Earlier this week, Physical Culture Study was lucky enough to chat with Sally Fallon Morrell, the President of the Weston A. Price Foundation. For those readers who are unaware of the Foundation’s work, the WAPF has spent nearly two decades educating people on healthy dietary practices.
Advocating the consumption of saturated fats, raw fullfat dairy and a host of other supposedly ‘unhealthy’ foods, the WAPF can be seen as a sane voice in a world of low-fat fanatics. More recently, the Foundation has spearheaded the move to make raw milk sales legal into all 50 American States. With 42 down and only 8 more to go, few would bet against them.
So without further ado, check out a rather enlightening discussion with Sally.
In both the bodybuilding and fitness community more generally it is commonplace to see diets that are high in lean cuts of meat, carbs and low in fat.
How does the Western Price diet differ from such approaches and what do these approaches lack?
The WAPF advocates a diet that is first and foremost, based on fats. These fats are derived from animals such as whole dairy products, eggs and fatty cuts of meat. As you’re aware, this differs quite considerably with current health trends at the moment.
Take for example the two most popular types of diets at the moment, the Paleo approach and the traditional high carb diet. Neither diet contains adequate amounts of fat and in some cases actively discourages eating fat. In a sense the Paleo diet can be seen as the more dangerous of the two owing to its relatively low fat and low carb stance. Your body needs saturated fat to function. Now you can either get this from eating fats or your body can create it from carbohydrates. Paleo advocates are coming up short.
On a personal level there is also the issue of taste. Lean meat such as skinless chicken breast is often rendered so inedible that it has to be consumed with sweet sauces. Fatty cuts of meat on the other hand are incredibly edible. Coupled with this, they provide unique vitamins that are difficult to obtain in other foods, such as Vitamins A, D and K (Note: The Latest WAPF ‘Wise Traditions’ journal provides an excellent article on the importance of Vitamin A for expectant mothers).
Q) Another dietary approach that has gained popularity again in recent years is the Ketogenic and modified Atkins approach. Could you say a few words on this mode of eating?
While I’m not an expert on these diets I do know that Ketogenic diets have been used with great success in the treatment of epilepsy and also with weight loss. While they may prove invaluable for certain sections of the population, the vast majority of people need carbohydrates to function.
At the very least it is said we need a minimum of 100 grams of carbs a day for the basic functioning of the body (i.e. movement, breathing etc.). Ketogenic diets don’t provide this.
Q) When you discuss carbohydrates, I presume you have a certain type in mind?
Absolutely. While the standard Western diet revolves around refined carbohydrate sources, the WAPF advocates complex carbs from grains and starchy vegetables vegetables as the primary carbohydrates of one’s diet. This aligns to the eating habits of traditional groups.
Q) Shifting gears slightly, you oftentimes seen the WAPF diet confused with the Paleo diet, why do you think this is the case?
To be honest, I’m not sure why people confuse the two approaches. Perhaps it is because both groups claim to be basing their plans on how traditional people ate. The difference between the WAPF and Paleo information is that the WAPF is a lot more accurate in its research. As mentioned previously, the Paleo approach is often low-fat, something that jars with both the WAPF approach and the actual diets of these people.
The WAPF has never endorsed the Paleo approach. As early as 2002, I (Sally Fallon Morrell) wrote a negative book review on a Loren Cordain’s book on the paleo diet . In short, the WAPF diet is definitively not Paleo and in fact, our website provides an excellent summary on the differences between the two. Click here for the summary.
Finally many Paleo advocates say that if 80% of your diet is in check, you can be lenient with the remaining 20%. The WAPF diet includes almost every food group and as mentioned, is an incredibly satisfying way to eat—you are unlikely to feel the need to “cheat.”
Q) Related to the WAPF diet. I know that you recommend supplementing with Cod Liver Oil. Could you explain the rationale behind that and also discuss any other supplements you feel are beneficial.
We recommend Cod Liver Oil for the reason that traditional diets were typically high in Vitamins A and D. We find that nowadays people struggle to get sufficient levels in their diets, hence the cod liver oil recommendation.
Importantly, the brands of cod liver oil we recommend are the brands that don’t have added vitamins, but only the natural vitamins, because they are processed at low temperatures. Although never stated on the labels, cod liver oil that has been processed by molecular distillation (which is most brands) have much of the natural vitamins destroyed due to the high heat of the process, so they then add the synthetic.
With regards to other supplements, we first point to things like desiccated liver or natural vitamin C supplements derived from dried plant leaves. In essence both are essentially foodstuffs.
If you’re taking other kinds of supplements, do so under the supervision of a health practitioner.
Q) What is your take then on the supplements found in the bodybuilding industry? I’m thinking particularly about protein supplements.
We would never recommend protein powders for two reasons.
First it’s incredibly rare for anyone on a Western diet to be deficient in protein. If anything we’re overindulging in protein. We’re deficient in fats first and foremost. It makes little sense to supplement something you don’t need. Tied to this is the fact that for proper assimilation of protein, the body uses Vitamin A. Consuming too much protein can therefore deplete your body of this important nutrient.
