Why the Wise Traditions Diet Is So Thoroughly Satisfying!
Our nation is consumed with diets and dietary restrictions. The word “diet” was first used simply to indicate what a person or group actually ate. Now we equate the word “diet” with a list of do’s and don’ts in order to achieve weight loss, health or an optimal, fuel-efficient, fat-burning state for our bodies.
We all want to be healthy, of course. And we live at a time that idolizes the (extremely) thin and buff. I am a product of this culture, too. I also have tried to maintain an “ideal” weight and I certainly dieted in the past to make it happen. I remember making up my own diet when I was in college. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I made myself the self-imposed rule of eating only five items a day. That was it. This translated into a daily menu much like this one: a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich and apple or hard-boiled egg for lunch, meat and salad for dinner. If I exceeded my five-things diet limit, I made myself jump rope at the end of the night to burn off any “excess calories.”
I know I am not alone. Just this past week, a twenty-two-year-old told me that she also makes up her own diets. Hers focus on food colors. For a predetermined length of time, she only allows herself to eat yellow and orange foods (Cheetos count), and then it’s all green for a period, and so on.
Our diet crazes are often crazy. I’m glad that many popular diets today have a little bit more behind them than a young person’s whims or impressions of what constitutes a healthy diet. But most of them still advocate restrictions that end up making us feel deprived, which can lead to binge eating on food that isn’t nourishing but only temporarily satisfies our longing for what was cut out. The binging often includes processed foods that taste fatty or creamy—foods like ice cream, pizza, donuts—all made with industrial seed oils.
NO NEED FOR “CHEAT DAYS”
It’s been a few years since I was in my twenties, so thankfully I can weigh in on this topic of diet and deprivation with a little more sense…and science. The Wise Traditions diet embraces both science and sense, which is one thing I love about it. Its rallying cry is “Yes we can!” This is not a political statement, but rather an exultant exclamation that on the Wise Traditions diet, there is no need to deprive ourselves of any real food. (When I say “real food” I am referring to food that is closest to its natural state—not overly processed, packaged, boxed or canned.)
All real food from every food group is to be savored and enjoyed. Eating this way means satisfaction and nourishment. There is no need to allot ourselves “cheat days” or to shame ourselves because we “fell off the wagon.” This is because the Wise Traditions diet is not one of deprivation. Quite the opposite in fact! When everything is on the table, every forkful is so satisfying that your body stops you before you over-indulge. The result? It helps us reach the very goals that all the trendy diets strive for: weight loss, weight stabilization, good health and a state of satisfaction and balance. I can’t get over how wonderful it makes me feel!
So in this celebratory article I will touch on a variety of food groups, explaining how (and why) each food group should be included. Here’s how we can!
ANIMAL FAT – YES WE CAN!
Our bodies crave fat and thrive on fat. Fat provides a concentrated source of energy for us and is a vehicle for vitamins A, D, E and K2. All healthy traditional people consumed as much animal fat as they could, and took care to hunt when the animals were fat. Guidelines to reduce consumption of saturated animal fat, introduced in the 1970s, led to an increase in obesity and did not reduce the rate of heart disease! Science has shown us that saturated animal fat is critical for good health. Animal fats like lard, tallow, duck fat and chicken fat have nourished people for millennia. These fats are very stable and perfect for frying and cooking. Butter is especially delicious and a great vehicle for the fat-soluble vitamins. Butter makes everything taste good and helps you absorb the nutrients in the food you put it on, so go ahead and enjoy your butter!
GRAINS – YES WE CAN!
Many people avoid grains today, and no wonder. The way they are generally processed makes them difficult to digest. We are not ruminants with many stomachs that can ferment our grains to break down anti-nutrients and extract all the vitamins and minerals. We only have one stomach, which is why we need to find a way to “pre-digest” grains. Traditional cultures would soak their oats, ferment their bread dough, and soak beans, seeds, and nuts. These natural processes break down the natural preservatives like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors contained in the seeds and nuts. Discover how to soak and sour grains and you can enjoy these delicious foods. Be sure to eat your sourdough bread with plenty of butter.
