In our home, traditional eating is a staple because the foods are unbeatable in nutrient density. Food is so important, and over the years we’ve moved more and more into the world of traditional eating.
It’s been challenging to find a word or term that summarizes the way we eat in our home. But I think “traditional foods, from scratch, seasonal eating”, is a really good way to summarize it!
What is traditional eating?
The way I’m using the term “traditional eating” is to mean; foods that predate the industrial revolution that have nourished people for generations.
Traditional eating, or traditional diets, is a BROAD topic. And lately its been sort of trending.
I feel like whenever things trend the waters get a bit murky. With social media and money hungry people, the internet is a free for all with information.. whether it be true or not. Its all about getting the views or getting people to buy.
But we have been living this way and eating traditionally for years, my life story is one very focused around food and how it quite literally saved my life. So I can assure you I’m not on any trend.
As the Weston A. Price Foundation puts it, traditional eating is “the diets of healthy indigenous and non-industrialized people.” I like that.
The work of Weston A. Price
Weston A. Price was a dentist from Cleveland in the late 1800s and early 1900s. After seeing wide-spread tooth decay in his dental patients, he traveled the world seeking the root of tooth decay.
In his research, he discovered that people groups who ate only traditional diets (usually because they were isolated from modern society) had surprisingly excellent teeth and overall health.
Now this part surprises me. The indigenous people he met had strong, white teeth with no decay… and they had never used or heard of a toothbrush!
Common characteristics of traditional eating
So, now that we’re dying to know what foods led to this seemingly-impossible heath, let’s look at the common characteristics of traditional eating.
In order to explain these commonalities, I’ll be summarizing this article from the Weston A. Price Foundation.
1. Traditional eating is not refined or denatured.
Picture the foods we could eat before modern technology. We couldn’t do things like homogenize dairy, create artificial vitamins and additives, or consume basically any of the processed and packaged foods we see today.
Or consider what our great-grandparents were able to produce on their small family farms: raw dairy, animal meats, fresh eggs, seasonal or naturally preserved (often through fermentation) veggies and fruits, and things foraged from the land.
2. Traditional diets include an abundant variety of animal products.
This includes the meat and fat from fish, land animals, and even insects (spoiler alert, our family does not eat insects). Eggs and dairy fall into this category as well.
3. Traditional foods are rich in calcium, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins.
This one seems to be key! Weston A. Price found that traditional diets contained on average four times the calcium and minerals, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins as the standard American diet.
4. Traditional diets include enzyme-rich raw foods.
This includes everything from raw dairy, meat and fish, to raw honey and fresh fruits. Naturally-fermented beverages and vegetables are also included here. The high enzyme content helps our bodies better break down and utilize food.
5. Traditional foods are prepared to decrease antinutrients.
Nuts, seeds and grains are prepared using traditional methods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting. These processes decrease or breakdown antinutrients including phytic acid, tannins, and enzyme-inhibitors.
In practical terms, this means the foods are easier for our body to digest and use, and we feel much better when we eat them!
6. Traditional diets contain abundant and properly balanced fat.
Next, he found that traditional diets contained abundant animal fats that had a nearly equal amount of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
Studies are showing that our standard American ratio of roughly 15/1 omega-6 to omega-3 is inclining us to all sorts of disease. And on the reverse, when we edge back toward that 1/1, those diseases start to reverse.
7. Traditional eating prioritizes children’s nutrition.
The last common thread that Weston A. Price found in his research is that the foods with the highest nutrient density (like livers) were given to parents before they conceived, pregnant and nursing mothers, and children. The wisdom of traditional foods were intentionally passed on from generation to generation.
How great would it be to reignite this in our homes and children once again.
What are the benefits of traditional eating?
Now that we understand the characteristics of traditional eating, let’s look at their health benefits. In this post, I’ll just give a brief overview. These are the reasons that inspire us to keep learning in this area.
I do believe that focusing on nutrient-dense foods (specifically in calcium, minerals, and fat soluble vitamins) sets our family up for great oral health. There’s so much research and proven studies supporting this as well.
Supporting the development of my children
Second, I love being able to support the developing minds and bodies of my children by providing nutrient-dense foods at home.
