Nourishing Traditions

Nutrient density: the best way to fuel your body

I was once one of those people who needed to eat every few hours. If I didn't, I would feel suddenly weak and dizzy, as if I were an iphone whose battery precipitously dropped from 83% to 2%. Mid-workout, I would grab an energy bar to power up again. In my worst moments, I would become shaky and sweaty, like someone detoxing from alcohol. It wasn't a pretty picture. I eventually stumbled upon the term “hypoglycemia” and determined that I simply needed to eat more frequently. It never occurred to me to look closely at what exactly I was eating. What was the composition of my diet exactly and could it have been a factor in my condition? In the 1930s, Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist and a researcher, became curious about what contributed to good health. Thankfully, he did carefully examine and compare various diets to determine the factors at play in the best diets. He looked at the nutritional content of traditional foods and compared it with the so-called modern foods of his time (those sold at shops and comprised of refined flours, sugars, etc.) He found that traditional diets had 4x the minerals and water-soluble vitamins and 10x the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K. The bottom line? Modern diets often were (and still are) woefully inadequate in critical nutrients.

Whether we currently have any health concerns or not, it’s clearly time to ask ourselves some important questions, starting with: what the heck are we eating?! Are we simply satisfying our hunger with whatever happens to be close to our “pie hole,” or are we looking to build our bodies in better ways? I don’t mean “build” in a muscle-building fat-burning machine way, although some may have that goal. I mean, are we giving our bodies the fuel they need to thrive? Better nutrition translates into more energy, less fatigue. There’s easier brain function/more brain power, greater ease of movement/strength to take on physical tasks. Do you want this for yourself, for your family? Who doesn't, right?!

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Sally Fallon Morell takes Dr. Price’s findings and helps us figure out how to apply them in the day-to-day. She seriously sheds light on how to get the biggest bang for your buck out of every bite. (I may be mixing metaphors here, but you get what I'm saying!) Click here to listen to episode #30 entitled “Nutrient density.” In it, Sally touches on:

- how even those who think they’re eating “healthy” may still not be getting all of the vitamins and minerals they need - the foods that offer the fat-soluble vitamins that are critical for our brain and body function (in organ meats, fish eggs, egg yolks, cheese, for example) - the symptoms of fat-soluble vitamin-deficiency (including depression and anxiety) - the dangers of a diet high in lean proteins (without sufficient fat) - the fats that are implicated in heart disease (hint: not the saturated fats) - how vitamins A, D, and K are a triumvirate: how they work together and should be in balance - why she questions the USDA’s definition of “nutrient density” (Hint: they call vegetables nutrient dense, but they count it per calorie, and many vegetables are low in calories. This means that you’d have to eat copious amounts of broccoli, for example, to get the same amount of vitamins or minerals you’d get from a spoonful of liver.) - how Dr. Price, through improved nutrition, improved the health and behavior of  some orphans - how to tweak your diet to improve not only your physical health but your mental health; how to increase optimism - the one simple thing you can do to make a noticeable difference in your health, even if you do nothing else

I'm convinced that nutrient density (principle #3) is key to wellness. (For the entire list of "characteristics of traditional diets" click here.) I've been tweaking my diet over the years to align with the Wise Traditions diet and guess what?! All symptoms of hypoglycemia have resolved. Better still, I have no serious health concerns. I have sustained energy for the physical and mental tasks I want to complete. My body and mind feel strong and good.

What about you? Are you willing to try some of the foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins? What can you add to your diet to help your body thrive? Please comment below if you take even one small step in the nutrient-dense direction. I'm eager to hear what difference it makes for you!

*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

There's chips involved... Yeah, I feel guilty.

"There's chips involved.... Yeah, I feel guilty," Jane laughed nervously. This was Jane's reply when I asked her about her current diet. Jane is a 29 year-old professional in the city, so it's not surprising that she's pressed for time and that her diet isn't stellar. But, get this. Jane isn't American. She's a Kenyan, from the Kikuyu tribe, living and working in Nairobi. IMG_2753

Yes, professionals in Kenya face the same challenges we do here in the States. Like us, they have far too much to do and too little time to do it in. They are rushed and often grab whatever is available, convenient, or "cool" when they need energy or sustenance. It's a more hurried, harried life compared to the one in the village. And the food is very different, too.

"I have lived in both worlds," Jane said. I was intrigued and asked her questions to find out more.

