Finding Better Health Through a Traditional Diet

Written by Jennifer S on March 18th, 2011

This entry was posted in Feeding With Love, Healthy Eating and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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My family and friends know that I love food and I love creating delicious, flavorful, healthy meals and treats. With all good intentions, they constantly refer to me as Betty Crocker. Recently, I have begun to loathe that reference. It’s not that being called Betty Crocker is a bad thing. It does, after all, suggest that I am a great cook. However, what most people fail to realize is what Betty Crocker really symbolizes: pre-packaged, quick, crap-laden convenience foods. That used to be me (to a degree), but after embarking upon a journey into preparing and consuming only whole, nourishing , traditional foods, I can say with 100% certainty that I will never go back to my previous relationships with and preparation of food.

Nine months ago I picked up a copy of Nourishing Traditions, The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This book became my bible, and I delved into all of its glorious pages with gusto. I never really understood food and how it works with and in the body. The book’s author, Sally Fallon, presented information in a way that really stuck with me (and scared me), but her words encouraged me to begin a journey into eating wholesome, real foods, prepared with methods that make all nutrients more available.

What exactly do I mean when I say “traditional foods?” Traditional foods are those foods which nourished our ancestors throughout history and prehistory prior to the advent of the industrialization of food. The industrialization of food largely began in the 19th century and entrenched itself in standard diets of the 20th and 21st centuries. Deeply nourishing, traditional foods as our ancestors knew them were unprocessed, naturally raised, largely raw and decidedly unrefined. These foods represent the natural diet of humankind and, as such, nourished the natural growth and evolution of the human species for thousands of years prior to the industrialization of food.

So what are the components of a “traditional, real food diet?” Here is an abbreviated list1:

  • Eat whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. Whole foods are foods that do not contain added ingredients such as salt or sugar.
  • Eat red meat, poultry, organ meats, and eggs from pasture fed (grass-fed) animals.
  • Eat wild (not farm-raised) fish and shellfish from unpolluted waters.
  • Use animal fats liberally. Use butter and never any butter substitutes.
  • Tropical oils are your friend. Use coconut oil and palm oil. In addition, use olive oils and sesame oil.
  • Eat FULL FAT (yes, you read that right) milk products. This means whole milk (not low fat or non-fat), whole yogurt, whole cheeses, cultured butter, kefir, and sour cream. If possible, consume raw milk (which is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized.)
  • Avoid soy products like the plague. They cause a whole host of issues including low sperm count in men.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic.
  • Consume whole grains, legumes, and nuts that have been prepared by soaking or sprouting.
  • Prepare and use homemade stocks.
  • Include lots of lacto-fermented foods and beverages in your diet.
  • Use only natural sweeteners (raw honey, maple syrup, rapadura, etc.) and do so in moderation.
  • Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
  • Use unrefined salt.
  • Make your own salad dressings using raw vinegar and natural, traditional oils.
  • Take a high quality, high vitamin cod liver oil or butter oil/cod liver oil blend daily.
  • Cook only in stainless-steel, cast-iron, glass or good quality enamel.
  • Do not use a microwave.

The idea of consuming full fat foods and beverages was a tough one for me. But there is extensive research that proves whole, healthy fats will not cause weight gain. In fact for many people, they will help you lose weight or maintain your body’s ideal weight.

Low-fat foods, which we have been led to believe will help us lose weight, tend to be higher in simple carbohydrates, which trigger the release of insulin, causing your body to store fat. Eating healthy fats also stabilizes blood sugar, which increases energy, boosts immunity to illness, and optimizes digestion.

Healthy fats include those found in coconut and palm oil, olive oil, cod liver oil, butter, eggs, dairy and meats including organ meats. Corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and other polyunsaturated vegetable oils should be completely avoided as should all butter substitutes and egg substitutes. Research has also proven that it is the advent of modern processed vegetable oil that is associated with the epidemic of modern degenerative disease, not the consumption of saturated fats.2

The journey of transforming my dietary misconceptions, relationship with food and eating habits, as well as food preparation techniques is still a work in progress. However, I am pleased with my progress thus far and am eager to continue on my journey of preparing and consuming traditional foods. Although converting your lifestyle and food/beverage intake choices and following a traditional diet might seem daunting, the struggle with the unfamiliar and the learning curve involved are all worth it for longevity and healthfulness. Do yourself a favor and check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Take the time necessary to digest all of the information presented and then give yourself permission to make gradual changes.

You will thank the “old” you for it in as a little as a year.3

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Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.

  1. For more information, please visit My Eyes Are Wide Open; A Series About My Journey To Better Health Through A Nourishing, Traditional, Real Food Diet (Part 1 – Background Information and The Basics).
  2. The story of fats, myths associated with fats and their benefits is a long one and something that I will slowly be tackling on my personal blog. Read Part 2 – Let’s Talk About Fats Baby! for more, and be sure to stay tuned for additional posts.
  3. For more information about my personal journey converting to a traditional diet, please see Part 3 – Don’t Call Me Betty Crocker .

