Hummingmom, thank you for your informative post. The opinion I expressed was certainly not based on a deep investigation of world diets, just tidbits I have picked up in various places, so I am not surprised to be contradicted. I did have a few questions though...
Originally Posted by hummingmom
As it turns out, several of the healthy cultures that Price studied ate hardly any vegetables at all. This didn't just apply to those who lived in the Arctic, but to anyone who lived in places where it was hard to grow green stuff, e.g. due to rocky ground or poor soil. For instance, the Swiss mountain valley people ate mostly rye and dairy, with meat once a week, and very little in the way of vegetables. They let the cows eat the vegetation on their behalf.
The Hebrideans of northern Scotland also ate minimal amounts of vegetables. They clearly got ample vitamins and minerals from their diet of seafood and oatmeal.
Hm, interesting. I always assumed that where rye would grow, so would cabbage, turnips, etc. For example the traditional Finnish diet (Finnish soil is poor and rocky as well) included lots of dairy, root veggies, cabbage, heavy on the rye/barley/oats, small fatty fish from inland lakes or the sea depending on location, some wild greens in season (like nettles), berries in season, and limited meat. Though the veggies weren't generally what we think of as veggies (mostly turnips or potatoes
) they were certainly an important part of the diet (cooked, not raw). Though living on a mountain would certainly mean limited growing space, I'm just really skeptical that there wouldn't have been at least gardens with a few hardy veggies... And feeding cows only hay all winter (as there would be no green grass then) would produce less milk, right? Though I really have no basis for my skepticism but my own assumptions, I admit.
Didn't the Scottish coastal diet include seaweed as well? That would qualify as a vegetable in my book. I have also read of nettles being important in the Scottish diet and as a source of fiber for cloth.
I do certainly believe though that wild-caught/wild-fed animal products (like game and pastured cow milk) are bound to be far more nutritious and nourishing than modern farmed meat and that it would be far easier to get a complete range of nutrients from them than conventional meat and dairy.
|Vegetables can be part of a healthy diet, but they have their share of problems, just as with other foods (fruits, grains, dairy, etc.). In general, they're not a very efficient source of nutrients; they're mostly water and cellulose. Many people have trouble with large amounts of fiber, and with natural plant toxins such as salicylates. The mineral content of vegetables also varies widely depending on the quality of the soil, even among those that are organically grown. And some, such as carrots, have been bred to have far more sugar than they used to.
As far as I have understood, veggies are important not only for their vitamin and mineral content (which, while not necessarily huge, can be enough to hold off diseases in a grain-based diet, most famously scurvy), but for their phytochemicals, which are potently anti-disease. Not that our ancestors would have known that, but when I eat vegetables I'm not just thinking of the vitamin content. Veggies also add variety to an otherwise tedious diet, and even people on subsistence diets surely appreciated a few extra tastes to round things out.
That said, as far as I have read (which is not that far as I mentioned earlier so feel free to correct me) veggies in Europe and much of Asia have generally been eaten cooked or fermented, not raw, and in China and India for example are still rarely eaten raw. This would probably help with digesting the fiber and naturally occurring toxins found in some plants. Also, veggies were seasonal just like most traditional foods, so it's not like anyone would be eating green salads or berries or whatever all year round for example.
And there are obviously cultures that eat very little to no vegetables and survive just fine, though I have always thought those were generally very far north and/or nomadic and it's difficult for me to accept that non-nomadic agrarian people wouldn't at least take advantage of wild greens and berries in season
|It really seems as if there's no one food, or even general class of foods, that's common to all healthy diets. Our bodies all have fairly similar requirements for nutrients, and each culture has found different ways of getting them from the foods that are locally available. There are many nutrients that we're aware of, and probably many more that haven't been identified yet. This is why the typical WAPF approach of "here are the rules for choosing nutrient-dense foods, now pick whatever foods you like" seems rather unwise to me.
IMO, it makes the most sense to choose one traditional way of eating (either from a specific country, or a more general category such as coastal Asian, European agrarian, hunter-gatherer, etc.), learn as much about it as you can, and then prepare most of your meals along those lines, while applying Price's guidelines for maximizing nutrient density. It doesn't necessarily have to be the diet of your own ancestors; Stefansson did well on the meat-based diet he learned from the Inuit, and, conversely, so did Native American children who were put on a "white man's diet" that was based on raw milk and whole grains. Still, there's a lot to be said for cultural connectedness.
Along those lines, I agree with the author of Full Moon Feast that it's a real shame that so many of our bodies have been thrown out of equilibrium by modern agriculture and food processing, to the point that we can no longer eat properly prepared grains as our ancestors did for thousands of years. While I used to buy into the theories about Paleolithic vs. Neolithic diets, grains and dairy being inappropriate from an "evolutionary perspective," etc., the examples given by Price seem to run against that line of thinking. Even the Celtic Hebrideans -- whose ancestors couldn't have been farming that long in the great scheme of things -- seem to have done very well on oats, as part of an unrefined and nutrient-dense diet.
I totally agree with this! And I definitely think that the most important factor in any healthy diet is the unrefined, fresh, high quality of the food chosen.