Diet Investigation: Nourishing Traditions {WAPF}


© Donielle

I first came across this diet when I was researching raw milk. My son was having a really tough time with the milk I was buying from the store and at just 16 months (self-weaned) I was at a loss as for what to do. In my limited knowledge and research I decided that soy was out for sure and we found that goat milk seemed to work well for him. But the only stuff available in the stores was ultra pasteurized, also a no-go. I soon found a farm just down the road from my house that sold raw goat milk, but I needed to do my research first as raw milk was “scary” and was often demonized by the dairy industry and media. I was a bit hesitant to allow my very young child to drink it.

Through lots of research and reading we did make the decision to drink raw milk and I happened to pick up the book The Maker’s Diet, by Jordin Rubin, and am forever grateful for the information. Often he talked about the importance of Real Food, quoted the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Morell and offered many of the recipes found in NT as well.  As I began to read through these books I kept finding more and more information pointing to the fact that FOOD was so vital to my fertility….as was my lack of whole foods to struggling with infertility.

Wholeheartedly I embraced the teachings of the Weston A Price Foundation:

  • Grains, nuts and legumes should be soaked prior to eating to reduce phytic acid and other enzyme inhibitors.
  • Processed foods, soy, and vegetable oils should not be consumed.
  • Dairy should be raw and from grass fed cows/goats/sheep.
  • Meats should come from grass fed, pastured, and organic animals.
  • Fats are vital to health and should be consumed often.
  • Cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt, butter) is an important part of a diet.
  • Fermented vegetables are also vital to a good diet.
  • Organ meats should be consumed.
  • Salt should be from the sea and unrefined.
  • Sugar should be eaten sparingly and unrefined as well.

In following this diet I began to see dramatic changes happening to my body. I lost weight, I stopped getting migraines, and lo and behold, my rebellious ovaries began functioning normally for the first time…..ever.

So where did this “diet” come from?

Well, in short, a dentist name Weston a Price got concerned about the dental issues he was seeing in Americans so he started traveling around the world to see if the diets in indigenous societies offered better dental outcomes. What he found was rather astonishing actually. Because when a diet was completely void of processed foods, not only were the teeth straight and free of cavities, but the health of the population was fantastic as well. And while it’s no surprise that processed foods are “junk” he also went to searching for the foods that these folks consumed that offered them such terrific health.


© Donielle

The pros to a Nourishing Traditions Diet:

  1. It’s “clean”. Gone are animal products and produce laden with chemicals and pesticides. Our bodies are cleaner for this reason and have a much lower toxic body burden. The food is also fresh, gone are the overcooked and over processed foods! You’re now eating food closer to the way it came from the earth/animal.
  2. While our average medical community shuns most of the teachings of the WAPF, there is a large community online that offers support through multiple blogs, there are also more and more books coming out on the subject of eating “real food”, and recipes are usually easily updated with “allowed foods”. Local WAPF chapters are also popping up to teach communities and offering support locally.
  3. Eating this way is a supporting our local economy and local farmers, keeping money in our communities instead of us sending millions of dollars a year to the big ‘ol food industry.
  4. Our overall health is astronomically better! Thousands of people have testimonies on how this diet has worked for them. How they’ve overcome chronic illness, cancer, heart disease, infertility, auto immune disorders, mental illness, etc, etc. I’ve seen it happen in my own life, and in the lives of others.

The Cons to a Nourishing Traditions Diet

  • Expense – Buying grass fed meats and organic produce is more expensive than conventional products. Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to overcome this, but many times it’s difficult to come up with a large lump-sum to buy it all at once.
  • Time – beyond expense, time is often the biggest set back for average Americans. We’re not used to making all of our own food and many of us hurry to put dinner on the table each night. So when you add in soaking and proper food preparation like fermenting and culturing, it’s hard to fit it all in.
  • Bucking the trend – this diet also seems to go against just about every medical doctors advice, it’s food pyramid is the exact opposite as the one put out by the USDA! It’s hard to find a doctor to work with that your insurance covers AND has the same dietary mindset.
  • It’s hard to eat out – gone are the days of stopping at Wendy’s on the way home or grabbing a pizza when you don’t have time to make dinner before rushing off the soccer practice. When eating at friends and families homes, you have to make the decision to avoid their foods, or break your dietary rules.

