Posted by & filed under Fermenting, Health & Disease.

This is an introduction to Weston Price for Permaculturists, because I think the two are natural allies (and so do some other Permaculturists I know).

I first learned of Dr. Weston Price’s “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” (published 1939) from one of the Whole Earth Catalogs, possibly the Essential WEC published in 1986. When I got a copy from the library and read it, I was amazed, and made some major changes in my life (cutting down on sugar and white flour; years later I learned from continuing health problems to cut them out of my diet completely, to great benefit).

Dr. Price was a dentist who, after retiring, traveled around the world in the 1930s (in his 60s) visiting remaining tribal communities, and especially seeking out those with the least outside influences. What he discovered was that, in contradiction to the prevailing western medical (and academic and popular) view, the less outside influences (particularly imported sugar and wheat flour, as well as canned goods), the healthier the teeth (less cavities, less gum disease, less malformations such as orthodontic problems including buck teeth). Also with these nutrition-less food imports came club feet, miscarriages, allergies, heart disease, asthma, births of “Mongoloid” and deformed babies, degenerative diseases including tuberculosis, and other health problems.

Of course, the dental and medical professions were not accepting nor enthusiastic of these connections, let alone the general public, as can be seen by the vastly increased use and popularity of these foods, which continues to this very moment.

I’m over-simplifying, but this is an introduction. The other thing Price discovered and recommended was the use of “nutrient-dense foods”, and fermented foods, both of which he found in use in the communities with the healthiest people. Now some of these are coming back into popularity: kombucha, a delicious fermented drink that’s great for digestion is becoming more and more visible on grocery shelves, and other fermented foods are regaining popularity and being taught about. And not a moment too soon!

The medical establishment also recently finally admitted that not all fats should be banished completely from the diet (i.e. fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids with their highly valuable EPA/DHA content – discovered in the 1970s by researchers studying the Greenland Inuit tribe, according to Wikipedia). I had a good chuckle when Time magazine ran an article in its July 19, 1999 issue entitled “Eat Your Heart Out: Forget what you know about eggs, margarine and salt. The conventional wisdom has been overturned — repeatedly —by surprising new research.” And the New York Times ran an article by Gary Taubes entitled “New thinking on diets: Low fat might be bad” (Also circa the late 1990s, but I can’t find the exact date; it’s now gone from the NYT times website, probably because Gary Taubes published his book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” in 2007). Let alone the “discovery” of the Mediterranean diet with its healthy use of olive oil. I mention all these because everybody “knows” now that olive oil and fish oil are good for us; but many don’t know that that wisdom only seeped into popular knowledge less than ten years ago. I await the next rediscovery from Price’s work.

Here is an excellent article on omega-3 fatty acids and their critical shortage in modern diets. The article concludes that the reason omega 3s have such a strong effect on health and recovery is that they are so sorely lacking in the average modern diet: Prevention: The Vanishing Youth Nutrient. (This link jumps to page three of the article.)

I don’t want to say more here, because there are other websites where more of this is explained in lots of detail. The biggest is westonaprice.org.

I recommend checking that website rather than finding a copy of Price’s original book, because it is not a fun book to read, in fact rather depressing due to the photos of tribal peoples with lots of sad health problems. Besides it’s huge and because Price was trying to document his points, it’s rather redundant. A summary and review are online here, The original is online here, if you really want to read it. Another nice introduction is here.

So how does this apply to Permaculturists? Of course, fermenting foods is a great way to preserve the abundant harvests from permaculture gardens. Every culture besides our “modern western” one includes fermented foods in its diet; whatever traditions there were nearly became lost when refrigerators were introduced. And fermenting is simple to do, and adds very healthy bacteria to our digestive systems. It enhances the wonderful nutritious harvest we’re already getting using permaculture principles.

And raising foods in food forests with lots of recycled nutrients is a return to wiser ways to pack those nutrients into the foods we eat.

And eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits from food forests is fun, but Price’s research backs up why it’s also healthy.

