Introduction to Weston Price

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.