  • IMG_4938on her childhood

I grew up partially in a village with my grandmother.

  • on what she ate

Mostly healthy, vegetables from the farm. Sorghum. Ugali. We would eat fermented porridge. And then we would also eat, rather drink, milk from the cow, because she used to have a cow.

  •  on her health as a child

Very healthy, because I would rarely go to the hospital. I don’t remember falling sick, as such. Maybe flu or a cough, but nothing too major. To me, it’s the lifestyle I was living at that time, as compared to now, I’m in the city.

  • on her current diet

There’s chips involved. There’s burger. Rice. Lots of rice. Lots of meat, sometimes soda. Yeah, I feel guilty. A lot of cake, unhealthy snacks, mostly.

  • comparing the health of those in the village and those in the city

I would say the city people, per se, we are not as healthy as people in the village. It is so clear when you go to visit them. Someone who’s my age, because they are working, they are walking, they are eating those greens from the farm, they are taking milk from the cow. They look much stronger than I do.

Even my mom would go like, “That tummy needs to go, obviously.” You know, because she is more active and eating healthier, I do believe, better than I do.

  • on what's "cool"

For most of us, actually, we think it’s cool to be seen somewhere at KFC or Pizza Inn. Like [with ]a big pizza or coca cola. But, no, it’s not. Like I said, I know from both worlds which one is cooler....

  • her response to our presIMG_2719entation on nourishing, traditional foods

To me it was a wake-up call. Like, yeah, the village people are not wrong. That’s the way it should be because I have seen the difference because I have lived in both worlds. In the village and now in the city. So, to me, I could relate so much so because I have seen it both ways.

It’s true. I’ve lived it. Eating the natural foods, and now where I am just walking to a fast food place and get whatever.

I don’t want to [die fast], so I have to start, like, recollecting to making decisions to go for the natural foods, for sure.


Are you like Jane, eating chips and feeling guilty? Living a fast-paced life with little space for "slow food?" You're not alone. Let's help each other to do as she suggested, and "recollect" to make decisions for the natural foods. For sure.

The accidental foodie

This is the house that Jack built. Do you remember that nursery rhyme? At first you just saw the house in your mind's eye, but then the story took you deep inside, so that you could see how the house was linked to people and creatures, in ways unexpected. house that Jack This is analogous to my relationship with food. How did I become so passionate about food, its origin, and its effects on the body? Look at my journey and you'll see that I wasn't born with an organic BPA-free spoon in my mouth. This is the story of how I became a foodie quite by accident.

If there's one word that summarizes my journey, it's this: relationship.  Some years ago, a friend invited me to hear America's "most famous farmer" Joel Salatin speak. (He wasn't that famous back then, by the way, but he certainly is now! You may have even seen the article that came out just last week in the Food section of The Washington Post entitled  "Joel Salatin's growing on us.")  Anyway, I went to his presentation primarily because of my friend's insistence.

At the end of the night, honestly, I didn't know what to make of Joel. I thought he spoke too quickly and too passionately. (If you know my speaking style at all, this should make you smile!)  He was asking the audience to reconsider their relationship to food, to the land it grows on (or grazes on) and to the one who grows it. His ideas seemed radical and strange. Nonetheless, I was intrigued enough to buy his book "Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food Buyers' Guide to Farm Friendly Food."  I even got Joel to autograph it for me. The inscription was puzzling, though. "Hilda: Welcome to the team! Joel" What did he mean by "Welcome to the team"? What team?

Joel knew then what I only came to realize later: I was on the brink of being drawn into an amazing group of passionate, vibrant people---a team that was sparking a food revolution of sorts. farm freshThey were making different choices: planting gardens, getting local food, avoiding overly- processed foods and commercial retailers. I had no idea who I was getting mixed up with!

Up to this point, my relationship to food had been utilitarian. I was hungry, so I ate. I just needed enough to quiet my stomach and fill my belly. Once I had children, a shift occurred. I wanted them not only to be full, but to be nourished. I wanted them to be healthy and well. I set out to identify the most nourishing foods I could, to serve them to my family. My relationship with food was morphing: from utilitarian to intentional and purposeful.

