Straight Talk

What Makes a Diet Good? The First Five Principles

Do you feel confused about what to include in a good diet? How about what to leave out? Do nutrition facts labels make your head spin round and round with all the different and contradictory things you’ve read and heard about a healthy diet? Do you feel a little sick with confusion when you read the ingredients labels on foods in the grocery store?

Well, lets do something about that! Step back in time with me, back to a time when choosing food didn’t involve navigating a maze of contradictory science, distortions and lies from food product producers and distributors and heavy handed efforts from the media to get you to choose one food product over another.

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Using History as Your Yardstick

Before modern times people decided what to eat and what to avoid entirely based on what the elders in their tribe, town or village indicated were good to eat. This knowledge was passed down from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter. Hunting skills,farming and animal husbandry were passed down in the same way. This knowledge was very deeply embedded in a culture. You could almost say it was their culture! Life itself depended on it’s successful transmission. Groups that worked out a healthy foodway thrived! Those groups that didn’t, well they didn’t make it. Our ancestors took this very seriously. We are all descendants of people from cultures healthy enough to thrive.

Now these food cultures are only seen through the filter of science and the media. If a study comes out that implies some part of our traditional food is unhealthy, well we try to change based on the study. If experts tell us this or that is good or bad, generally we accept that. And we try to change. Is that wise though? Those studies can be and often are biased to promote the views and benefit the pocketbooks of those who paid for the study! History and traditional food culture though is unbiased. It will give you a much truer picture of what is good to eat! After all, it’s what your ancestors ate to survive as a group long enough to produce you :-).

Using history as a yardstick in the form of Weston Price’s studies of native cultures in the 1920’s, the Weston A Price Foundation has developed some guidelines that people from varied cultures the world over can use to help sort out what is good to eat and what is bad. With our cultural consensus on food in ruins we can only turn to ourselves and like minded friends to help put the puzzle of a good diet back together. And we should use history and our remembrance of things past as our best possible guide.

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So let’s get started! There is so much to cover I thought we could go thru them 5 at a time. I’ll plan on covering five in detail every week or so till we’ve got them all done.

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Eat whole, natural foods.

The first principle and rightly so. Everything you eat should be natural. Most everyone agrees on this one, though they may be really confused about what “natural” is. The word itself has been distorted to include the most synthetic newfangled foods imaginable. Step into any grocery store and you will find hundred of packages of mostly processed foods labeled boldly “All Natural”! Did you know that in the food industry the word “Natural” has no legal meaning? It could be put on Twinkies and Moonpies if they wanted!

So what is natural and whole? How do you tell? This part takes a little reading and attention to detail to work out on a practical basis. You’ll need to know what food items are highly processed taking them from something nature made to something that is a significant distortion of nature. Things like vegetable oils, for instance. Virtually all vegetable oils are highly processed products. The factories they come out of look like refineries.

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I’ve got a sizable list of posts designed to help you figure out what foods are whole and natural. Each post covers a specific food item from the best possible choice to those that are okay compromises to things that really must be avoided. Most of the time the trick is in making appropriate compromises from the available options for your budget. Once you understand better what each choice has and what it’s missing you’ll feel more confident when shopping. I know that learning this stuff made a world of difference for me and my family.

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Eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do.

Have you heard the joke about Twinkies surviving a nuclear winter? Or about people experimenting with leaving fast food fries out for months on end with no signs of spoilage. These are properties of highly processed foods! They are designed by food engineers to have extremely long shelf lives. Long shelf life means less spoilage for the distributor which means more profit. Basically, these foods are pre-spoiled in a way that keeps them palatable in spite of that fact. The worst offenders are made with rancid hydrogenated vegetable oils.

If they are not pre-spoiled then they are soaked in preservatives to make them unpalatable to the microorganisms that would spoil them. If the microorganisms won’t eat it, you shouldn’t either.

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Eat naturally-raised meat

Much of the meat in the food supply comes from animals that have been raised in very unnatural conditions. Fed diets that are inappropriate at best and downright toxic at worst, they sicken in sizable numbers. They are kept on continuous medication to keep them fit for the butcher. This includes fish too! Kinda shocking I know.

Animals should be fed their natural diet and live in conditions appropriate for them. As Joel Salatin puts it we should “Honor the pigness of the pig”. That extends to the chickenness of the chicken, and the cowness of the cow! That’s what naturally raised meat is.

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Eat whole, naturally-produced milk products from pasture-fed cows

Naturally produced milk is just as it came from the cow … No pasteurization or homogenization. It’s not put through a process to reduce it’s fat content. Naturally produced milk comes from healthy cows allowed to graze on green pastures.

Natural milk products are simply made using the same basic methods our grandmothers used to make butter, yogurt, soured milk, soft cheese, soured cream and a myriad of other delicious varieties of fermented foods. She didn’t ferment them, then pasteurize them before she served them, as many purveyors of fermented milk products do now.

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Use only traditional fats and oils

Fats and oils is definately a biggie! This one is in my opinion the number one most important place to start! I can’t emphasize that enough really. Bad fats are a major source of disease in the industrialized world.

Traditional fats are animal fats like butter, lard and beef tallow. Extra virgin olive oil has a long history as food. So does sesame oil and flax, coconut and palm oils. Be sure to source these foods well since there is a lot of sleight of hand and outright deception in the business of oil and fats.

What doesn’t have a long history at all are oils like corn, canola, cottonseed and soy. These are highly processed products that are in no way natural. Avoid them completely.

Until next time 🙂

This post is part of a series …

9 thoughts on “What Makes a Diet Good? The First Five Principles

  1. Going back to the basic is really healthy, no preservatives, no MSG, no harmful ingredients. I grew up in a farm and at an early age I’ve appreciated the organic stuffs at home like the beef of the grass fed cows which give extremely healthy, almost fat free and tastier beef compared to those that are raised for commercial purposes.


  2. This is helpful. I’ve found, in looking at the variety of options for healthy food choices, that the overwhelming difference in people’s health and vitality is based on exactly that notion of “eat food that spoils.” People who experience rejuvenated health and increased energy may follow different specific paths, but nearly all of them seem to be on a path that requires vigilance in eating actual food rather than a chemical stew of flavorings and preservatives.


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