Okay, so I know I'm starting out my book recommendations a little strong with this one, but I can't help it. The information and research in Weston A. Price's Nutrition & Physical Degeneration has literally changed my life and the way I perceive health and food. A beautiful article summarizing the book can be found here on the Weston A. Price site.
I use to love trendy health foods and diets as much as anyone! I was raised in a seaside town in Southern California—one of the top "health" regions in the world some would say—by my Jazzercise-instructing, sporty, health nut Momma. She instilled a deep love for nutrition and health in me from a young age. As I got older, numerous health challenges further fueled this passion, pushing me to try diets and foods outside of the normal health fads.
I've tried just about every diet you've heard of, and probably a few you haven't, including raw, vegan, vegetarian, GAPS, paleo, SCD, Gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, soy-free, everything-free... the list could go on for a while. You get the picture. I followed all of the them to the letter, because I was trying to heal my body of many issues! It was rough, but I was committed each and every time. None of them worked over the long-term for my body. Many of them made me feel good for about 6 months and then would turn. I came to realize that many of these approaches worked well for short-term cleanses or detoxes, but could not sustain lifelong health. I slowly began to think there wasn't one perfect pre-determined "diet" out there for me. Maybe the best route was to listen to my body and learn about the compilation of factors that made me... me. I quickly became fascinated with the theory of bio-individuality.
Over time I found, through research and personal experience, that every body is very unique. Ethnicity, genetic dispositions, childhood health, and cultural and environmental surroundings are all vital factors in shaping our health. The reason those numerous diets, as written, did not work for me, but did for the creators might have to do with the fact that my body needed a unique combination of foods only I could uncover. Obviously, I do have some strong opinions about certain diets that I do not believe are sustainable long-term, but I am not here to bash anyone's diet. Instead, I want to share a key piece of information that marked a turning point in my health and overall view of diets.
Weston A. Price was a rebel. He noticed the health of Americans deteriorating around him and decided to leave his comfortable life to travel the world and find healthy remote communities that were still thriving. His adventures and bare research in Nutrition & Physical Degeneration are fascinating. It clearly shows the variety of diets that each group ate, based off their survival instincts and local resources. There are obvious key universal similarities that he discusses—all the diets are traditional whole foods—but I was actually most struck by the differences within these whole foods. The source of each group's received nutrients was so dependent on their ancestral heritage and location that, I felt, it confirmed a bio-individuality perspective.
I completely support the traditional foods movement, but there are so many view points within this vein of thought that you still have to listen and read and try with care. No one has the perfect solution for you right off the bat. Everything needs a little tweak to fit you. You've got to do the work my friends. Take the time and find what nourishes and restores your body.
Main Take Away: Consider all the factors that make you... you, before starting a trendy or new diet.
+ Ancestry | Talk to your parents and grandparents or do a test like 23andme to uncover your origins. Research their eating habit prior to the industrial revolution.
For example, my heritage is Western European with a small side of Scandinavian. My ancestors mostly hailed from Switzerland, France, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands. There is a wide range of diets to consider here, but the similarities are great when compared to diets of those that have an Asian or Latin heritage. I translate this into my everyday diet by making sure my foundational foods match the diets of my ancestors. Sooo even though I love Mexican food, I choose to see this as an indulgence and treat and not my normal everyday meal.
+ Location | Consider the climate of your ancestors. Did they need to stay warm or cool off with food and lifestyle activities? What foods where available to them locally and seasonally?
I live in sunny San Diego, which is very similar to the weather of many of my ancestors. For example, France is almost exactly the same climate. Yet, my local produce can vary from my ancestors since we now grow foods they did not. I still eat fruits and veggies that may be outside of their diet, but the difference lies in the frequency and quantity. I try to eat small amounts of fruit and reserve raw veggies for summer months or lightly cook them for easier digestion. Again, this is because my heritage diet is made up of fermented grains/breads, fermented or cooked vegetables, and cultured dairy, with a sprinkle of fresh raw vegetables and fruit in the summer months.
+ Health | If you have any form of auto-immune disease, allergies, or sensitivities, you may want to keep these in mind when looking at your ancestral foods. Source your food from trustworthy farmers and traditional cooks.
I had/have a few health situations and sensitivities that prevented me from diving fully into my heritage food for a long time. For example, I use to avoid all grains and bread because I thought I was allergic to gluten. I eventually realized I wasn't "allergic", I simply couldn't digest it. Technically, very few can, but I had an extra hard time. All I needed to do was make sure the grains were naturally fermented, a minimum of 24 hours, which was how my ancestors use to do it! Also, I needed to source my grains/bread carefully. The grains we have today are nowhere near what our ancestors used. It's difficult to find grains that have not been altered or modified in some way, which, unfortunately, means our bodies cannot digest them. American food companies have literally ruined grains, hence, all the rising health issues surrounding grains.
Other Helpful Resources: *Take it all with a grain of salt. Keep what works for your body and release whatever does not.
+ Traditional Food - Price-Pottenger Organization and Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods
Okay, now that I've written a mini book with this share, go gift yourself a copy of Weston A. Price's Nutrition & Physical Degeneration and rethink how you eat. You won't regret it, my friends.
P.S. If this book intimidates you, I suggest reading the forewords and introduction chapter, then finding the chapter that matches your heritage. Read about the discoveries and traditional diets found in those communities. It's still worth the read even if you only read to this point. From there, if you're still intrigued, read on :).
À votre santé!