Once you start researching wellness practices, you’ll start to realize that the human diet has taken some drastic twists and turns over the past 150 or more years. What was once a diet that was regionally-specific, whole food-based, naturally organic, and seasonal has become a buffet of anything you want, whenever you want it. These dietary trends and practices have been linked to lifestyle diseases and less-than-optimal health than is expected for humans.
The Weston Price diet is a set of nutritional principles based on the philosophy and research of Weston A. Price which advocates for whole foods grown naturally with an ancestral focus. It also doesn’t exclude whole food groups like many currently popular dietary philosophies do. The WAP diet promotes buying foods from local farmers, supporting your local economy and working in political advocacy for food access.
But what is the history of this dietary philosophy?
Who was Weston A Price?
Weston A. Price was a dentist in Cleveland, Ohio during the early 1900s, when the American diet was drastically changing. He decided that he wanted to learn about dental conditions throughout the world, specifically in traditional cultures that hadn’t yet been exposed to western food products (especially sugar). So, throughout the 1930s, he and his wife Florence traveled the world studying and photographing varied remote cultures, their teeth, and their diet.
Dr. Price found that in the places that hadn’t yet adopted a western diet, the people were fit, strong, and their teeth were nearly perfect. Yet, when he traveled to a nearby village where the same ethnic groups were abandoning their traditional diets and instead, eating more western foods (sugar, white flour, etc.), their children were born with crowded teeth and struggled with dental health and tooth decay.
He studied their traditional farming and food preparation methods, exploring the ways in which they fulfilled their dietary needs in different environments with varied access to foods. He also discovered that they were eating incredibly nutrient-dense foods, often due to the ways that they grew, raised, hunted, and prepared food.
He came to believe that ancestral foodways were keeping culture groups healthy and strong, without a strong need for dentists or doctors. However, once the processed foods from the west leaked into their diets, their health and teeth began to fail, requiring dental care and medical intervention. He published his research, observations, photos, and conclusions in a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
While his research methods are likely to be flawed by today’s standards, he offers us a peek into a world that was drastically changing and doesn’t exist today. His conclusions may or may not be entirely accurate, but his observations are priceless to help us understand how wellness affects our overall health — for generations!
General Dietary Guidelines
In recent decades, Weston A. Price’s work was collected and distilled into the core mission of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit founded by Sally Fallon Morell and Mary Enig to promote the work of Weston Price. The Weston A. Price Foundation advocates eating whole, unprocessed foods all of the time.
Sally Fallon Morell (a member of the IAWP faculty) explained to IAWP Wellness Coaches-in-training during one of their wellness trainings more of her motivations for creating the foundation and promoting Weston A. Price’s work:
“Diet Dictocrats are people who act like dictators with food by telling us how to eat and promulgating the low fat, high carb, low salt, low cholesterol myths about diet. Which has pushed people away from real, healthy food into processed foods. Which is exactly the point of these guidelines – they are highly influenced by commodity agriculture and the food processing industry. And they’re designed to get people to buy more processed foods and to turn their backs on the simple foods that don’t make a lot of money for the food industry.”
You can explore more of their philosophies and recommendations in their book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats.
They advocate for removing our modern fear of fats and recommend that we eat them liberally (both natural plant and animal fats). WAPF also doesn’t agree with the removal of grains from the diet, as they believe it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Overall, however, they recommend that individuals look to their ancestral heritage and choose diets that fit with what their ancestors would have eaten. This might mean eating more or fewer grains, lots of dairy or none — all dependent on what your ancestors would have eaten.
The Weston Price Diet also advocates for overall wellness practices, such as getting plenty of sleep, spending lots of time in nature, taking whole-food-based supplements, and leading a nourishing lifestyle.
The Difference Between the WAP Diet and a Paleo Diet
In the past couple of decades, the Paleo diet has emerged as another ancestrally-focused dietary philosophy. It advocates for avoiding all grains, reduction of carbs overall, and avoidance of dairy products. The Paleo diet also recommends keeping fatty foods lower than the WAP diets recommends.
Many wellness seekers have confused the WAP diet and the Paleo diet, but there are distinct differences between the two. Weston Price found many cultures that were thriving on properly-grown and prepared grains, so sprouted and fermented grains are a cornerstone of the Weston Price Foundation diet.
The Paleo diet, on the other hand, believes that since humans have only been eating grains and dairy for a few thousand years, we aren’t yet adapted to them physiologically. Paleo diet advocates recommend avoiding both food groups entirely.
That said, both diets share philosophical features. They both recommend whole, unprocessed foods, grown organically and meat that is wild and/or grass-fed. They both also look to ancestral wellness practices for wisdom and guidance. They both also include a hefty amount of veggies and plant foods.
Weston A Price Diet Plan
The basic philosophy and recommendations to follow for the Weston Price diet include…
- Drinking raw milk and eating raw dairy products that are in their natural, unaltered state from farms that care for their animals, feed them biologically-appropriate grass, and don’t use hormones or antibiotics.
