By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue
Grassfed bison meat is a healthy, basic human food that is valued by the Primal, Paleo, and Price movements. photo credit: puroticorico
The question has arisen recently on various blogs about whether the teachings of Dr. Weston A. Price are compatible with the Paleo and Primal movements. A similar question has been raised as to whether the Weston A. Price Foundation and its members are hostile to the Paleo and Primal movements.
I have studied Dr. Price’s work for years, so much so that my copy of his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, has literally fallen apart. I have been a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation for years. I have followed a Weston A. Price style diet for over six years. I have read and studied almost every article on the vast website of the Weston A. Price Foundation. I have designed my cookbooks to be completely compatible with the teachings of Dr. Price. I have strongly advocated the Weston A. Price style of eating on my blog, and still do.
Though I am a member, I do not speak for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Nobody speaks for the Foundation except its officers, officially designated spokespeople, and board members. I speak for myself.
I consider the teachings of Dr. Price to be compatible with a number of Paleo and Primal diets.
I support, respect, and admire the Paleo and Primal movements.
We have so much in common. We are all looking for an alternative to the horrible modern diet which has destroyed the health of so many people. We all reject modern processed foods in favor of real food, food that humans have thrived on for uncounted years. We are all trying to base our diets on the wisdom of our ancestors. So many of us have had amazing health benefits from following the food wisdom of our ancestors. We are natural allies. We should unite politically to protect our access to real food. We should support, encourage, share what we know, and learn from each other. And many of us have been doing exactly that.
The Many Diets of Doctor Price
As many of us know, Dr. Price traveled the world for ten years, visiting and studying various peoples who were eating the traditional diets of their ancestors. Each one of these traditional people had relatives who were eating a modern diet in a nearby town or city, so Dr. Price was able to compare the teeth and health of those who ate traditional food to those who ate modern food. Dr. Price found that the people eating their traditional diets had perfect teeth, despite having no dental care, and were free of the modern chronic diseases that cripple and kill so many people in modern cultures, both then and today. In other words, they had no cancer, no heart disease, no birth defects, not arthritis, no asthma, no allergies, no tuberculosis, none of the modern chronic diseases. They were so much healthier than we are, in so many ways. Yet, the relatives of those people, if they made the terrible mistake of eating modern foods, lost their teeth, and suffered from all of the chronic modern diseases, unlike their cousins who ate like their ancestors.
No two of the diets studied by Dr. Price were alike. There were peoples who ate traditionally prepared grains and dairy, along with meat and vegetables. There were peoples who ate meat, dairy, and vegetables, but no grains. There were peoples who ate only the animals they hunted, and ate no dairy, grains, or vegetables. Most of these peoples ate wild seafood, but some had no access to it. All of these peoples were healthy and free of chronic disease, with perfect teeth. And they had essentially no modern medical care, and no dentistry. So we know for a fact that all of these ancestral diets worked wonderfully for human beings.
Yet, all of these diets had something in common. They all ate meat, and they all consumed large amounts of animal fat, and/or fish fat. They all fermented various foods, a process that both preserved foods and increased the nutritional value. They all had sacred foods, foods that they valued above all others. These sacred foods were rich in animal or fish fat, including such items as organ meats, fish eggs, and butter. None of these peoples ate modern processed foods, even the kinds that were available in the 1930s.
So you can follow the research results of Dr. Price, and eat or avoid a wide variety of foods. You do not have to eat grains. You do not have to eat dairy. As long as you eat real, unmodified food, and eat plenty of natural animal fat, and avoid modern processed foods, you are on the path. You can also add in traditionally prepared grains and/or dairy, and still be on the path. It depends on how you respond to various foods, what you can get, how much work you are willing to put into it, and the condition of your body. The choice is yours, and I respect your right to make it.
The Many Diets of Paleo and Primal
There is no single Paleo or Primal diet. There are dozens of variations. Some allow some dairy and/or grains. Some do not. These diets are constantly evolving and changing as more is learned, a healthy and vital process that is great for the movement. Yet, all of these diets seek to eat the foods that our ancestors thrived on, and look to the wisdom of our ancestors in choosing food. Many of them seek to eat foods similar to those eaten before the advent of agriculture. No one knows for sure what Paleolithic people ate. We can make some pretty good guesses, based on what people without agriculture or herds have eaten in recorded history, and based on what some of the peoples studied by Dr. Price ate. Some of the details of what we do know are surprising. For example, some people who had no dairy animals ate animal milk. They did so by killing female animals, and eating the milk they found in the body. They would also kill young animals, such as bison calves, and eat the milk they found in the digestive system of the animal. We know that the Native Americans did this, and there is no reason to believe that any people who lived by hunting did not do the same. My point is that ancestral eating covers a huge range of foods.
I have spent a huge amount of time lurking on various Paleo and Primal blogs, and reading a huge number of articles. It is clear to me that no one in the movement actually wants to dig in the earth for bugs, or grab a spear and hunt for mammoth. The focus is on eating the foods of our ancestors, the foods we have eaten for a very long time, the foods that our bodies are accustomed to, the foods that we thrive on. That is a wonderful goal, and I share it.
What Does the Weston A. Price Foundation Actually Do about Paleo and Primal?
I am speaking only from my own observations, as I do not speak for the Weston A. Price Foundation. As I see it, the view of WAPF has changed with the evolvement and change of the Paleo and Primal movements.
The initial book by Dr. Cordain advocated a low-fat diet, which was totally opposed to the teachings of Dr. Price, and the book was not well received for that reason, and others. But many in the Paleo and Primal movements understand the value of traditional animal fats, and even Dr. Cordain has backed off that position. One of the things I love about these movements is the willingness to learn and change as more is discovered. And these changes in position have had an impact.
I think it is the most recent actions of WAPF that are most relevant to the issue. In March 2012, my friend Sarah Pope, a member of the board of the Weston A. Price Foundation, attended the PaleoFX12 convention is Austin, Texas, as a representative of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sarah took part in a panel discussion, had a wonderful time, and had her picture taken with some Paleo leaders, such as Robb Wolf and Nora Gedgaudas. She wrote two positive blog posts about the conference, and mentioned how the Paleo movement “has much in common with the nutritional principles of Dr. Price.” It is clear that the hand of friendship was extended and accepted. And that is exactly the way it should be.
The Paleo, Primal, and Price Movements Are Already Learning from each Other
Anyone who reads a number of Paleo blogs knows that many Paleo people like the teachings of Dr. Price and WAPF, and have adopted some of the traditional methods of food preparation taught by WAPF. In fact, I have seen a great deal of praise for Price and WAPF methods on many Primal blogs and forums. Conversely, many Price followers have learned from the Primal and Paleo communities and changed their diets. I have three good friends who have followed a WAPF diet for years. They have experienced great health benefits, but have had some bad problems at times. All three of my friends have modified their diets by adopting some Paleo principles, including avoiding grains, and have had wonderful results with their customized “Price-Paleo” diets.
I myself have adopted some Paleo and Primal ideas in what I eat, and the results have been great!
All of us are individuals, we are all different, and what works for some may not work for all. But friendship between the Paleo, Primal, and Price movements benefits all of us.
I am grateful for the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose priceless knowledge enabled me to save my life and restore my health. And I am grateful to the Paleo and Primal movements, which have inspired so many people to reject SAD and adopt ancestral eating, and has taught me some valuable lessons.
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