The Benefits of a Traditional Foods Diet

Katie is on vacation until late July. We’ll have a series of guest contributors filling in, and the first is Kimberly Hartke, publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Today she’s here to talk about the benefits of a local, traditional foods diet.

My husband and I have gone beyond organic in our quest for good health. We now buy 95% of our food from local farmers.

The Virginia Tech Extension Service did an analysis that showed if each household in the state spent just $10.00 a week on local foods, it would bring 1.65 billion dollars annually to the state economy. Just imagine, those of us who care about our health and the environment can make a big difference!

We can each help our nation move away from petroleum based fertilizers, curb pesticide use, improve our soils, and reduce our carbon footprint. All by going out of our way to support a local farmer.  And, we will eat better, regain self sufficiency, and improve our health.

Some will argue, “We can’t feed the world with local food.”

Frankly, I have concluded that these are excuses made by apologists for our current unsustainable industrial food system. For example, a Virginia Magazine reported that from 1965 to 1997 the number of dairy farms in Virginia declined by 97% from over 37,000 to only 1200; by 1999, there were a mere 996 – which means most of our milk is “imported” from elsewhere.

Of course we can’t feed ourselves if our number of farms are dramatically dropping, which is precisely why we need to change the food system and consciously support local agriculture.

Traditional Diets vs. Industrial Diets

Back in the 1920’s, Dr. Weston A. Price traveled the world in search of primitive tribes untouched by modern processed food. He discovered that those on traditional diets received ten times the vitamins found in animal fats (fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K2) than Americans  of his day. He believed this was the reason behind the dramatic turn for the worse in his young patients’ dental health, compared to older generations.

Photo by Frapestaartje

Since Dr. Price’s research in the 1930’s, the U.S. food policy has reduced animal fats in our diet even further. In 1992, the 4 basic food groups became a “food pyramid.” The pyramid is based on the hypothesis that saturated fat is bad for us. Modern food purveyors have taken full advantage of this presumption, and convinced us we need their colorful, packaged, manufactured fats and oils. They have sold us away from real, natural, fats with slick ad campaigns and TV commercials.

• First, they told us vegetable shortening was better than lard and bacon grease.

• Then, they sold us on margarine and vegetable oil instead of butter and beef tallow.

• Low-fat milk ads told us to shun whole milk.

• Finally, they convinced us that soy oil was better than traditional, tropical oils like palm and coconut oil.

Nature replaced by industry. Real food replaced by food-like substances. All with the help of the boob tube, with us as the boobs! In the process, the levels of critical fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K2 were reduced in the American diet to a mere fraction of what we need to be healthy.

Photo by Jessica Merz

The skyrocketing autism in our toddlers, depression and violence among young people, infertility among married couples and the obesity epidemic amongst young and old are alarming trends as a result of misguided dietary advice, all of which, as it turns out has a marketing agenda. We were sold trans-fats in the name of health, only to find out decades later these artificial foods are worse for us than the traditional dietary fats long enjoyed by humankind.

The USDA Food Pyramid is a government sponsored marketing campaign, designed to promote the foods of huge corporate producers, which has next to nothing to do with true health and nutrition. It is a highly politicized process, and we saw obesity skyrocket after 1992, when the pyramid advised six to eleven daily servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta. It also tipped our scales toward diabetes, degenerative diseases, and despair.

Choosing Local, Traditional Foods

My husband and I are taking all this very personally. We have experienced health challenges as a result of years of following government and corporate food ways.  Today, we no longer follow government guidelines and TV sponsors. We are doing our own research, and going our own way.  And, we are much healthier as a result. We have our vim and vigor back, thanks to local foods and friendly farmers!

Photo by Marcy Reiford

We now sponsor a cow to a good life on pasture by owning a cowshare and paying boarding fees. For our reward, we have access to farm fresh milk, and the undying gratitude of a local dairy farmer. We spend the rest of our food budget through farm buying clubs, farmers markets, and farm stores.

I encourage you to make the same choice. Vote with your food dollar for a local, sustainable and healthy food supply. Your children will be happy you did!

Are you familiar with the Weston Price Foundation? What do you think about eating a local, traditional diet?

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22 Comments

  1. Shannon

    Love this, Kimberly. It never ceases to amaze me how environmentally friendly and common sense the traditional foods diet is. I think the key to combining those two things is to have a do-it-yourself attitude. And the health benefits that I have seen have been huge.

  2. Deb

    I’m finding it hard to find local farms that use significantly less in the way of GMO seed, pesticides, and herbicides than what I’d find in the supermarket anyway. Some farms are more transparent than others about their use of these technologies. I’m not sure it “pays” for me to drive 20 miles each way to the closest orchard to pick my own peaches and strawberries that have been sprayed with the same amounts of the same chemicals I can find in my supermarket 2 miles away (in other words, bike-able distance for me) in the name of “eating locally.” I’m thankful for the farms that DO raise organic produce and grass-fed free-range meats, even though many of them are over an hour away each way (but do bring their wares to our local farmers’ market), but for a lot of traditional produce, while I’m totally behind the idea of eating locally, that doesn’t automatically translate into eating more sustainably or frankly, more healthily.

