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What Are Traditional Foods?


You may hear the term traditional foods and wonder, “what exactly does that mean?”

When you think about traditional foods, do you think about hunter-gatherers of long ago? They did everything by hand and from scratch. Or do you think about the pioneers living out on the prairie or edge of the forest who began to cultivate and produce their own food after finding a homestead and settling in one place? These are indeed some examples of the ways traditional foods were produced, harvested, prepared and eaten.

By contrast, the way we eat today is vastly different.

We have grown so accustomed to food being produced the way it is, we often don’t think beyond the package or the can. Since the advent of mechanization and processing techniques developed during the time around the Industrial Revolution, our food has become increasingly removed and modified from its natural state.

The effect these processes have had on our health has been profound. To the average person, the notion of eating healthy or nutritious food has been been translated into something which powerful companies are now able to employ effective marketing strategies by which to sell products. Notice how you will rarely see an ad on television or in a magazine for a whole, organic food.

Ads are persuasive and successful tools that sell products – but they rarely sell health. The good news is, you do have a choice. With a little information, you can become empowered to take charge of your own health instead of letting an advertisement tell you what’s healthy. One of the best ways to take control of your own health is to eliminate processed foods from your diet and start eating traditional foods.

For some, the idea of changing ways of eating is very challenging. Maybe you buy a lot of convenience foods and feel as though you simply don’t have time or desire to cook, or maybe you don’t have the energy to plan ahead and think about meals in advance.  Changing eating habits may not be easy, but perhaps you have some health issues motivating you to do something about – problems you’d like to eliminate but haven’t had success in treating with conventional medicine.

What are traditional foods?

Traditional foods are those eaten by people over the longer course of civilization and which have supported health – cultivated, produced, and harvested from the earth and out of nature – foods which are wholly unaltered and organic, and contain the highest levels of nutrition or are nutrient-dense.

These foods have been eaten for millennia by people around the world. They are not processed or packaged and sent all over the planet, so in many cases traditional foods are also those found in your local community.

Some examples include using real fats for cooking such as butter or lard instead of vegetable oil – which is a modern, industrialized fat, or meat and poultry from humanely-raised animals or birds living out in the open on green pasture. We have been taught to believe many of foods we eat are from natural healthy sources, but the reality is that most of what is bought and sold on the market is as unnatural as can possibly be.

Traditional foods, as described on The Weston A. Price Foundation web site:

“It is these real, whole, nourishing foods enjoyed for generation upon generation that provide the cells of our bodies with the necessary fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients needed for vibrant health. This state of well-being is characterized by a quiet and strong digestive system, superior brain function, blissful sleep, sturdy bones, calm mind and an immune function that prevents infection.”

Some of the most penetrating research into the effects of a traditional diet on health was conducted by Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist in America during the early part of the 20th century. “Back in the 1930s, Dr. Price noticed a troubling pattern developing among his patients: those with the worst teeth typically had the worst health problems elsewhere in the body. To satisfy his curiosity as to the cause of this unhealthy trend, Price traveled the globe for ten years to study the effects of modern foods on dental health and physical development. His research is detailed in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, first published in 1939. Dr. Price’s findings were remarkable indeed. The correlation between diet and physical health and development was incontestable. Among the many indigenous cultures he visited, the differences between those who had remained with their ancestral diet from birth and those who had succumbed to the temptations of the western cultures—namely sugar, white flour, and soft drinks—were undeniable!

Price found that the native groups eating their traditional wholesome diet had less than one percent of their permanent teeth decayed. You may be thinking, ‘They must have brushed their teeth day and night!’ In fact, these cultures never used a toothbrush. The good doctor concluded that the state of one’s teeth was an excellent reflection of the state of one’s overall physical and mental health. Moreover, those consuming nutrient-dense foods produced offspring with beautifully round faces, and jaws wide enough to accommodate all their teeth with proper spacing, few or no cavities, and broad heads to allow for proper brain development. No one needed braces in societies consuming traditional foods!”

Why eat traditional foods?

  • The most critical reason is for health, as traditional foods by their very nature contain the highest levels of nutrition available because they are grown with sustainable methods which increase nutrient content and without chemicals and other dangerous substances which have been found to diminish nutritional value. To achieve wellness, the body needs nutrients from real food. Eating traditional foods helps to avoid many health issues including allergies, asthma, digestive and cardiovascular health issues, obesity, and auto-immune disorders like lupus, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and even Diabetes.
  • Traditional, real food possesses taste that is vastly different from conventional and processed foods. Traditional foods are full of flavor, texture, and aroma.
  • Eating traditional foods supports smaller, family farms and food-producing operations. When you eat traditional foods, you are also helping the environment by using your dollars to support sustainable methods of food production.