My Thoughts on a Nourishing Traditions Diet

Last year after the Weston A Price foundations yearly conference, Wise Traditions, (a fantastic conference by the way) it was noted by several people that many of the attendees are…..shall we say…..plump. The primal folks kind of seemed to get their panties in a bunch saying that it was all the grains that “WAPF” pushes, others are adamant that it’s all the saturated fats and animal foods they seem to eat at every meal.

So who the heck is right?

Like most “dietary plans”, it’s the people who share the news, the recipes, the “how-to’s”. But we’re all just people. We’re not God, we don’t know the “exact” way to eat. We make mistakes, even based on research. And you know what? All of our bodies are totally different.

Now that’s a concept huh?

I also tend to think that because the foundation itself stresses the importance of fat and animal products, that sometimes, that’s ALL people eat when they’re on this “diet”. They forget that on Dr. Price’s travels that he found very healthy vegetarian tribes (albeit they had something like 6% of folks who had cavities compared to 1-2% in omnivorous tribes) One tribe in particular ate something like 90% plant foods and then bugs and insects made up the other 10%.

People forget that even Nourishing Traditions states on page 71 that we should “Aim for a diet that is 50 percent raw or enzyme-enhanced. Raw foods include vegetables, fruits, meats, fats, and milk products.” Most people I know stress the importance of only the last two, forgetting about vegetables and fruits, and totally disregarding raw meats.

It also states on the same page that “If the meal you serve consists of entirely cooked foods, then a lacto-fermented condiment is a must.” I rarely see this happening in folks that try to follow the WAPF diet.

Now, this is not to say that ALL folks following this diet are void of vegetable matter, but I do feel strongly that sometimes through books and blogs, that fats and meats are so strongly pushed that many of our “average Americans” looking for dietary advice hear only that we Must. Eat. Fat.

Yes, saturated fat is good, cholesterol is good, the findings of Dr. Price are important, but we must not forget that our diets need variety. We must also remember that while some diets were high in grains, others were high in fats, some high in meats, some high in vegetables, but each tribe had their own healthy way of eating based on location, culture, and climate. So the way folks eat in California will be very different than those who live in Maine.

I also personally have a problem with the high amount of organ meats they say we need to eat. Why? Well… husband hunts, so usually in the fall he’ll get a deer, possibly two. This means that the entire year, we get the organs from only two animals. So I guess I don’t understand how it would be considered” normal” to eat such high amounts of organ meats. Traditional societies would probably only have had organ meats during times of slaughter – usually in the fall when the animals were fattened up after eating growing grass all summer. the organ meats were most likely given to women of childbearing age and young children. Yes, I think organs can be beneficial, I just don’t think we need to eat liver every week.

In short, the Nourishing Traditions Diet is not bad or wrong, we just need to remember that the people teaching it are just human beings that make mistakes. If you really want to look into what Dr. Price found for yourself, I highly recommend reading the book (Nutrition and Physical Degeneration) that has all of his findings in it. Is it a thrilling read? Eh…..not really. But it does contain fascinating information and you’ll be able to find your own way into this style diet without all the noise and chatter from any particular foundation, blogger, author, or neighbor.


Which of you subscribe to the dietary “rules” of the Weston A Price Foundation? How has your health changed? What pros and cons did I miss?

Which of you don’t necessarily believe in this “diet” and why?

Other posts in this series:

Diet Investigation: Standard American Diet

Diet Investigation: Nourishing Traditions Type Diet

Diet Investigation: Vegetarian Diet

Diet Investigation: Primal/Paleo Diet

Diet Investigation: Gluten Free


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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. I like this post Donielle! I’m so happy I found your site :)

  2. Great point about the organ meats.. I had had a similar thought, though not as well-formed and thought out as you put it. Eating seasonally means getting more nutrient dense things ny at certain times of the year, like the butter from fats growing grasses in spring, no fresh milk during the winter, etc. Perhaps we should loo at our diets as being most nourishing when the follow the seasons, not a snapshot of a week or month..?

    Something I thought of when you mentioned the plump WAPFers is that many folks, such as myself, are still transitioning into this eating pattern, or struggling with deep-seated health issues and have a lot of back and forth progress. I’ve been eating this way for four years now, and only JUST started losing weight (30+ pounds in the last 3-4 months!) Yet, I’m still 100 lbs overweight, so one might hardly think I’m a poster child for NT. 😉 It’s a journey… we’re getting there.