DAIRY – YES WE CAN!
Dairy sensitivities and allergies are undoubtedly on the rise. Some say that it’s due to the fact that humans were not meant to drink milk after infancy. However people around the world have historically enjoyed raw milk—and yogurt, cheeses and other dairy products—with no ill effects. As a matter of fact, many of those people enjoyed good health and extraordinary longevity. The difference is that the milk on supermarket shelves is quite a different product than the milk our ancestors consumed. It has been pasteurized and has consequently lost its living protective and beneficial enzymes. If you want to enjoy real dairy—the living kind that includes not only vitamins and minerals but active enzymes and bacteria—you will need to find a farmer or local source for it, since it is often unavailable commercially. Contact a WAPF local chapter leader for leads on this. And then please drink up and you will reap the health benefits of this nutrient-dense food!
MEAT – YES WE CAN!
Lots of people today stay away from meat citing statistics that vegetarians live longer or that it is better for the earth to avoid meat consumption. However, science makes it clear that animal foods are our only source of complete protein. There are essential nutrients (vitamins B12, D, A and K2) that our bodies cannot make that simply cannot be found in vegetables. If the facts alone cannot convince you, eat meat and you may quickly discover how nourishing and satisfying it can be. Make sure to find grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free sources so that you get the most benefit from your pork, beef, and fowl. And look for wild-caught fish, for the same reasons. All can be on the table and received with gratitude.
SAUCES – YES WE CAN!
Healthy food does not have to be dry and tasteless. You can enjoy sauces made with egg yolks, cream or bone broth. Sauces made with the right ingredients actually help you digest your food!
SALT – YES WE CAN!
Our bodies need salt! We need salt for everything from digestion to brain health to cell function. And without salt food tastes terrible! How much to use? As much as your tastebuds dictate. Use unrefined salt for a good source of magnesium and trace minerals, as well as of sodium and chloride.
SOFT DRINKS – YES WE CAN!
We know conventional soft drinks are bad, and alcohol is not a good way to quench your thirst either. What to do when we want something more refreshing than water? The Wise Traditions diet has the answer: fizzy, delicious lacto-fermented beverages like kombucha, jun tea, water kefir soda and fermented ginger ale. These are the perfect alternative to both modern soft drinks and alcoholic beverages—more refreshing than either and good for your health. The good bacteria and enzymes they contain support digestion and give your energy a natural boost.
VEGETABLES – YES WE CAN!
Some believe our diets should primarily be composed of vegetables. They are indeed wonderful vehicles for all sorts of vitamins and minerals that benefit our bodies. On top of that, they are beautiful, colorful, and tasty. They are versatile, as they can be eaten cooked or raw. But they are not particularly nutrient-dense (ounce per ounce). Should they be a part of the Wise Traditions diet? Absolutely! And when eaten, take care to make the most of them by preparing them in the way that draws out the most nutrients—sometimes this will mean cooking them in a soup or even fermenting them to release the maximum amount of nutrients. Be sure to eat your cooked vegetables with butter and salt!
SWEETS – YES WE CAN!
We have been hard-wired to desire sweet foods. The sweet taste let our bodies know that certain foods were safe (and ripe) to eat. And in the wild, these naturally sweet fruits and vegetables were inextricably linked with vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help build our bodies. But refined carbohydrates and processed sugars sold to us today offer us nothing of the kind. When reaching for something sweet, therefore, it is key (as with all of the foods mentioned above) to find the most natural source to satisfy this hunger. Eat a mango or an apple, by all means. Drizzle maple syrup or honey on your sourdough pancakes or oatmeal. When it’s a natural sweetener, you won’t need a lot of it and it has the added benefit of offering your body some building blocks it needs to stay strong.
Of course, some of us do have sensitivities or allergies that require us to avoid certain foods. Everybody is different and it’s wise to pay attention to what your body favors naturally.
That said, we welcome you to the Wise Traditions table, where we unabashedly offer a spread of delicious, satisfying, real food. Because yes, yes we can! Here there is no need for cheat days. No need for deprivation. When everything is on the table, you will be satisfied and nourished the Wise Traditions way.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2017.