What are the results of consuming a diet with a lot of processed foods?

In Dr. Price’s travels, he noticed the appearance of various diseases and conditions in cultures who had began to eat processed foods. He observed that when populations consumed fell prey to modern processing and began consuming vegetable oils, white flour and white sugar they began to experience widespread physical degeneration: tooth decay and disease developed over the period of just one generation. Dental crowding and cavities were common to those consuming white flour and sugar, as well as problems in the digestion, skin, circulation, reproduction, nervous system, musculoskeletal/joint, and all areas of health.

Intake of excessive white flour and sugar has been connected to most major health issues including (but definitely not limited to): osteoporosis, cancer, hypoglycemia, cardiovascular disease, adrenal exhaustion, metabolic, endocrine, and reproductive disorders, parasitic and yeast infections. The immune system also lowers in function within minutes of consumption of sugar. A compromised immune system naturally leads to more flus, colds, sore throats, allergic reactions, depression, and irritability. In addition, the more sugar you consume, the faster you accelerate the aging process.

What types of foods are considered traditional?

Here’s a list of some traditional foods:

  • Sustainably-raised, grass-fed animal meats and poultry or game birds such as beef, lamb, venison, rabbit, pork, elk, chicken, turkey, pheasant, and other fowl. Cattle are ruminants and should eat grass, not grain, soy, corn, or any other feed. Other animals/birds should be given organic and/or non-genetically-modified feed in their diet.
  • Sustainably-raised, organic eggs from hens on pasture, allowed to roam and eat worms, grubs, and insects as well as plants.
  • Organ meats produced from healthy, grass-fed animals and birds
  • Organic or sustainably-produced whole fruits and vegetables
  • Organic, whole, sprouted, soaked, or fermented grains to neutralize nutrient-inhibtors (phytic acid) contained within the food
  • Raw, sustainably-produced dairy including milk, cheese, cream, butter, kefir, and yogurt
  • Raw nuts from sustainable sources that have been soaked and sprouted, again to neutralize phytic acid and make more digestible
  • Healthy, flavorful broths made from the bones and other parts of animal and birds
  • Healthy fats from traditional sources like butter from cows on pasture, lard and tallow from healthy, humanely raised animals and birds on pasture, extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, and palm oils from sustainable sources.
  • Real, unrefined sea salt with naturally-occurring trace minerals and nutrients

Eating traditionally does require some effort. But taking the time and effort to deliberately choose healthier foods to eat and avoiding processed, packaged foods will contribute positively to your health.

You can buy foods from others or hunt or raise and produce your own. With perseverance, research, and concern for health and the environment, you can change your eating habits from unhealthy to healthy by purchasing, growing, and eating traditional foods.

A good place to start

Your health food store or your farmer’s market are two excellent places to start on your traditional food quest. If you have never bought local meat or produce from a farmer or from your neighborhood health food store, today is the day to give it a try. Farmer’s markets are now available in most cities, and many local health food stores sell local meat and produce as well.

There is something very satisfying about developing a relationship with a person who produces the food you eat. It’s an experience you won’t find in Wal-Mart other chains, or even your city grocery store where everything is often quite impersonal, and knowing where your food comes from is invariably much more difficult. When you take the time to find out how your food is produced and get to know the farmers who raise and it, you will come to understand the satisfying results of eating real, traditional food for both improved health and environmental stewardship.

For more information on traditional and slow foods, visit The Weston A. Price Foundation site.

Recommended reading: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell

Cooking Traditional Foods

Slow Food USA

What’s in your kitchen? Here’s what’s in mine:

My Kitchen Staples – How I Keep My Family Healthy

More reasons to eat traditional and sustainable foods:

Food Recalls: Why They Could Mean The End of Real Food As We Know It
How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!


Healthy Living Real Food Recipes

Time And Money Saving Tips – Getting The Most Out Of Your Vegetables

We love vegetables, right? Vegetables are not only a flavorful and colorful addition to our meals, but they are also an important source of nutrients in our diet when properly prepared.

Vegetables add flavor and texture as well as nutrition to our everyday meals.

Here are some ideas for choosing vegetables:

Buy organic. Organic foods are more nutritious because they are grown in soil containing more diverse organisms due to the use of organic fertilizers and soil enrichment. Produce farmed with organic methods tastes better because it contains more nutrients. Organic farming prohibits the use of pesticides, chemicals, and genetically-modified organisms as well.

The Journal of Applied Nutrition published a study examining organic apples, pear, potatoes, wheat, and sweet corn and compared the specific nutrients and their levels compared to conventional counterparts produced with modern farming methods. Here’s what was discovered: chromium was listed as 78 percent higher in organic foods.

