Ancestral Diets, Weston A Price

Weston A Price was an early pioneer of research into ancestral diets and their potential benefits to human health. Price was a dentist working in Cleveland in the early 1900’s. After many years treating common dental issues like tooth decay, he observed that people from non-industrialised cultures had far better dental health than the patients he saw regularly in his Cleveland practice.

Price set about visiting traditional cultures all over the world and observing their nutritional habits. Price observed that traditional peoples not only had better dental health but also robust overall health and were free of disease common in industrial societies. His findings were published in his classic text ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’.

Price analysed the nutrient content of the diets of many of the peoples he studied and compared it to modern industrialised diets. He found mineral content to be consistently higher and fat soluble vitamins typically 10 times higher in the diets of non-industrialised people.

Price visited non-industrialised cultures across the globe from Arctic regions to equatorial Africa. Naturally the different peoples Price studied had widely varying diets depending on available food sources. However some commonalities emerged.

The cultures Price studied ate natural whole foods. They often used methods of preparing their foods which increased nutrient availability and reduced potentially harmful contents, unlike modern food processing methods which reduce nutrient availability. Typically their diets contained:

Animal foods eaten nose to tail

  • Organs, bones, fat and blood were not wasted.
  • Organs were often eaten preferentially over muscle meat as it was recognised that they contain many nutrients not found in muscle meats.
  • Liberal amounts of animal fats were included, and thus the fat soluble nutrients contained in them.
  • Bones were cooked down into broths over a long period to release collagen from connective tissue, calcium and other nutrients.

Sprouting and soaking of beans, legumes and grains

Typically beans, legumes and grains were soaked in water for a day or two prior to cooking. These simple processes can result in sprouting and some level of fermentation. Correct preparation enhances availability of some nutrients, and reduces activity of some plant compounds that can be problematic, difficult to digest or even toxic.

Fermented Foods

Many cultures ate some form of fermented food usually from dairy or vegetables but sometimes from animal foods. Traditional fermented foods include: Kefir (Eastern Europe), Kombucha (Russia), Sauerkraut (Central and Eastern Europe) , Kimchi (Korea), Kvass (Ukraine), Fermented Fish (Scandanavia and Greenland), yoghurt and cheese. Some of these foods have made their way into modern health food shops and are recognised as a source of beneficial bacteria.

Raw dairy

Some cultures consumed ‘raw’ dairy produce, a more nutritious food than the pasteurised, homogenised, low-fat dairy consumed in modern diets.

Missing modern foods

Equally important to the common foods found in these traditional diets were the foods that were not present. They did not contain:

  • refined sugar
  • processed vegetable oils
  • refined grains
  • pasteurised dairy

In some cases where members of a non-industrialised population had left behind their traditional diet for more modern foods, significant declines in health were observed. Within a generation jaw structure had changed and dental problems appeared.

In 1999 The Weston A Price Foundation was founded to ‘restore nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism.’ The foundation works to provide accurate nutritional information and support biodynamic and organic food production.

‘Humans achieve perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient dense whole foods and the fat soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats.’ Dr Weston A Price