When asked what I do, I usually reply that I am a â€˜Weston A. Price based nutritionist.’ Although this is not my official title, most people that I speak with have some knowledge of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Unfortunately, there seem to be two very distinct reactions to this foundation. Some folks are thrilled to find that there is a trained practitioner who follows the ideals of a foundation that they trust…others back away from me in disgust as they imagine that I recommend a diet of raw liver for those clients unfortunate enough to stumble into my office!
I’ve found that the beliefs of the WAPF, and subsequently the recommendations I make to most clients, are especially difficult for those choosing not to eat meat. While I do recommend that most people eat meat some of the time, I want to clear up the misconception that a properly prepared, whole food, nutrient dense diet must include meat. To be specific, I believe that lacto-vegetarianism is necessary to maintain optimal health; I cannot agree, nutritionally, with a purely vegan diet. However, I do hold the opinion that one can be fully nourished and be vegetarian.
My personal exploration with food began over ten years ago. I was graduating from high school, and was severely overweight, pre-diabetic, and depressed. Although I had tried to find a healthy way of eating, there was not much information or availability of choice in Western Kentucky, where I grew up. I converted to vegetarianism in order to try and take an active role in healing the problems that I was experiencing. For close to seven years I was a vegetarian, the last two years strict vegan. Although I did feel that I was doing something right by not supporting the undoubtably cruel and corrupt mainstream food system, my problems did not reverse. In fact, with little knowledge of how to eat a proper diet, vegetarian or otherwise, they became worse. After two years of university as a double major, I was exhausted. I quit college to hitchhike around Hawai’i.
In hindsight, this decision put me straight on the path to health, and my career and passion for nutritional therapy. I was introduced to a community on the Big Island that practiced some outlandish ideas about food and diet. But, I noticed that the people of the community that I eventually called home were robust and vital. They worked most days with an endurance that was remarkable, and although this place was by no means a utopia, they had a balanced calm that I have now come to recognize as a result of proper nutrition.
After a few months of living on Hawai’i, I converted to the community’s program….the Primal Diet. The basis of this diet is 100% raw vegetable juice, raw dairy, and raw meat. This extreme diet, that I had initially judged negatively, eventually changed my life. My physical body responded incredibly, and soon the years of fatigue and depression that I had experienced were gone. Although I have personally retained some principles of the Primal Diet, I feel that I have reached a better balance through study with the Nutritional Therapy Association, and through following the principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation. And, I have come to see that there are many ways of eating that can be highly beneficial to the human body, one of these being lacto-vegetarianism.
It is documented, but not widely known, that during Dr. Weston Price’s search for cultures not affected by modern processed â€˜foods of commerce,’ his greatest disappointment was that he was not able to find a vegan culture that was truly healthy! He did, however, find a great many peoples, all with extremely low incidence of tooth decay and physical degeneration, that ate with great similarity.
All the diets he studied contained no refined or denatured foods, such as highly processed grains and cereals. They all used some type of animal products, with some raw animal products such as raw milk or cheese. The diets he encountered were four times as high in calcium and other minerals (zinc, phosphorous, potassium), and encompassed 10 times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins as the modern diet (vitamins E, D, A, and K). The diets studied also contained high enzyme foods, with a special focus on cultured and fermented foods such as fermented vegetables and yogurt. Although some cultures did rely primarily on meat to obtain the nutrients above, some used mainly raw dairy, eggs, and occasional bone broths. Others relied on properly prepared oats and fish, sourdough rye breads, and most ate fermented foods in the form of drinks, such as kombucha or kvass, dairy, or vegetables.
Dr. Price observed isolated and modernized Swiss, Gaelic, Inuit, North American Indians, Peruvians, Maoris, and Masai peoples in Africa. He found that there were a great variety of foods eaten, yet all fulfilled the common guidelines. Other commonalities he observed were that seeds, grains, and nuts were soaked, sprouted, fermented, or naturally leavened. The diets of the isolated peoples he studied contained very high percentages of calories from fat; 30 to 80% of total calories with only 4% from polyunsaturated fats, such as the fat found mainly in flax, some nuts and seeds, and fish oils. Dr. Price found that fresh vegetables and some fruits were eaten in season.
So how does the modern vegetarian mimic Dr. Price’s findings? High nutrient foods such as fertile eggs from hens raised on pasture, along with butter from cows fed on high mineral grass are two â€˜super foods’ that are available in our community. Local raw milk, from grass fed cows or goats, along with a seasonal CSA subscription from one of the many area organic farms are two great and economical options. Drinks such as beet kvass and kombucha, and homemade yogurt or kefir are surprisingly easy to make, while some great options are available now in stores. And, if the diet allows, there is a local source for beef and chicken bones that can be made into mineral rich broth.
Victoria LaFont, NTP