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What Makes a Healthy Diet?

Diet fads come and go every year. With so much conflicting information, how are we to know what makes a healthy diet?

Although I'm not a nutritionist, I've been studying nutrition and health for 17+ years. In my natural healthcare practice, I've seen that nutrition is not a magic bullet that can heal all health conditions. Nonetheless, nutrition is a foundational part of building and maintaining health throughout our lifetimes.

For nourishing myself and my family, instead of jumping onto the newest fad, I stick with the wisdom that has nourished humanity for millennia. We don't need sophisticated, lab-made foods. We don't need the many processed foods at the grocery store that bear little resemblance to even being edible. Our bodies are made to thrive on real foods and the proof is in our very existence.

Weston A Price's Research

We're so far removed from ancestral diets that it can be hard to know what they looked like. To better understand which foods have helped people thrive for thousands of years, the research of Weston A. Price is foundational.

In his seminal book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price provides tremendous insights into which foods have nourished humanity historically all over the world. Price was a dentist in the early 1900's and he was puzzled in trying to understand why so many of his patients in the United States had such prevalent tooth decay and cavities. Price traveled all over the world to study the health of different populations in order to find the answer to this question.

Price learned that people who ate traditional foods had virtually no cavities or tooth decay, nor even cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. When the same people started consuming modern foods (such as refined white flour, pasteurized milk, canned foods, and sugar), they developed tooth decay, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

The photos in Price's book speak volumes about the effects of diet on health. He sought out people consuming traditional versus modern diets in each region, and was thereby able to see profound differences in their health depending on their diets.

For more of Price's photos and findings, these are helpful resources from Price-Pottenger:

Principles of Healthy Diets From Price's Research

The diets of the people studied by Price were very different depending on what foods were available in each geographic region. However, the traditional diets had some common characteristics (from Nourishing Traditions).

..."the groups he studied ate liberally of seafood or other animal proteins and fats in the form of organ meats and dairy products;
"they valued animal fats as absolutely necessary to good health;
"and they ate fats, meats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains in their whole, unrefined state."

Price's studies showed that the diets of traditional people contained up to ten times the amounts of vitamins and nutrients present in modern diets. Price found that the higher nutrient-content of traditional diets led to robust health and much greater immunity to infectious diseases such as then-prevalent tuberculosis.

Nutrients are best obtained through whole foods as opposed to supplements. Whole foods contain enzymes and other synergistic co-factors which best allow the nutrients to be absorbed and utilized by the body.

Fermented Foods In Traditional Diets

Other research has shown that fermented foods were another key part of ancestral diets, with their documented use dating back to nearly 10,000 years ago. These foods included cultured dairy products, as well as fermented vegetables, fruits, and meats. Unlike modern canning processes, the process of fermenting foods increases their nutrient content and makes them easier to digest.

Fermented foods also provide probiotics, which are especially important to ensure the right balance of gut bacteria. In our modern age of widespread antibiotic and pharmaceutical use, people very commonly have an improper balance of gut bacteria. Improper gut bacteria can lead to small problems such as allergies and eczema, as well as big problems like autism, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

What to Eat

Based on Weston Price's research and other insights into ancestral diets, the following foods are those most likely to generally lead to robust health. These are basically the foods that have nourished humanity for thousands of years.

  • Healthy fats, including butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, animal fats like lard, schmaltz, tallow, duck fat, etc. (without preservatives)

  • Meat, eggs, and seafood from well-raised animals (pastured, grassfed, wild-caught, etc.)

  • Organ meats, including liver, heart, cod liver oil, marrow bones, etc. (pastured, grassfed, wild-caught, etc.)

  • Raw whole milk and other full-fat dairy such as cream, cheeses, etc. (preferably grassfed)

  • Seasonal vegetables and fruit (preferably organic)

  • Bone broth

  • Fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, fermented pickles, etc.)

  • Starches such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice, etc.

  • Grains and legumes such as Einkorn wheat, oats, corn, beans, chickpeas, etc., that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting, or souring (such as true sourdough bread with no yeast)

  • Nuts and seeds, such as pecans, almonds, chia, etc.

  • Unrefined sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, sucanat, etc.

Foods to Avoid

These modern foods and fake foods can be detrimental to long-term health.

  • Food dyes, preservatives, MSG, etc.

  • High fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners

  • Canned foods and processed breakfast cereals

  • Soda and pasteurized fruit juices

  • Soy (except fermented soy sauce)

  • Canola oil and vegetable oils in general

  • Fat-free and low-fat dairy, ultra-pasteurized milk, and milk alternatives such as oat, soy, almond, etc.

  • Most boxed foods made with processed ingredients, preservatives, etc. (goldfish crackers, frozen dinners, cakes and cookies, etc.)

People have relied upon whole, real foods throughout history to ensure good health, proper development, and strong immune systems. As Hippocrates said, "Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. This information is intended for educational use only.

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