- Sprouting and fermenting grains to make them more nutritionally accessible and less harmful on the gut.
- Creating lacto-fermented vegetables and other foods that are great for probiotics and gut flora, such as traditional sauerkraut.
- Eating natural fats from animals and plants (butter, lard, coconut oil, olive oil), while avoiding factory-produced, non-traditional fats and vegetable oils (canola oil, corn oil, etc.).
- Avoiding low-fat foods and processed foods made for the “low fat” trend and instead embracing all foods in their full-fat forms.
- Taking cod liver oil for its concentrated and bio-available vitamin D and vitamin A, as well as other fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients.
- Including other food-based supplements, such as butter oil.
- Eating wild fish and shellfish, avoiding the farmed varieties.
- Enjoying meats including their fats, organ meats, and other edible parts (they each contain nutrients that are believed to be essential for health).
- Drinking and cooking with filtered water.
- Using unrefined salt and organic spices.
- Avoiding foods that come from boxes or are produced in a factory.
- Making bone broth from grass-fed animal bones and whole foods.
- Avoiding sugars and using natural sweeteners in small amounts, including honey, dates, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.
- Keeping alcohol intake very low and only drinking unpasteurized, naturally fermented wines and beers.
Generally, the diet has a strong focus on foods in their whole and natural state. It also warns against “anti-nutrients” (such as phytic acid) found in the cells of whole grains and nuts. To “unlock” the nutrition bound up in these cells, they recommend fermenting, sprouting, and cooking them.
The WAPF diet also enjoys unrestricted diary and fat access from animal products, which differs from many other dietary recommendations.
Pros and Cons of the WAP Diet
The Weston A. Price diet is just one of many dietary philosophies grounded in an emphasis on eating whole foods. The history of the diet is appealing to those who want research-based evidence for ancestrally-focused whole food diets. The diet works well for many people.
That said, the WAPF diet is more European heritage focused so it might not be appropriate for those with other ethnic backgrounds. For example, many individuals with an Asian genetic background tend to struggle with digesting milk products, so this part of the diet might not work for them. However, Weston Price’s work demonstrated that eating similarly to our ancestors is the key to health.
The biggest issue with the diet is that it contradicts much of the research done on vegetarian and vegan diets, including modern philosophies that animal foods contribute to heart disease. People who thrive on those diets might not enjoy eating all the meat, dairy, and animal fats that are emphasized in the WAPF diet.
Weight loss may or may not occur on a WAP diet, as well, depending on your body and weight loss goals.
Eating for Your Unique Biochemistry
Everybody’s biochemistry is entirely unique, both from an ancestral/genetic perspective as well as how your body has developed in your individual environment. We all have individual needs and following one specific diet doesn’t work for everyone.
It’s important to learn about many dietary perspectives, understand your own physical nutritional needs, and follow a diet pattern that’s uniquely crafted just for you.
Our needs often change over our lifespan as well, so it’s good to be flexible and adaptable to your needs instead of adhering to a strict dietary regime. Do what works for you and then continue to check in regularly to make sure it’s still working for you!
An IAWP Graduate’s Experience with the WAP Diet
“In 2012, I started tinkering with the Keto Paleo lifestyle while recovering from 20 years of struggling with bulimia. During this time, I discovered the Weston A. Price diet where I learned that dairy is NOT the big enemy that I had been taught it was (as long as it’s from responsible sources, of course).
What a relief for a Dutch Canadian dairy farm girl! And what a relief it was for my health. My Lyme disease completely went away. The fats made me feel so satiated that I didn’t need to binge on unhealthy foods anymore. My inflammation went away and I, at last, had a healthy body. Now, I tell my wellness coaching clients, ‘Fat is back.’”
–Jetty Nieuwenhuis, IAWP Certified Wellness Coach, Nutrition Coach, and Personal Trainer at Trujetty
Key Takeaways From the WAP Diet
You might really enjoy following a Weston Price diet or it might not make you feel so good. Whatever works best for your body is the right choice for you. That said, there are some excellent tips in the WAPF diet recommendations that everyone should follow for optimal health.
- Eat foods that are whole, unprocessed, and pesticide/chemical-free.
- Choose foods that are grown locally, when possible.
- Learn about your ancestral food heritage and work the practices into your diet, if you feel called to do so.
- Reduce dependence on factory-farming and support small-scale and diversified growers.
- Eat foods in their proper season.
- Think about the vital array and quality of nutrients in foods, not just macro food groups (i.e. dairy, grains, etc.).
- Practice an overall wellness mindset in addition to eating quality foods.
All other dietary specifics are up to you and your unique needs. Weston A. Price was an inspiring researcher, bringing us stories of ancestral eating ways that might have otherwise been completely lost. We can be inspired by these stories and use them as guidance when constructing our own healthiest wellness plans. Above all, enjoy the process and prioritize eating foods that you love!