Becoming a mom has changed me more than almost anything in life. While, as a Christian, I do believe there is more to us than just the physical, I also care deeply about the physical development of my children.
Becoming less prone to disease
Finally, the overarching benefit of eating traditional foods is that it makes us less prone to disease. Though our bodies are not perfect and sometimes do get sick, proper nutrition sets us up to avoid or fight off disease more effectively.
There are many reasons why traditional foods support us in this way. Abundant nutrients and a low-inflammatory balance of fats top the list.
Examples of a traditional diet
(in our home)
And now for the fun part. What do we actually eat? While there’s a seemingly endless list of nourishing traditional foods, here are the foods that have become a regular part of our home life and what make up most of our traditional diet.
1. Raw milk
By far my favourite traditional food is raw milk!
We own purebred Canadienne cows and one Jersey, and love them dearly. They have become the backbone of our farm. We currently have one “in milk” (she gave birth and is now giving us milk), and we get around 6 gallons a day now.
The nutrient quality of raw dairy is far superior to modern milk. Modern milk is typically corn- and soy-fed, pasteurized, homogenized, and infused with synthetic vitamins.
And even if a farm is choosing to go a different route in feed, in the dairy industry; all milk is collected from each farm and mixed together anyway.
But raw milk is a different story altogether. Without pasteurization, the vitamins, minerals, probiotics and enzymes are left fully intact. This makes it much more digestible and nutritious to our bodies. And if you own your own cow you get to choose EXACTLY what that cow eats, drinks and is supplemented with.
I realize there is a culturally-ingrained fear of raw milk, and for some very good reasons. However, we have come to trust the modern safety education and practises around raw milk enough to serve it to our whole family. I wont get into this much within this post because my education surrounding it and convictions are stronnngggg. But if you’re curious about raw dairy safety, you could start with this podcast.
2. Other raw dairy
Other types of raw dairy are also delicious and nutrient-dense. Favourites in our home include butter, yogurt, cream and popsicles (made with whole milk). I’m still diving into the world of homemade dairy products and its so fun to see how just one ingredient (milk) can make so many different products! Next I want to master cream cheese, clabber, and ice cream.
Here in Canada you can only get raw dairy if you own the cow yourself. Anything else is illegal. And I mean anything, like you aren’t even allowed to gift someone a dairy product from your milk or you could be jailed.
That’s why we bought cows; we want to make sure that no matter what, our family has access to this amazing superfood.
3. Organ meat
Organ meats are highly nutritious foods. There are both practical and health benefits to consuming the whole animal (rather than only eating certain cuts of meat.)
Beef liver is especially touted as a health staple, having incredible amounts of Vitamin A. This is important because Vitamin A affects so many aspects of our function and health – regulating “the action of over 500 genes in our body,” according to this article.
In our everyday life, the consumption of organs has increased and we are excited to continue to find clever ways to incorporate them into our diets. But I’ll tell you this; all of my kids LOVE my liver chili. They’re the best when it comes to eating anything and giving all new things a try with an open mind.
4. unpasteurized free range eggs
Another common traditional food is unpasteurized free range eggs, which is no surprise considering that eggs are relatively easy to produce when it comes to animal products. Simply provide your family egg layers with plentiful space for grazing, water, and sunshine, and you’ll have eggs.
Chickens and ducks are small and easy to keep when you compare them to other animals. And yes, you read that correctly; ducks are easy to keep. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve come across announcing how hard duck keeping is and how chickens are soooo easy. That ducks are full of problems, and chickens are angels. Well I will tell you that after over 10 years of keeping chickens, ducks are my new favourite.
But that’s for another post. Whether you keep chickens, ducks or something like quail for eggs, I say do it. You will love it!
The key with eggs whether you produce your own or buy locally is to get as close to pastured as possible. Studies show that pastured eggs (egg layers given abundant grass, bugs and sunshine) were significantly higher in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Over here we live in the forest. So our flocks graze unlimited forest vegetation all day everyday. And boy can you tell when you crack open that egg.
5. Sourdough/other fermented food
It seems that many people are rediscovering the joy of sourdough these days. We also are enticed by this age-old practice of creating natural yeast (sourdough starter) and cooking fermented bread products.
