Monday, April 23, 2012

1st principle of a nourishing traditional diet - Sacred foods

Sally Fallon Morell with yours truly.

A few weeks back I went to a presentation by Sally Fallon Morell, the author of Nourishing Traditions and founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

There Sally talked about the 11 principles of a nourishing traditional diet, as discovered by Dr Weston A. Price in his 10-year study of isolated primitive cultures.

Dr Weston A. Price was a dentist who in the 1930s asked why dental deformities such as crowded teeth, overbites, underbites and cavities had become so common and what kind of diet would prevent them.

Price had seen photos in the National Geographic of isolated peoples displaying beautiful teeth. This prompted him to seek out primitive cultures around the world and find the answer to two main questions:
  1. Is it true that people living without the "benefits" of civilisation have better teeth and health overall?
  2. What are they eating?
Price travelled to places as far flung as Alaska, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Melanesia, and Polynesia.

In each location he was able to study people eating their traditional diet and document what he found in the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

What he found was that truly isolated cultures still eating their traditional diet had almost perfect teeth and bone structure. They also had excellent health overall.

However, the children of their relatives who had moved away and adopted a more industrial-based modern diet were suffering the same sorts of dental deformities and ill-health Price had witnessed back home in the United States.  

Price noted that although diets differed vastly from place to place, 11 principles held true for all the primitive cultures he studied.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to take you through the 11 principles of a nourishing traditional diet, starting with the first principle now:

First principle - Sacred foods
Every culture had one or more sacred foods they started feeding to men and women at least six months before trying to conceive, as well as to pregnant and breast-feeding women.

These cultures understood that the health of the next generation was their responsibility.

The sacred foods of New Zealand Maori included such foods as:
  • Mutton birds - which were very high in fat
  • Shellfish
  • Fermented shark livers
  • Kahawai stomach stuffed with liver and roe
  • Smoked mussels/roe/mullet (oily fish)
  • Feral pigs (introduced by Europeans)

Price took samples of all sacred foods back home to his laboratory to analyse. There he discovered they were rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and iodine. They were also extremely high in what he called “fat-soluble activators,” which were not really understood at the time.

Science has since discovered these “activators” are the animal forms of vitamins A (retinol isomers), D (vitamin D3 and isomers) and K (vitamin K2), without which the human body struggles to absorb other vitamins and minerals in food.

Important sacred foods of native peoples
These are they types of foods held sacred by primitive cultures, depending on what was available in their location:

  • SEAFOOD: whole small fish, fish livers, fish liver oil, fish heads and shellfish (cultures living away from the sea would still trade to get access to fish products)
  • RAW DAIRY: whole milk, fermented milk, cream and butter from pastured animals 
  • EGGS: especially egg yolks, from poultry; eggs of insects and fish 
  • ORGAN MEATS: liver, brain, tongue, marrow, kidney, lungs, stomach lining, intestines and reproductive organs 
  • ANIMAL FAT: from cows, lamb, game, pig, poultry and sea mammals 
  • INSECTS: Worms, caterpillars, larvae, grasshoppers, etc.

My action points around sacred foods
It's too late for me to think about eating well for conception, pregnancy or breastfeeding, but I'll still try to feed my girls sacred foods while they're growing up.

I don't plan on introducing insects into our diet ever, but I'm happy to feed us all butter, raw milk, kefir, cream, yoghurt, eggs, fatty meat and fish.

I also bought another lamb's liver this week, so I need to remind myself to grate some of that into any mince dishes I make. I'm still not game enough to eat it on its own.

Sally's talk convinced me to buy a bottle of fermented cod liver oil, and I've been adding a few drops of that to Sophie's bottles ever since. The taste is truly awful, but she doesn't seem to mind. I've only had it a few times myself. It's so expensive I'm not sure if I will take it regularly or just when I'm run down. (I tried adding it to Lily's bottle and she refused to drink it, saying the bottle tasted "old" - so I'm not sure if I'll be able to get her to take it.)

If you'd like to know more about sacred foods, check out this link over at the Weston A Price Foundation.


  1. Wow! it must have been awesome to meet Sally Fallon! Lucky You!
    I was reading somewhere recently about starting cod liver oil...and I think they suggest mixing it with coconut oil to start with (just a little) and once it was tolerable just add a bit more...etc

    1. Thanks for the tip Leonie! I'll give that a try.

  2. I think it was on the healthy home economist blog that she mentions rubbing the cod liver oil on the bottom of young children and it would get absorbed through the skin.


  3. yay, thanks for reporting back, sounds so interesting, I hope she come to Aus one day! So does the cod liver oil have to be fermented? I've been taking unfermented CLO in my morning smoothie and I'm getting used to it. I don't even know where to buy the fermented stuff! I did a sourdough course on the weekend, so will trying really really hard to make lots of bread from now on.

    1. I'm no expert but I think the fermented is more potent and you can be sure it's nit denatured as it's not overly heated in any way. The brand I've got is green pasture and you can order from their website. I got s plain one, but there are flavoured ones and butter oil mixes too. I found the taste so bad that flavoring it makes no diff. And I got plain because we have good butter here anyway so I didn't want to pay extra for something when it's just the CLO I'm after v

    2. So many typos! Typing on my phone is not the easiest.

  4. I so enjoyed the talk from Sally.It really inspired me to keep going with the good stuff. I am trying to figure a way to get the Cod liver oil into Liam too. It is so gross. Thanks for the post it is great to have a review of what Sally spoke about.


    1. I'm going to look into putting it on Lily's feet. I've also been adding a couple of tiny drops to our smoothies. Not enough to taste but I figure any she gets in her is better than none.

      We also had quite a bit of lambs liver mixed into our lasagne this week and everyone ate it. (I didnt tell anyone it was there so that probably helped!)

  5. lots of great information! i didn't know about the importance of those foods. thankfully, i have had these in my diet. i look forward to learning more as you blog about it.


Thank you for visiting Craving Fresh, and for taking the time to comment. Your feedback is so important to me.