The Weston Price website has lots of great recipes, and sharing of recipes, so, now that you know what they’re up to, check it out when you find yourself with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit that you need good recipes for!

If you’ve never heard of Weston Price or been introduced to nutrient-dense foods before, now you know a bit of what all the fuss is about.

12 Responses to “Introduction to Weston Price”

  1. Peter

    Nice article. Agree with the fermented foods. Todays supermarkets are filled with non-fermented modern versions of foods from meats like prosciutto to vegetables like pickles. Gone is the natural fermentation with bacteria and in with mass production of cooking and vinegars and spices. I got the Wild Fermentation book long ago when it first came out and have since collected man fermentation recipes. I was introduced to Kombucha in the late 80’s from Chinese friends. I’ve since found that I got the most benefit from real kefir milk grains for the fermented drink side of things. When I get the garden going again I’ve plans for real pickles, half sours and full sours and those garlic pickles I had when trying out a NY deli, they were very tasty.

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  2. Milton

    Also “Nourishing Traditions” should be mentioned. It’s a cookbook by Sally Fallon based on Weston A. Price’s work and has made a big difference in my life…

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  3. moe

    my parents make kefir. they take milk and they put this fungus in it that forms a large clump in the milk. it becomes a surface area for beneficial bacteria and the fungas turns many inorganic substances into organic ones.

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  4. Judith

    Would permies like some fermented recipes here? I’ve been learning some delicious ones.

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  5. kato

    One of the beautiful things about permaculture is its emphasis on holistic approach, and a drive away from reductionist tendencies.

    When looking at ‘diet’ and ‘nutrition’ we are constantly bombarded with the ‘one-diet-fits-all’ approach, ‘latest research shows that eating fish is good for you, as is butter or meat, BUT charbohydrates are bad bad bad!’

    But all too often, the holistic principles with which we apply to permaculture, seem to be left-out of our considerations of diet and nutrition. If we talk about integrative design, we should also consider integrative nutrition.

    It would be ridiculous to propose that adding lime to your garden would benefit every situation for a farmer. What if s/he already had very alkaline soil and wanted to grow, say strawberries or potatoes that prefer acidic soils? What we should be investigating is the the micro-climate of the particular area- the individual constitutional elements of the land.

    In the same way, it is ludicrous to propose that butter is good for everyone, and that as a general rule, nutrient dense food should be placed on a pedestal. Doesn’t the task of permaculture ultimately boil down to balance? We should also treat food in this way.

    This brings me to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and its integral approach to the therapeutics of food as a matter of balancing out the individual. 100 patients with lung cancer would likely be treated in 100 specific ways. And rarely would you hear the mantra ‘This [insert superfood] will cure you all’.

    Chinese Dietry Therapy is based on the basic principles of Chinese Medicine: Yin-Yang, Heat-Cold, Interior-Exterior, Excess-Deficiency, Qi and the Six Qi/Six Conformations. Each food has a spefic theraputic action on the body; for example onions, ginger, garlic and chilli and fats (among others) warm the body and build up the triple burner (a metaphor for the digestive system). A middle aged alcoholic man with a ruddy face, a beer belly and explosive anger followed by apathy and depression, should not eat these foods- these will only aggrevate the liver and cause excess heat in the body, leading eventually to burn-out.

    Similarly, the ‘wet’ fat woman with puffy ankles, dark circles under the eyes, back and knee problems, arthritis, candida and watery/ edema like physique should not, according to the principles of Chinese Dietary Therapy and traditions such as Ayerveda, consume excess protein or cool and/or dampening foods (for example eggs, fats, fermented foods [due to bacteria which feed yeasts and contribute to candida], or mucous forming foods such as banana, soy, milk, nuts, diary etc).

    When a person has a condition of imbalance, operations 1: restore balance. In the case of the alcoholic male, operation: cool and cleanse. In the case of the water-retention lady, operation: dry damp and maximise digestive assimilation. Just in the same way that you add more carbon to a sludgy, stagnant and smelly compost bin.

    Leguminous plants release nitrogen in soil, but it would be daft to plant leguminous plants around, for example stevia, a plant that does not enjoy a heavy dose of nitrogen.