About The Author: Jennifer S

HybridRastaMama My NPN Posts

Jennifer blogs about conscious parenting practices, mindful living, holistic health and wellness, natural healing, real foods (with a focus on coconut oil) as well as Waldorf based parenting approaches at Hybrid Rasta Mama.

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This entry was posted in Feeding With Love, Healthy Eating and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Finding Better Health Through a Traditional Diet

  1. Acacia @ Fingerpaint & Superheroes

    Thanks for writing and spreading the news about traditional foods! I have gradually been moving my family into traditional foods (although we already ate quite healthily) over the last several months.

    Two things have struck me as I have eaten this diet that I would share:

    1. I AM NOT EVER SICK!
    I’m very healthy in the first place, but I noticed over the winter that when others got sick around me, namely family, I would not get sick, or only get mildly sick. For example, last weekend, my husband and extended family got VERY sick with a stomach virus (throwing up, etc) and I only felt a little nauseated over night and in the morning. That’s it.
    What did I change? I have been drinking fermented beverages every day!

    2. I AM NOT AS HUNGRY
    I’m a runner, have a pretty quick metabolism, breastfeed, and love food so I can eat a lot. Even though have eaten whole grains and natural proteins for many years now, before this winter, I could eat every couple hours. What did I change? I started eating MORE WHOLE FATS. I switched all our dairy products and (even though we already used real butter) I eat it more liberally. I am amazed at how much less hungry I am. I can eat just a few times a day and be totally satisfied.

    I would definitely recommend the traditional foods diet. It feels intuitively right for us to eat this way and it helps to heal the precious ecosystems of our bodies that we have damaged through the consumption of industrialized foods.

  2. Gauri

    Hi, I really like your blog and find that the title ‘natural parent’ both fits and pleases me :)

    I am very into nutrition. I have studied it, my dad is a natural medicines practitioner and my mom used to be a health food chef. I am new to the US, though. This ‘Traditional Diet’ is very popular here. I agree with its basic tenets for sure – fresh from nature is better than processed; whole is better than refined. I think just taking those simple guidelines to heart would change the health of the nation significantly, saving millions of dollars and mountains of heartache.

    Still I find myself confused by this label of ‘traditional diet’ – traditional for whom and where? Most peoples around the world eat very little meat – mostly on special occasions. And how is coconut indigineous here ‘traditionally’. I guess I should read the book. Perhaps I would be swayed, too. And as I said I think the basic principles are life-giving, so I am all for it. But I find even within health food movements there are so many different views, each of course supported by a battery of ‘scientific studies’ – which all seemingly prove opposite things: like red meat increases chance of heart disease and bowel cancer vs red meat (esp offal) is essential for energy and the brain. Blah.

    Thanks for sharing… Good food for though, so to speak :)

  3. Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

    Hi Guari! Great question you posed. Here is a list from the Weston Price Foundation which outlines the characteristics of a Traditional Diet. In addition, you might want to check out this link: http://www.westonaprice.org/traditional-diets. It has a lot of articles about traditional diets found across all cultures. Hope this helps a little!

    Characteristics of Traditional Diets
    1.The diets of healthy, nonindustrialized peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or lowfat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; artificial vitamins; or toxic additives and colorings.
    2.All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal food, such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed­–muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred.
    3.The diets of healthy, nonindustrialized peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K2–Price’s “Activator X”) as the average American diet.
    4.All traditional cultures cooked some of their food but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw.
    5.Primitive and traditional diets have a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments.
    6.Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid.
    7.Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, 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 traditional diets contain some salt.
    10.All traditional cultures make use of 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 animal 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.

  4. Jan Messali  

    The Traditional Diet is interesting. I was taken aback when I read ‘use animal fats liberally.’ That’s so foreign to what I’m used to. I’m going to have to read more of your posts. Thanks.

  5. Gauri

    This is all really interesting stuff, for sure. And again I agree with the basic tenets… however these are my misgivings:

    1) It is weird to me to take a cross-cultural view, scan for similarities and then extract lessons based on that top level of commonalities. It is like skimming off the cream but missing out on the milk or something like that. I mean to take all the variety and richness of the world’s cuisines and reduce it to a one-size fits all plan perplexes me. Afterall, the diet of a Berber is nothing like the diet of the Inuit. If you took a Berber and fed him what the Inuit eat, I would imagine he would get pretty sick, if he were even able to get it down – so foreign would it seem.

    … But again I really should read the book, it is just that I am finding your exposition so clear and easy to follow that it is tempting to continue the debate to try and understand this approach from a real and enthusiastic practitioner. I don’t want to argue, I want to understand, I want an in-depth, to-and-fro conversation… though I realise this is probably not the place.