    Fortunately I have found some local sources for organic produce and free-range meat, but still, it’s a long drive for us from the Big City. Where to draw the line between eating locally, ostensibly to save on the petroleum used to transport large batches from a long distance away, and driving a small car to pick up food at one or more farms for one single family of four that can hold maybe 2 weeks’ worth of food? This “doing the right thing” is more complicated than it seems!

  3. scott

    Fantastic comment Deb. That’s the dilemna. I’ve chosen to get my organic produce which is shipped in from all around the country and around the world frankly to our local organic produce store. I was previously supporting locally grown farmers, some of whom were using the standard toxins. The animal products are also from out of state, but they are beautiful, delicious, humanely treated and beyond organic.

  4. Primal Toad

    I really loved this post. It tells the story of where we have gone in society over the past 2 decades. It is extremely sad but I see us moving in the right direction again. Two decades from today will be very different. I believe it because the blogging world is thriving with REAL PEOPLE WHO TRULY CARE!

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  6. Kendra

    Wow… Isn’t it funny how you’ll be deciding something in your life, and then all these things you encounter point to it even more?!

    I was JUST telling my skeptical husband that I thought I was going to try to slowly start spending a higher and higher percentage of our grocery budget at the farmer’s market instead of at the grocery store. My plan is to start with 50 percent and then move up (as I figure out which vendors carry what I need). Luckily, I live in the Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh/Wake Forest area… so there are multiple fabulous ones to choose from that offer organic (even if it isn’t certified) meats and produce. This post is just what I needed to confirm my thoughts… kinda hard not to eat locally and seasonally if most of your shopping is done at a farmer’s market, huh?

  7. Peggy

    Kendra, you are so blessed, Durham is a real hotbed of local food! We have been transitioning from the Standard American Diet bought at the cheapest price with coupons to a local, seasonal diet without regard to price. We have cut back other expenditures to “make room” for healthier food and it has been so worth it. Our health is better, we are on fewer prescriptions, I’m walking without the use of a cane (for the first time in 15 years), and the food is SO much yummier! We are actually eating less in volume and enjoying it a whole lot more.

    As for supporting our local farmers, I love that I can look someone in the eye who has produced my food. My “apple farmer” knows his varieties and can suggest what we might like for different purposes. Try asking the guy at the store if a Winesap makes a good pie. He doesn’t even CARRY winesap, most likely!

    We start our weekly shopping at the farmers market, pick up whatever we can at the Mom and Pop health food store, and finish up at the mega mart for things that we can’t get anywhere else (that list has been dwindling weekly!) I love having access to local food.

  8. Jan

    We start with what we are able to grow ourselves in our backyard garden. We eliminated rice, pasta, potatoes, and sugar. Our blood sugar numbers improved drastically, as did blood pressure and cholesterol. Real butter, natural eggs, fresh meat…plus locally grown produce equals much improved health.

  9. Sofia's Ideas

    Kimberly, I am wondering what sources you used to conclude that “The skyrocketing autism in our toddlers… are alarming trends as a result of misguided dietary advice.” I wasn’t aware that poor dietary practices was a cause of autism. Would you mind sharing your sources?
    Thanks! 🙂

  10. Kimberly Hartke

    Hi Sofia–From my work with the Weston A. Price Foundation, I have learned that many children with autism are being helped by adding more traditional fats to their diet, the very foods our ‘experts’ demonize. Could it be that the low-fat, high fiber directives from our government are at the root of the skyrocketing health problems of our young?

    Read this article for more:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/book-reviews/thumbs-up/965-gut-and-psychology-syndrome.html

  11. Ria Thompson

    Its really hard to find organic foods in my area but almost everything here is grown locally so its still good. We are also trying to start our own organic garden in our backyard & it gives our kids a chance to play in dirt so everyone has some fun.

  12. Open Pollinated Seeds

    Everyone can learn to become more self sufficient and starting a garden is one of the best ways to get into it. Even if you just have a small patio you’d be amazed how much you can do growing vertically.

  13. Alison

    Sourcing 95% of food from local farmers is amazing!

    I have just decided to challenge myself to take more action on this. I keep telling myself this is important, but did not do too much about it so far. Seeing someone that displays such a commitment is truly inspiring…Thanks!

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  15. Ben

    I had no idea that buying locally could have such an impact on both the environment and the economy. I try and buy everything I can from our local food CoOp. It’s so sad how much disinformation is out there. It’s a crime against humanity that the powers that be have convinced people that natural fats and oils are bad for them and that corporate farming methods produce food that’s just as good as the old fashioned method.

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    I just love this post. It emphasises the story of where we have gone in society over the past 2 decades. And its really very strange.

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  20. Suzan

    Can My Acne Be Caused by Dairy Products?

    • Kimberly Hartke

      Suzan, anything is possible. Try eliminating dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk, powdered milk, whey) from your diet for 6 weeks. If you add it back in, and the skin problems erupt, you probably will know the answer. Some people find raw dairy soothes eczema and other skin problems so you might try switching to that after wards.

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