The study also revealed Calcium to be 63 percent higher in organic foods, and Magnesium was found to be 138 percent higher in organic foods. In other studies, the use of pesticides was also found to have an effect on lowering levels of certain vitamins including B vitamins, vitamin C, and beta-carotene in fruits and vegetables. Organic produce contains higher levels of antioxidants and flavonoids which prevent degenerative disease from developing, and higher levels of beneficial minerals such as zinc and iron.

Buy in season. When you purchase in season produce, your vegetables are fresher and often cheaper in price. Vegetables that are not in season and have to be brought in from far away places are not as fresh and often become contaminated with toxins from their travel (which is not only bad for us, but the environment as well!). Seasons deliver a natural diversity to vegetables that contributes to their healthful properties.

  • Spring time – green leafy vegetables such as romaine lettuces, red and green leafs, chard, bok choy, mustard/collard/beet greens, and herbs like basil and parsley
  • Summer – summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and corn; try spices and seasonings like peppermint and cilantro
  • Fall – harvest foods like carrot, pumpkins, squash, sweet potato, beets, onions, and garlic. Try warming spices and seasonings such as ginger, mustard seeds, and peppercorns
  • In winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods and those vegetables which you have canned or jarred. Foods that require a longer growing period are typically more warming than foods which grow more quickly: root vegetables including parsnips, carrot, potato, rutabagas, onions and garlic.

When you are ready to prepare:

  • Eat vegetables raw individually or in a salad with homemade dressing. Homemade dressing is easy to make, cheaper than the bottled variety, and much more nutritious. Use your favorite type of vinegar(s) and olive oil. Add your oil to to a bowl and then the vinegar (2:1 ratio). Add a bit of salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and herbs and spices to your mix. Whisk together and pour over your salad – or dip a carrot or piece of broccoli into the bowl.
  • Steam vegetables with water and sea salt, and when you are ready to serve them, add a generous amount of real, grass-fed butter. The fat-soluble vitamins in butter help to absorb the nutrients in your vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, and peas.
  • Saute your vegetables in coconut or olive oil or real butter. Add natural herbs and spices from your garden such as thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and a clove of garlic. Coconut and olive oils are two of the healthiest and tastiest oils you can consume.
  • If you have children, make eating vegetables fun. Cut up raw vegetables into little pieces and make kabobs on toothpicks and provide a healthy, homemade salad dressing (see above) for dipping. Little ones love organic raw almond butter for dipping vegetables. Also try homemade hummus with olive oil or salsa. Some meals lend themselves to “sneaking” in vegetables your children might otherwise not try. Use zucchini chopped up finely in marinara meat sauces, or finely chopped spinach in soups and casseroles.
  • Make lacto-fermented vegetables. Lacto-fermentation involves the use of salt and whey (the naturally-occurring protein in milk). According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:

“Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man needs only to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he has learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine. ”

Adding whey to vegetables, then, is a way to increase their nutritional potential while at the same time, adding fantastic flavor to your creation. Ancient Greeks Romans, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Russia, and Poland alike used this practice for its medicinal qualities, and indeed, the result is a wondrous occurrence that produces natural antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Lactic acid – the main by-product of this process – causes an increase in digestibility and vitamin levels, as well as promoting the growth of healthy intestinal flora. It is one of nature’s most perfect health foods.

  1. Use good quality yogurt (homemade or store bought, unhomogenized, from whole milk) for making your whey.
  2. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and pour yogurt into it (over a bowl).
  3. Cover the yogurt with a plate and allow to sit at room temperature for 12 -24 hours. During this time the whey will run out.
  4. After the whey has drained into the bowl, secure and tie the cheese cloth or linen towel with the milk solids inside (use care not to squeeze its contents).
  5. Tie the sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a bowl or pitcher to allow more of the whey to escape from the bag.
  6. When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready.  Store whey in a mason jar and cream cheese in a covered glass container.

Refrigerated, the yogurt cheese will keep for about 1 month; whey will keep for approximately 6 months.

Here are some recipes for sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and pickled cucumbers (courtesy of Nourishing Traditions):


  • 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon whey (if not available, use 1 additional tablespoon of sea salt)

In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt, and whey. Pound with a wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release the juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. The sauerkraut may be eaten immediately, but it improves with age.

Ginger carrots

  • 4 cups grated carrots, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (if not available, use 1 additional tablespoon of sea salt)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder  or a meat hammer to release juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the carrots. The top of the carrots should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes 1 quart

Pickled cucumbers

  • 4 – 5 pickling cucumbers or 15-20 gherkins
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
  • 1 tablespoons of sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons of whey (add 1 additional tablespoon of salt if whey is not available)
  • 1 cup of filtered water

Wash cucumbers well and place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers. The top of the liquid should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.