    Anyway, what I mean is that each culture has uniquely crafted their diet to the environment and climate they live in. The Inuit eat fatty fish and whale blubber ‘cos they need all that fat to keep their bodies warm, no? People in hot countries eat lots of juicy fruit – topped up with fluid and electrolytes, as well as natural sugars. Nature, in its wisdom provides exactly what we need for the climate, season and environment we are in. The desert’s few plants are… succulents, filled with life-giving water. I don’t want to oversimplify this either, but it makes sense to me to eat according to your OWN culture, environment, climate, etc… not just to take the ‘best’ from each culture around the world and think that will apply to everybody everywhere. It is exactly in the differences between these cultures’ traditional diets that the beauty of natural selection begins to shine, in my view. In fact, it would make more sense to me if this title ‘Traditional Diet’ applied to the food that was traditionally eaten here in the United States say 200 years ago – seeing as most of its followers seem to be American. Corn, beans and buffalo meat, anyone? :)

    2) How much does this system or approach go into body types and different constitutions? I am very influenced by both Chinese and Indian thinking in this regard. I believe different people need different foods according to their unique health picture and genetic blueprint. Some people thrive on meat, others really can’t digest it well (some might argue none of us do – since it remains in the gut, undigested for years). Likewise dairy (and I agree with you on this: whole, organic and raw is best) is okay for some individuals but not well tolerated at all by many others. Same goes for wheat and gluten. Is it not dangerous to generalise like this? Or again, perhaps they go into this with many more nuances in the book/site.

    Those three examples are not random. Wheat, dairy and meat are all extremely acid forming. As you undoubtedly know, all chronic illnesses are diseases of over-toxicity found in people whose tissues are acidic. Diet can re-balance the pH in our bodies but these three foods are stricktly off the list of anyone striving for alkalinity.

    3) Saying everyone should take Cod Liver Oil is a hard one for me, too. For one the fish is endangered and there are good alternatives to it, so it makes no sense to keep eating an animal to extinction, in my view. For two, liver-oil is particularly prone to concentrating toxicity… although to be fair they are getting better at screening and filtering for that.

    4) Lastly: soy. Whilst I agree that TVP is quite nasty stuff and GM soy should be avoided for sure (hard as that may be), surely traditionally prepared tofu consumed together with zinc-rich seaweeds has been consumed *traditionally* in China and Japan for centuries to quite positive effect, no? Am I missing something?

    Honestly, as a new mama this stuff is very big in my mind. Some of the healthiest people I have met have been vegan, raw foodies and ‘alkavores’… but I am swayed by some of the arguments of this ‘Traditional Diets’ approach. I feel I need to let them all have a place in me, somehow, to remember they all contain truth. I just need to find what works best for us.

    Thank you for letting me think ‘out loud’ here.

    Gauri

  6. Gauri

    PS feel free not to answer. It has been good just to work through these thoughts on paper. Cheers.

  7. Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

    Hi Gauri,

    These are GREAT questions and I would like to spend a little time providing you with thoughtful responses. I might even turn it into a blog post as I think that you have brought some great points to the table. Give me a few days to respond and I will either post the info here are post a link to a blog post. Thanks!

    Jennifer

  8. Gauri

    Okay, great. looking forward to it :)

  9. Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

    Hi Gauri,

    I am almost through all of your questions and have decided that I will post this on my blog as I feel the information is worth sharing with a wider audience. Your questions are fantastic! The post is scheduled for next Tuesday and I will provide you with the link. In addition to following my blog (www.hybridrastamama.blogspot.com) you can also follow my blog on Facebook (www.facebook.com/HybridRastaMama) and the link will post there. Stay tuned!

  10. Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby  

    Great post! So happy to see more Mom’s feeding their families traditional foods.

  11. Emily

    Thank you for posting all this information in an easy to read – and remember – format. I started eating this way about 5 years ago and recently became very very lazy (read: started eating “easy, processed, ick for me, feeling sick food”) and am making my way back. Aside from my recent winter slip; I am much more healthy (was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder) than I have been in 10 years. Great post, thanks!

  12. Whitney  

    This sounds very much like the Paleo diet or the Primal lifestyle – it’s what we follow and how we raise our daughter. It is SO good for you.

    Check out http://www.marksdailapple.com success stories to see how you can lose weight, too.

    We don’t eat this way to lose weight but because we know it’s best for us all, including our one year old daughter.

  13. Gauri

    Yes, this diet is similar to Paleo on paper but on the plate it may look quite different as the ‘Traditional Diet’ includes grains and many people will enjoy those carbs with gusto.

    The Paelo diet is automatically food-combined, too, and therefore easier to digest but (imo) while it will suit some people very well (blood type O if you go with that analysis), will not suit others (those with low stomach acid, for example) and those people will naturally gravitate away from it.

    My two cents – if they are even worth that :p

  14. Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama

    I posted a follow up which answers all of Hannah’s questions if anyone is interested in checking it out!

    http://hybridrastamama.blogspot.com/2011/03/traditional-diets-q-session-part-1.html

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