    Alaina Reply:

    @Cultured Mama Dawn,
    Thank you SO much for this comment. I, too, have struggled with weight for a very long time and have just recently (after a 3 year long real food switch) started to notice weight loss. I have just felt so frustrated! So thanks – this was really encouraging for me to read.

    donielle Reply:


    You ladies are right in that weight is not the only way a person can be “healthy”. I know hefty people who choose to eat many different ways (I myself am working on losing 10-15 lbs!) and some of the reason is that it takes awhile for things like the thyroid, adrenals, hormones, etc to get balanced out. Maybe I’ll go back and re-write some of that post to make sure it’s not offense to those who are dealing with weight issues. :-)

    Thanks for your comments!

    Alaina Reply:

    Donielle – I just want you to know that I absolutely was not offended. For me, it has just been hard because so many people see such immediate weight changes – and I haven’t seen much. Some of that is because of some of my still bad food choices, some from depression, but I also think it is somewhat because my body is pretty ‘slow’ to recognize changes. And – there was the hormonal birth control. I took it for 5 years and have been off it almost 4 years – but it has made a HUGE difference.

    Lanise Reply:

    I agree that a lot of people are in transition as far as the WAPF diet is concerend, so the weight isn’t coming off as quickly. I think the majority of diets out there are quick fix diets, so the weight comes off quickly, but usually gets put back on because these people didn’t become healthy, they became skinny. We must first become healthy, than the weight will come off. Also, just because people are a little bit bigger than our societies norm (I’m not talking obese, just not a size 6) doesn’t mean that they are not at their healthy weight.

    Amy Reply:

    This is a bit late, but I am just now reading this, along with the comments. I am also overweight, and actually just last week wanted to “throw in the towel” so to speak. Actually, I confess, I said I didn’t care anymore and I was just going to start eating at McDonalds everyday, since I didn’t gain weight doing that (I used to work there- ewww, I know!), because I had weighed myself and gained weight in the past 2 weeks, when I have been doing both the sugar detox AND been more diligent. Well, that night I got my period. (and subsequently lost 7 lbs of water weight in 3 days!), and my husband came home from a follow-up dr visit with GREAT news. So, the point of this comment is this (and, its already been said, I am just giving a testimony of it!): we realized a couple of important things. 1) since switching to eating real foods (ala WAPF, but slowly and baby step changes), I have gotten my menstrual cycle 2 times, and they were about 1 1/2 months apart. That may not sound amazing, but last July (2011) was the first time since Dec 2008 I had gotten my period naturally. 2) My husband had started taking blood pressure medicine for consistently high blood pressure (that remained borderline high even after) last year, but at this visit, the dr was concerned that now it might be too low, and there is a goal that he will be off the bp meds and cholesterol meds within the next year, and 3) Overall we just FEEEEL better. More energy, clearer skin. And, I know it is from our changes. So, keep it up, even if you aren’t miraculously losing tons of weight. It is still impacting your overall health, positively!!! (and that is my soapbox on the topic today;oP I tend to get on it, which is hard, b/c like Alaina and others, I do not feel like a poster child for it all)

  3. Thank you for this post! I haven’t yet read Nourishing Traditions, but I’ve read parts of it and have heard about it from many places. I found it strange that the people I’ve heard talk about it think we need to eat so much liver. I think if we ate like traditional cultures it would be, as you said, only a few organ meats that we consume per year. They probably use the whole animal. If we are eating liver every week we aren’t really using the whole animal. I also don’t think we need to eat meat every day, yet I see very little main dishes from bloggers that don’t contain meat. Then on the other side of things, I have seen many bloggers saying that they eat very little grains, but I think grains are important. I do not find lots of recipes for vegetables. This is unfortunate. I am seeing more recipes for fermented foods, but not much (unless you pay for an eCourse). I think if we turned our focus to amping up our veggie intake and eating fresh fruit that would make the most difference. It seems that vegetables are just the hardest thing to bring back to our diets. I am working on that one myself and it is a struggle. I am glad that you pointed out what is on page 71, because the only message I have gotten from people who have read the book was that fat and meat are good and we need to eat lots of them.

  4. Exactly! In an ideal world I’d eat this way but of course, time and resources don’t allow for it completely although I spent last weekend with extended family and was reminded of how “weird” and “unhealthy” we eat compared to so many (I was chastised for choosing organic coconut oil over a huge jar of generic vegetable oil).

    But I agree with your assessment too. I’ve even read on other WAPF fooding-type blogs several places that if your budget is limited, don’t buy fruits and vegetables because they aren’t important. Note that they didn’t say, don’t buy organic or don’t buy fancy ones but don’t buy any – Yikes! That isn’t a diet I would care to be on.