The long fermentation process of sourdough makes it much easier to digest.
While I’m newer to the wonderful world of sourdough, I’m excited to keep learning as the years go on. I would love to pass down my starter to my children when they start their own families one day. What a legacy to leave them.
Fermented foods are also on the rise again, but have been around for thousands of years! Fermentation was a form of preserving food but today we use fermentation more as a health benefit because it provides so many wonderful things for our bodies.
Fermented food benefits include:
- probiotics for optimal gut health
- reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity
- improved oral health
- leveling blood sugars
- improved sleep, skin and brain function
- may help breathing problems like asthma and sinus issues
*the items listed above are from scientific research conducted by public and private studies. There are many many more benefits but their testing wasn’t as broad so I didn’t include them.
6. Fruits and Vegetables
This might sound obvious but vegetables are a traditional food, and are a main staple in our diet!
We eat fruits and veggies as fresh and organic as possible. We also love eating dried fruit and always have tons of it on hand (it’s a great prep item).
7. Local raw honey
Lastly, raw honey is a readily available traditional food. This energy powerhouse is more than just delicious. Various health benefits have been attributed to raw honey – especially when it’s local. Allergy benefits and antibacterial properties are among the top.
I have heard that eating raw honey when visiting or moving to a new location is one of the best ways to help your gut microbiome adapt to the new surroundings. Interesting!
8: Lentils & Quinoa
These are staples in my pantry. They’re such a great way to bulk up your food with great nutrition!
Lentils are super underrated, but are a powerhouse for things like B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. They are also high in fiber, AND have beneficial plant compounds called phytochemicals, which protect against chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Lentils have so many other huge benefits, too many to even list. But if you want to know more about how amazing they are, HERE is a website that goes into great detail.
Quinoa is another amazing food that provides things like folate, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
Quinoa also has anti-inflammatory qualities that act as antioxidants in the body, meaning they help protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
So pretty much, quinoa is a superfood in my books LOL.
9: Meat & Bone broth
Want to know why I put these two things together? Because I’m a huge believer in nose to tail eating. That’s traditionally how it used to be done. And in my home, a harvested animal goes through stages of eating.
Take chicken for example. First I cook a whole chicken. We eat the meat and take the broth from the bottom of the pan to make from scratch gravy. Then I simmer the carcass in a pot for 12-24 hours and make bone broth. Then the carcass is discarded. Now, I will say I have not done anything with chicken feet, because I just can’t bring myself to do it LOL. Maybe one day…
We raise our own meat plus hunt and fish for it. This makes our meat consumption very intentional and extremely healthy for us because our farm raised animals are raised in a very specific way, and the hunted animals come from the vast forest we live in.
But even if you can’t raise your own animals, or hunt for them, you can still be intentional with the meat you consume. Start with finding a local farm who is raising the meat you’re interested in and start a conversation with them. Trust me, that meat will be so much better than anything you could buy from the supermarket!
10: Foraged foods
If we’re talking traditional, we cannot leave out foraged foods. This has literally existed since the beginning of time. Foraging for food in nature is an amazing experience if you’ve never tried it. And if you do this already, you know how special it is.
But feelings aside; foraged food has a tremendous amount of health benefits. And it’s pretty much as organic as it gets!
Some types of foraged food you can collect in my specific area are:
- fiddle heads
- black berries
- pine needles
- spruce/pine/fir tips
- black walnuts
There are so many more, and that’s just my area! (Ontario Canada). Your area might have a completely different list. The point is, there’s always something to be foraged, and I bet it’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Whenever you are foraging for food make sure you’re not trespassing on private property.
Also ensure that where you are foraging hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals.
Lastly, make sure you know what you’re foraging. Things like mushrooms can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know what your doing.
Closing notes on traditional foods
I do want to point out that this is not a comprehensive list. There are many, many traditional foods from around the world that offer various nourishing benefits. This post is meant as a helpful starting point, and it specifically shares my culture and the food around me.
Also, this is by no means a list of everything we eat! We also enjoy other modern healthy foods to round out our meals. We simply focus on traditional, whole food, nourishment as the foundation of our diet.
Thanks for reading!
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