature’s laws.”

For information on Weston Price and the Weston A. Price Foundation, including many resources for further exploration of these topics, click here