The second reason we don’t recommend protein powders comes down to their highly toxic nature. Each type of powder comes with its own problems. Soy proteins contain estrogenic compounds while whey protein is denatured during its processing. We have to remember that protein powders are in effect waste products from the commercial food industry. Soy protein powders come from the waste products of soy oil production. Similarly whey protein is the after-product of the cheese-making industry. Protein powders are effectively cast offs.
Q) Something which was re-iterated quite a bit in the latest issue of Wise Traditions, was the importance of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D and K. Although liver and other organ meats provide ample supplies of these vitamins, people have an aversion to eating them.
Why do you think this is the case?
First and foremost there is a medical campaign against these types of foods. Before WW1 doctors told patients in America to eat liver once a week. Many people my grandparents age remember eating liver on their doctor’s orders. Now patients are being told it’s toxic. Much to their detriment.
Sadly we have also lost the tradition of making these foods. Liver can be made into a delicious pate if people know how to cook it right. There are ways of making offal taste delicious, which the majority of people don’t know about.
Finally there’s a more general societal ignorance about these meats. Hot dogs used to be made containing offal in it. Now they are just made with meat and the organ meats are put into pet foods?
Q) Related to this of course is the consumption of raw milk, something the WAPF has been passionately promoting…
Absolutely and that was another concern that we had with the Paleo movement. In many of the Paleo cookbooks and diet plans dairy as whole is forbidden or ignored. And that’s a shame because whole raw dairy foods are an important part of the western diet, especially for growing children.
Regardless the American consumer has thankfully begun to consume more raw milk. At the moment raw milk sales are increasing about 25% each year at a time when traditional pasteurized milk sales are dropping. This is reflected in the number of States that now allow the sales of raw milk. When we began our raw milk campaign only 27 States allowed the sale of raw milk. Now 42 do.
Q) Interesting. What has been the biggest barrier to sales of raw milk? The Department of Agriculture or more general health bodies?
Perhaps because they see that the writing is on the wall for the traditional dairy industry, the Departments of Agriculture in various states have beem supportive of the raw milk campaign. In general the opposition comes from regional health bodies, but this also is starting to change.
Indeed for many health officials the penny has finally dropped as they see conventional dairy farms going out of business at a rapid rate…Raw milk is the way forward both for health and for the vitality of U.S. dairy farms.
Q) Continuing on this topic of raw foods, we previously discussed Armand Tanny and Randy Roach’s raw food diet on this website which included raw meats. What is your opinion of all-raw diets? Would you recommend including some raw foods in general?
While we advocate that people include some raw food into their diets, it’s important to note that no traditional culture on record only consumed raw foods. All traditional cultures ate some of their animal foods raw; meat and fish were consumed both raw and cooked; dairy foods were consumed raw.
But all cultures cooked their grains and most if not all of their vegetables and starchy foods.
You need it both ways. In some instances, as in vegetables, cooking makes vitamins and minerals more available, while in other cases, such as dairy, cooking makes the nutrients less available.
So while there is nothing wrong with eating certain foods raw, we need to know which ones should be cooked, and why.
Q) Another issue I briefly wanted to touch upon is that of ‘Superfoods’ like Kale. Are these foods beneficial and why do they receive such backing in the public?
Kale is a particular bug-bear of mine because in its raw state, it is incredibly UN-healthy. Kale contains a lot of oxalic acid and goitrogens, both of which can be detrimental to your health. So all this talk of raw kale smoothies and kale chips is leading people down the wrong path.. If people want to eat kale they need to cook it thoroughly and consume it with a healthy amount of fat.
In many of these instances you have to look at who is promoting the food. The kale craze came about thanks to those who had invested vast amounts into kale fields. Similarly with the berry industry.
Few people are willing to promote liver, offal meats and fat as ‘superfoods,’ but they are the real foods people should concern themselves with.
Q) This has been an absolutely fascinating discussion. Thanks so much.
Before we wrap up, I wanted to ask what’s next for the WAPF?
At the moment we’re putting a lot of energy and resources into our raw milk campaign. As I mentioned earlier, we currently have raw milk sales in 42 US States. Our goal is 50.
Coupled with this we’ll be launching a new website in the near future which will complement our newly created podcast featured on the WAPF website. The goal is to make the foundation’s teachings accessible to as many people as possible.
We’re driven by the belief that we well and truly are in the eleventh hour. Our culture cannot survive the way it is currently eating. Conventional dietary advice over the past few decades has led to increasing infertility, cancer, heart disease and behavioral problems. It’s time to return to traditional dietary plans that have long aided Supported robust good health.
Q) So if someone wanted to learn more, what would you recommend?
For anyone interested in learning more, we recommend going to the WAPF website and click on “Take a Tour.”
After that we recommend signing up to our email list and becoming a member of the WAPF. This will give you access to our Wise Traditions journal, which contains the latest dietary advice and research from the Foundation, and is, we believe, a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Finally, we recommend looking up the nearest WAPF chapter in your home country or State. We have between 500 and 600 WAPF local chapters throughout the world. Your local chapter will help you find raw milk and other healthy foods in your area.