  5. We’ve been trying to get ourselves onto a WAPF diet for a while – its been a slow transition. I’ve noticed increased energy, better sleep, reduced headaches, and fewer muscle aches. I saw some weight loss, but it plateaued after a few weeks. I’ve come to the conclusion it was because initially I ate no grains, and then added only a very few into my diet. Once I started consistently eating grains again, my weight loss stopped.

    I focus on plenty of veggies along with grass fed meats, raw milk & raw cheese. We still aren’t to the point we eat much cultured food (yogurt & kefir mainly), and organ means & shellfish are a rare treat.

    One of the dangers of a traditional diet is facing the fact that we are not nearly as active as our ancestors, and we have an far greater supply of food than they did. Those are my two great failings – not enough exercise and way too much food, even if it is the good stuff.

    I feel so much better and am excited about venturing further into the realm of WAPF foods!

  6. I clearly remember reading the part about eating 50% raw or enzyme-enhanced and taking it under advisement. It’s kind of funny that people are missing that. Also, I have issues with the idea of eating organ meats, especially a lot, so the idea that people in traditional societies didn’t eat them once a week is encouraging. You do make a really good point in saying that there’s a disproportion in eating liver that often. Thanks for this post! I was just wondering a few days ago what your thoughts were on this diet!

  7. Fabulous post! You just voiced everything I was thinking in my head regarding WAPF followers. I also think the problem is they only focus on what we put in our mouth and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything about a lifestyle. Exercise is crucial. My goal is to grow/raise our own food. That’s a LOT of work. But then again, it’s holistic. There’s no time for speed walking or gyms, but I get plenty of a full-body work-out tending my land. There’s no time to count calories. My budget, and soon what we can bring in from the harvest will determine how much we can eat. Tanning salon? No way! But I get a nice golden tan (along with fresh, country air and vitamin D) while I’m outside, farming and hanging the wash. It seems most WAPF gals don’t grow any of their food (or only a tiny fraction of it), so it makes sense that they’re on the plumper side of things. The way I see it, it’s all about being connected to our food source. To working for that food. It’s how we were created.

    Katie @ Riddlelove Reply:

    I feel like my comment was a little confusing. I was addressing WAPF people and SAD folks all at once. The bottom line of my opinion: If we want to benefit from a traditional diet, we need to live a traditional lifestyle. My two cents. 😉

  8. Michelle says:

    Like all things the devil is in the details and these are what are often over looked. Whilst I haven’t yet read NT, one thing I do know is how important it is to MAKE time to source, prepare and cook your own food as well as the fact I think the large majority of us all need more exercise and sleep. The most damaging thing I can see about the WAPF bandwagon; coming from the perspective of someone who has only read reviews and heard interviews; is that many people adopt this diet in a vacuum. I am certain that the other elements of these tradition cultures such as the climate, work (employment) conditions, mode of transportation and housing all had a huge impact on WAP’s health findings.

    I still intend to follow WAP, especially during preconception as this diet was incredibly beneficial for people who ate to the WAPF ideals all the time, so I have no doubt it is VITAL for city-living 20-something like me.

  9. Very interesting post and discussion! I think it’s interesting that people are saying that WAPF-ers don’t stress vegetables and only stress fats. I am relatively new to all this (did GAPS for several months at the beginning of the year and my family is now eating according to WAPF guidelines), and I feel like fresh, seasonal vegetables are very important and stressed by most of the bloggers I follow. I am always finding info on farmer’s markets, home gardens, and CSA’s. I am absolutely loving shopping at the farmer’s markets and try to buy local as often as I can, and organic when I can’t. I remember reading Jenny at Nourished Kitchen say that about 75% of her dinner plate is usually veggies, and I find lots of vegetable recipes on all the blogs. Also interesting that people are commenting that whole lifestyle isn’t addressed, because I also disagree on that point. Most of the WAPF blogs I’ve been reading address whole-lifestyle issues–food, exercise, environment, etc. I love the WAPF “Healthy 4 Life” guidelines because there is no instruction other than to choose each day from the 4 food groups. The key is variety and moderation–just eat sensibly! It’s not rocket science! :)

    I am so grateful for GAPS and WAPF. We started eating this way because my kids were getting chronic strep infections that just would not go away with antibiotics. We were facing surgeries for both of them and I just was not happy with that option. Once we started eating a whole foods diet, got aggressive with probiotics, and started taking fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, the strep disappeared right away! I have seen many other health benefits in our family after only 6 months or so of eating this way. Our own experiences have convinced me that a whole foods diet is the way to go!