    Common-sense and a holistic approach to every aspect of our lives, leads us to the logical conclusion that diet and nutrition have to be integrated designs also. Diet should also be considered along side, exercise, meditation, environment, lifestyle etc.

    For more information on the methods and principles of Chinese Dietry Therapy, please refer to the classic ‘Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition’ By Paul Pitchford.

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  6. Matty

    Yes please Judith, I would appreciate some fermented food recipes.

    I watched Sally Fallon’s (with Mary Enig) videos called Nourishing Traditions and the Oiling of America. These are quite mind blowing. It’s good to note WAPF is a not for profit group so they would have little commercial interests.

    Some of the things they have discovered:

    Saturated Fats-
    Saturated Animal Fat from non-CAFO, pasture raised animals is very good. There is zero link between saturated fat and heart disease. The science backs this up and knows this to be the case. The demonizing of saturated fat was evidently a commercial lobbying maneuver by the vegetable oil industry in the late 1960s, an industry that has only existed since WWII. Saturated animal fat is high in vitamins A,D and K which are more easily assimilated when carried in fats.

    As Americans heeded the propaganda and began to consume less red meat and fat, the lost calories were replaced by more sugars and refined grains found in soda pop and packaged foods, white bread etc. The result of this tragedy has been a massive increase in the incidence of degenerative disease such as diabetes, arteriosclerosis, hypertension and cancers. Exactly the opposite effect the low fat diet was supposedly trying to achieve!

    Hardening of the arteries is not caused by cholesterol (another lie created by the pharmaceutical mafia) but from calcium deposits. Calcium cannot be assimilated by the body (thus the arterial plaque deposits)without adequate vitamin D which is best taken in form of saturated fat.

    Whole Grains – should be soaked/sprouted to activate and make bio-available their natural enzymes. Traditionally grain foods were often fermented.

    Vegetables – best consumed along with some saturated fat like butter to improve digestion and assimilation. Raw vegetables are difficult to digest.

    Omega 6 / Omega 3 ratio – the health food industry continues to mislead us on this topic. The issue according to WAP is not so much that our intake of Omega 3 is too low but that our intake of Omega 6 is much too high. It is too high because of the recent addition to our diets of industrial vegetable oils (soy, corn, canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut)that have a high bias of Omega 6. If you are consuming vast amounts of these industrial oils, then it takes a lot of Omega 3 supplementation to bring things to a healthy ratio. By comparison, beef fat has a very small amount of both Omega 6 and Omega 3 but in a ratio our body likes. The quantity of these essential oils is much less important than their relative ratio.

    Traditional Vegetable Oils – palm oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, are high in saturated fat and nutrients plus tolerate high temperature cooking. Olive oil is not saturated so should not be heated.

    Modern industrial vegetable oils that are low in saturated fat turn into trans-fats (carcinogens)when cooked at high temperature.

    Soy – is another health food industry scam food that is added to many many processed foods. It blocks nutrient uptake and inhibits hormonal functions. But in its fermented form (tempeh, miso and tamari) it is good stuff.

    Raw Milk – a wonderful food for many people, legal in some US States and commercially available in Italy and Russia.

    Well I enjoyed writing this but I have only scratched the surface of the scientific research and evidence the Weston A Price Foundation has developed on diet.

    I agree that a person’s genetics, blood type and many other factors make diet a very individual thing. It sure is a journey of discovery.

    Cheers, Matt

    Reply
  7. Øyvind Holmstad

    “In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. The history of this disorder has the potential to improve our understanding of disease prevention, aetiology, pathogenesis and treatment. A striking rarity of malignancies in ancient physical remains might indicate that cancer was rare in antiquity, and so poses questions about the role of carcinogenic environmental factors in modern societies. Although the rarity of cancer in antiquity remains undisputed, the first published histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy demonstrates that new evidence is still forthcoming.”

    See: http://www.nature.com/nrc/journal/v10/n10/full/nrc2914.html

    Reply

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