The "team" I was joining had purpose in spades, so I learned from them. I joined a group that received food deliveries from a farm in Pennsylvania. We got milk, eggs, meat, produce. I loved the food and was pleased to know the farmer who was providing it. He even had a name: Jake! I started digging deeper (no farming pun intended). I found books--"Nourishing traditions", Joel's aforementioned book, "Good calories, bad calories," ---blogs--- "100 days of real food", and "Food renegade"---and faith-based guides like "Treasures of healthy living"! Suddenly, I was looking at food very differently. I began to see it as miraculous and beautiful, life-sustaining and delicious!

Talk about a transformed relationship, huh? And I'm not through learning. Not by a long shot.  I did get certified as a health coach by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so that I could share the wealth of resources and discoveries I'd made. I also became a DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), an organization committed to helping people find nutrient-dense foods. (I'm happy to answer questions about either of these groups, by the way.)

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Where are you on your journey? How closely have you looked at the food on your plate and where it came from? If you are just starting to make different choices, congrats! And brace yourself. You may start out just wanting to put good milk, meat, and eggs on your table, but you just may end up as part of a team that you joined, quite by accident!

How a book you've never heard of changed my diet and my life

I would be in the middle of my morning workout and then it would hit me. Uh-oh. I’d start to feel suddenly weak, slightly light-headed. My blood sugar was dipping. It was if the needle on my gas tank had abruptly moved from F to E. I would pause the music so I could take a couple of bites from my power bar. Even though I'd eaten breakfast, this scene played out time and time again during my morning exercise class. I just figured I was one of those people who had to eat frequently. gas tank

But then a friend of mine told me about a way of eating based on a book called “Nourishing Traditions”. She had had some serious health concerns and she had met the author, Sally Fallon, at some kind of health fair. Sally was literally "glowing," according to my friend. She was a testament to her diet. She radiated vibrant health.

This is not Sally, but this is the image that came to mind….

At this point in my life, I hadn’t really given much thought into what I put into my body. I mean, I'd do the obvious: pick Kix over more sugary cereals for the kids, choose juice over sodas, etc. but I primarily regarded food as something to fill up the tank, nothing more.

Still, I checked out “Nourishing Traditions” and it intrigued me. Sally based this textbook/cookbook on the principles of a dentist, Weston A. Price. In the 1930s, Dr. Price took a trip around the world to find the people who had the best teeth---broad smiles, straight, uncrowded teeth and no cavities. What he discovered was that the people who had the best teeth were also the ones with the strongest constitutions. They were well, robust, healthy people. But they weren’t clumped together in one part of the world. He found people who were well all around the world---in northern climes, in Africa, on islands, etc.

What did these people groups eat? Even though their diets were varied (depending on if they lived by the water or inland, the climate, food sources, etc.) they had certain things in common:

  • The healthiest people ate the foods of their ancestors---whole, real food. They did not have “westernized” diets--highly processed/packaged with food colorings, additives and partially hydrogenated oils, refined flours, sugars, etc.
  • They all had fermented foods as part of their diet (like kimchi, sauerkraut, curtido, pickles, and so on)
  • they all ate animal foods (fish, fowl, mammals, insects, and the like), and some portion of it raw
  • they all used the bones of the animal and often used it for broth
  • their diets were high in fat, and naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals

As a Christian, I value the religious traditions of those who have walked this earth before me. This book helped me to see that there were valuable lessons to be found in the diets of the past, as well. I realized that food was more than fuel to keep me going---it was designed to nourish and strengthen my body at the deepest levels, and to help it function optimally.

My breakfast "eggstravaganza" (couldn't help but take a few bites)

I started experimenting with my own diet, following some of the "Nourishing Tradition" principles. For breakfast, rather than having my usual cereal drizzled with a smidge of milk and a few berries, I began eating (and serving my family) eggs, bacon, and cheese. We would have tortillas with peanut butter, bananas, yogurt. To my surprise, no one was complaining or missing Cheerios or mini-wheats! And, lo and behold, I no longer had to interrupt my morning workout for a quick power bar snack. As a matter of fact, I was finding I could last much longer between meals without feeling the dreaded blood sugar dip. And I was feeling satiated in a way I hadn’t before. No wonder Sally was glowing!

I was sold. This little book (I call it "little" as a term of affection; it's actually quite a hefty tome!) revolutionized my relationship with food. It propelled me into the study of nutrition and the field of health coaching. For more information on "Nourishing Traditions" or  the Weston Price Foundation, go to www.westonaprice.org.

And please let me know what books you've read that have impacted your food choices and health!

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