Westin Price was a dentist who lived and worked in the 1930’s. While taking care of his many patients who showed large numbers of dental cavities, he noticed that most of them were eating the basic refined diet of that time. That included foods made with white refined flour, and baked goods, sugars, sweets, jams and jellies, and sweet drinks such as soft drinks and juices. They were also eating very few raw, fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts.
This prompted him look into the diets and habits of the world’s primitive populations and compare health issues, behavior, and more. Dr. Price devoted many years to this research and traveled all over the world. He studied the Swiss, the Gaelics in the Outer and Inner Hebrides, the Eskimos of Alaska, the Indians in the far North, West and Central Canada, Western United States, and Florida, the Melanesians and Polynesians, tirbes in eastern and central Africa, the Aborigines of Australia, Malay tribes on islands north of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand, and the ancient civilizations and their descendents in Peru and the Amazon.
When possible, he also studied the modernized whites in these communities also. While Price’s primary quest was to find the cause of tooth decay, which was found to be directly related to diet, it also became very evident that there were far greater effects of a poor diet. These effects included facial and dental arch deformities, personality disturbances, and mental ability.
Amazingly, these primitive groups were often very aware of the problems that poor nutrition caused, as they had special nourishment rituals prior to marriage and pregnancy. In some tribes, a six month period of special nutrition was required before marriage, so that the bride would be fertile, healthy and in excellent physical shape when she became pregnant.
What are some of the common characteristics of a Traditional Diet according to Weston Price? The following is a list from the Weston Price foundation website:
1. The diets of healthy primitive peoples contain no processed foods, such as refined sugar, corn syrup, white flour, canned foods, pasteurized, homogenized, skim or low-fat milk, hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial additives, or artificial colorings.
2. All traditional cultures consume 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. Primitive 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) as the average American diet.
4. In all traditional cultures, some animal products are eaten raw.
5. Primitive and traditional diets have a 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 in order to neutralize nutrition-blocking substances such as phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, tannins and complex carbohydrates.
7. Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30% to 80% but only 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. Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
9. All primitive diets contain some salt.
10. Tradtional cultures consume animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
11. Traditional cultures 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.