A Thumbs Up Book Review
Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine
By Ron Schmid
Review by Sally Fallon
First published in 1997, then reissued under the title Native Nutrition, then reprinted in 1997 under the original title Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine, this book gets a qualified Thumbs Up. For anyone interested in the research of Weston Price, Schmid’s analysis of his work and the long-lived peoples of Vilcabamba, Hunza and Soviet Georgia is must reading. His Part 2 discussion of the various components of a healthy diet, especially seafood, is excellent. Unfortunately, Schmid’s discussion of dietary fats was influenced by several writers of the anti-saturated-fat school and he makes many mistakes in this area, leading to some glaring inconsistencies–warnings against saturated fat on one page, for example, and recommendations to eat butter on the next. So read this book with discrimination, profiting from the insights into native diets but ignoring the warnings against saturated fats.
Schmid begins by summarizing the findings of Weston Price, the levels of tooth decay and dental deformities in primitive and modern groups and an enumeration of the items in their diets. Some interesting tidbits: the Guinea pigs consumed by the Incan and Tauhuanocan cultures of the Andes were a rich source of vitamin D; and the African tribes on largely vegetarian diets had well-formed dental arches but little resistance to dental decay.
Schmid notes that in every culture studied by Price, certain foods were eaten raw–whether milk, cheese, organ meats, muscle meats or fish. He describes Pottenger’s experiments with cats, in which cats given cooked foods developed the same diseases as humans eating processed foods. Schmid’s points regarding raw animal foods, especially raw milk, are well taken, but it should be noted that all of the cultures Price studied built fires and cooked some of their food–even in cultures where fires were not needed for warmth. Grains, tubers and plant foods were usually fermented and/or cooked. In fact, in a letter written to his nieces and nephews, Price recommended that most vegetables be cooked, because for humans, cooking made it easier to absorb minerals from these categories of food.
Schmid is at his best discussing the superiority of raw milk over pasteurized. He notes that healthy animals do not carry the diseases supposedly avoided through pasteurization. For example, cows fed trace minerals manganese, cobalt, copper and iodine are immune to brucellosis. He points out that commercial dairy products usually aggravate arthritis and back problems because pasteurization changes the way calcium is arranged and disturbs its normal utilization. He also condemns the addition of synthetic vitamin D to commercial milk. In his clinical practice, he does not find these back and joint problems in raw-milk drinkers.
Although Schmid errs in his claim that grass-fed animals are healthier because they are leaner, his writes eloquently about the problems with the industrial meat-production model. “No private individual, stable, zoo, kennel or even research facility may legally treat animals as they are commonly treated on factory-farms,” he writes. “Pressure from the agribusiness and pharmaceutical lobbies has explicitly excluded farm animals from protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act. . . . No laws require any consideration for the welfare of animals. . . Ironically, the interests of animals and consumers are coincident, for healthy, naturally fed and humanely raised animals provide healthy food.”
This is an important reference book for those familiar with our teachings, but is not recommended for those new to this material, who may be swayed by the misinformation on dietary fats.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2002.