  10. I appreciate this post – I too have gleaned from NT.
    However, about the organs…God has told us in Scripture that we are not to eat the organs of the animals He has given us.
    Especially the liver is the central filter for all the toxins that run through the body (just the same as ours). There is a reason He told us not to eat these things – even if you’re one that believes that we are not “under the law”, He saw it was not good for us. He [nor His word] doesn’t change.

    Lisa Reply:

    @Lori, Very true! And same with eating pigs…not a sin to do so, but not healthy either.

  11. Brittany says:

    Great post! We try to follow a WAPF diet for the most part, especially in the food prep department. And we’ve seen great health benefits since starting on this journey.

    I totally thought the same thing about organ meats when I first read NT! Also, when reading “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”, I wondered what other factors contributed to the good health in those isolated people groups. Their laid-back lifestyles, lack of air/water pollution, genetics, high physical activity, etc. probably all played a part in their exceptional health. I’m sure their diets also played a huge role (and as I said earlier, our family has seen many health improvements), but I don’t think you can say it was absolutely the only reason (and if you eat that way, you’ll be amazingly healthy too!).

  12. Love this post! I definitely noticed a big difference in my health when we started adding sauerkraut with every meal. We also buy an entire grass-fed cow liver and it lasts us the whole year ( I actually hate liver so I don’t mind having to ration it :) for exactly the reason you stated above. We also eat seasonally with more raw fruits and veggies in the spring and summer and more meats, stews, bone broths, hard cheeses and some frozen spring butter in the fall and winter. It seems to make more sense to me. The WAPF is a wonderful resource for health and nutrition advise but they aren’t perfect.

    And I have to say that cutting out grains definitely made a gigantic difference in my weight stabilization but don’t worry, my panties aren’t bunched :)

    donielle Reply:

    @Lola, I *wish* cutting out grains had done that for me! We cut out grains entirely last fall for almost 3 months and my weight didn’t change a bit. My husbands sure did though! I didn’t notice a lick of difference going grain free, so now we eat about 75% grain free, consuming them just a few times per week and always homemade.

    Lola Reply:

    My husband is like that. He didn’t lose any weight when we went grain free. So now he eats sourdough bread for sandwiches for his lunches. I’m kinda glad he does well on it because he’s such a great bread maker… it would be a shame for him to stop making it.

  13. Great post. You brought up some issues I have had as I have started to transition to a more traditional diet. While I believe WAPF is the best “diet” out there, like you said, it’s not perfect, and we need to use common sense about what we take into our bodies. I also think we can sometimes (and I am guilty of this too) get so caught up obsessing over what we eat that we can neglect other things that are just as, or more important (like quality time with family!). This way of eating does require LOTS of time and I think it’s worth it most of the time, but I also think sometimes I just need to relax and not obsess so much over every little thing we eat. We are still transitioning into this diet, so while we are eating raw milk (raw kefir for me), real butter and other good fats, homemade sauerkraut with most dinners, consuming salmon roe and FCLO and butter oil, and eating locally as much as we can afford, we have LOTS of room for improvement. And I think you’re right – a lot of people tend to neglect eating plenty of veggies – we’ve always eaten lots of fresh veggies and fruits and have continued this practice as we’ve ventured into traditional foods. I know when I go a couple of days without eating much fresh produce, I crave it like crazy. And we can’t always afford organic, so I have to pick and choose which veggies and fruits we’ll eat organic and which we’ll have to buy conventionally. SO… I guess what I mean to say is that I agree with most WAPF teachings and we eat that way as much as we can, but it isn’t “gospel” and I don’t beat myself up when we don’t eat perfectly – there are other things to life! :)

  14. P.S. I forgot to mention that we have started seeing some health improvements, albeit VERY slowly… I have noticed changes in my quality of sleep (which is huge) and while I don’t have any weight to lose, my husband has lost weight since we started theses changes, but that was only after he cut out sugar and incorporated lots of exercise – but I was still feeding him plenty of fats! :) We both have hormonal imbalances, so I’m really hoping those will improve so we can have children – that’s definitely my main goal with eating this way.

  15. We began eating a whole, real foods diet over a year ago. We add in organic and grass-fed when we find a deal we can afford. We’ve cut back on sugar. I don’t soak…haven’t figured out how to do it well yet. But we still compromise — church potlucks, visiting the relatives, etc. We have noticed weight loss and increased health. We just focus on whole, real foods — which means lots of fruits and veggies!