I went across to Auckland, New Zealand at the weekend to hear Sally Fallon-Morell, of the Weston A. Price Foundation, speak.
As with the Melbourne Sugar lectures, the audience was full of people new to the concept that the government approved low-fat diet is not the right approach. It is great to see so many people interested in making changes to their diet and I find it encouraging how many people were in attendance.
I meet up with Julianne Taylor at the talk – and I also meet and spoke Paleo with Rodney Hide. There’s nothing like being able to have real-life conversations on your favourite topic, is there? After the talk Rodney introduced me to Sally, which having had her book Nourishing Traditions for such a long time, was a real privilege.
Whilst there are some important differences between the Paleo style diet that I follow and the WAPF diet, I think it’s more useful to focus on the similarities, of which there are many. Whilst I believe a Paleo style diet is the optimal nutrition plan, if anyone were to convert from a SAD diet to a WAPF plan, I think they would see tremendous health benefits. If they then went one small step further to a Paleo or Primal diet, I think they’d see even more health benefits.
There are a number of principles that are the essence of the nutrition recommended by the WAPF.
FIRST PRINCIPLE: No refined or denatured foods
So much SAD food is refined or modified in some way; sugar, flour, industrial seed oils, HFCS and so many more. If people did just one thing differently, completely removing these products from their diet would surely be the most beneficial. On this point Paleo/ Primal and WAPF are in complete agreement.
SECOND PRINCIPLE: Every diet contained animal products
As with Paleo, the WAPF believe that a healthy diet needs to include animal products and an optimal diet can’t exclusively contain plant food. Organ meats were mentioned a lot in the talk as an important source of many nutrients.
THIRD PRINCIPLE: Nutrient Density
The primitive diets studies by Weston Price were far richer in nutrients than much of the food available today. Mineral content in soil is depleted so many produce just don’t have the same nutrient density. This is where selecting good quality food comes in. Organic, home grown and grass-fed all promote far better nutrient density than the same items produced from intensive farming. Again, this is completely in line with Paleo.
FOURTH PRINCIPLE: All cultures cooked some or most of their food; but always ate some of their animal foods raw.
Weston Price noted that whilst primitive cultures did cook animal products, they also all ate some raw. This came down to raw dairy, which, whilst I agree it is absolutely better than pasteurised dairy, I find a big grey area. The talk focused on comparing processed dairy to raw dairy – where clearly raw dairy is the winner. Excluding dairy wasn't discussed, which is the approach taken by a lot of the Paleo community, myself included. My areas of concern with dairy are around the insulin response and the growth hormone IGF-1, which weren't mentioned at all during the talk. I’d like to come to a more definitive view point on dairy, so had hoped to hear compelling reasons why dairy should be included. As it stands, until I find more conclusive evidence, I'm still of the view that dairy is best excluded.
FIFTH PRINCIPLE: High Levels of Enzymes and Beneficial Bacteria
This focuses on foods that provide enzymes to promote good digestion & metabolic health. Whilst raw dairy is noted as a good source, the super-foods here seems to be lacto-fermented foods such as Sauerkraut. The take-away point for me here is on fermented foods – something I need to make a conscious effort to include in my diet far more.
SIXTH PRINCIPLE: Seeds, grains, legumes & nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened
This principle starts off in line with Paleo, observing how components such as anti-nutrients, phytates and lectins in grains are not desirable. Where Paleo excludes grains and legumes altogether, WAPF promotes preparing these foods to minimize the damage. As with the dairy issue, I didn't hear any compelling reasons why it is better to have grains in this form, than not at all. This is the main point on which Paleo/ Primal varies to the WAPF – whilst I’m certain people transitioning from a SAD diet to a WAPF would see significant improvements by preparing grains and legumes – I think their health would be far more optimal foregoing the grains and legumes altogether.
SEVENTH PRINCIPLE: Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30% to 80% of calories, but only about 4 of calories come from polyunsaturated fatty acids.
This is a key point on which Paleo and WAPF are in agreement. I would probably promote this as the key point, since it concerns the importance of saturated fat and the dangers of the industrial seed oils.
EIGHTH PRINCIPLE: Nearly Equal Amounts of Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
This is also essentially in line with Paleo, stressing the importance of maintaining a good Omega 6/ Omega 3 ratio. This comes down to making the right choices in choosing quality meat and avoiding seed oils.
NINTH PRINCIPLE: All diets contained some salt
I think this point is hard to accept for people transitioning from Conventional Wisdom, where we are told how dangerous salt it. Once the processed food is removed the natural levels of salt remaining are often very low, so supplementing with a good mineral salt is very beneficial.
TENTH PRINCIPLE: All traditional cultures made use of bones, usually as bone broth
Another point I need to work on, bone broths are such a great source of nutrients, easy and cheap to make and very satisfying.
ELEVENTH PRINCIPLE: Traditional cultures made provisions for future generations
This principle was very interesting and concerns issues such as optimal spacing of children, nutrition of pregnant and nursing women and teaching nutrition to the younger generations. This seems to be all too often ignored or not considered in modern society.
Paleo vs Weston A Price?
I learnt a lot from this talk and it was a great reminder that I need to make sure I make provisions to include more organ meat, fermented foods and bone broth in my diet. I plan to make sure I include these regularly.
Whilst I completely agree that prepared grains are far superior to their refined counterparts – and that raw dairy is far superior to pasteurised, I didn't hear anything to make me consider changing my anti-grains, legumes and dairy stance.
What do you think about the Weston A Price principles? Do you agree with their stance on dairy and grains?