Jack Moore said a 2009 heart attack was the wake-up call for how he was eating.
“For 20 years I had been eating oatmeal and skim milk for breakfast,” Moore said. “After my heart attack, I switched to bacon and eggs. I embrace saturated fats. That’s healthy eating. We are meant to eat a lot more fat and a lot fewer carbs.”
Moore’s change of heart – and diet – came about after he began to follow the nutritional principles advocated by the Weston A. Price Foundation, an organization founded in 1999 by long-time Palisades resident and author Sally Fallon Morell.
Morell laid out the foundation’s approach in an interview. She said it is based on the work of Weston Price, an early 20th-century American dentist who studied the diets of “primitive” people who were still following their traditional foodways. Price visited Australian aborigines, Seminole Indians in Florida, remote villagers in the mountains of Switzerland, African tribes and a dozen other groups who had never eaten white sugar or tinned food. They all enjoyed excellent health.
“We embrace the nutrient-dense foods that our ancestors ate,” Morell said. “We urge people to go back to the traditional fats their ancestors ate. Our big emphasis is on animal fats. They are essential for good health. They contain nutrients we can’t get anywhere else.”
Moore has studied Price’s writings closely.
“These primitive peoples had hundreds of years of clinical experience,” he said. “‘I eat these leaves and I get sick.’ They followed highly-localized food solutions and made use of the different foods available to them. They knew their food resources intimately. To the extent that nutrition accounts for good health, they had figured it out.”
Morell said traditional “clinical experience” contradicts conventional thinking about cholesterol today. According to the Weston Price approach, the belief that people with high cholesterol are more prone to heart attacks is a myth.
“We educate people about the many roles cholesterol plays in our body,” Morell said. “You need cholesterol to protect against infection, for healing, for the muscles to work. Growing children and babies don’t make cholesterol. They need it in their diet for optimal development of the brain, nervous system and digestive system.”
Morell lived in the Palisades from 1990 to 2004, and was president of the citizens’ association there when MacArthur Boulevard was landscaped. She has since moved to the country and started farming.
“Small farms raising animals on pasture and producing organic food is an important interest for the foundation,” she said. “I’ve moved to southern Maryland where my husband and I have put our money where our mouth is.”
They raise pastured poultry, pigs and cattle.
In a 2016 podcast interview, Morell spoke of an epiphany she experienced during a year of study in France, the remote source of her present work.
“While there I discovered a food I’d never tasted before: pâté, goose liver pâté,” she said. “When I had my first bite of this food my body said, ‘This is what you’ve been looking for.’ I felt a sigh of relief and couldn’t eat enough pâté.
“It made me feel better, gave me energy. I got a lot more done and had less fatigue. And I’m sure that’s the reason my first child was so healthy.”
According to Morell, refined sweeteners, not animal fats, need to be cut out of a healthy diet.
“Not only sugar, but high-fructose corn syrup, agave and artificial sweeteners are empty food and very taxing to the body’s resources,” she said.
The consumption of salt, bone broth and fermented foods are all important to the Weston Price way of eating, and ample documentation on those foods is available from the foundation.
Education – by conferences, printed brochures, a quarterly journal, a website (westonaprice.org), podcasts, social media – is the foundation’s main purpose. In addition to her work on the farm, Morell is frequently on the go, giving talks and cooking workshops. This week she is in Switzerland, giving a lecture in English in Bern, and one in French in Lausanne.
The foundation also has more than 500 local chapters worldwide, whose main purpose is to provide consumers with local sources of nutrient-dense foods.
Hilda Labrada Gore, an Adams Morgan resident for more than 20 years, is co-chapter leader for Washington.
Gore hosts the foundation’s podcast and organizes local chapter activities, like farm visits and workshops on bone broth.
For 10 years she has been a member of a buying club whose members purchase meat and produce from a local farmer.
“I get food from a farm every week,” said Gore, whose husband is the athletic director at Wilson High School. “It’s a bit more expensive than buying what’s on sale at a local grocery store, but the food tastes so amazing. I haven’t had a medical bill in a long time. The food is keeping me well.”
Gore said she adopted the Weston Price diet after she met Morell and read her cookbook “Nourishing Traditions,” which has sold more than 700,000 copies (Nourishingtraditions.com is also the name of Morell’s blog).
“I was all about exercise,” said Gore, who blogs at holistichilda.com. “Then I decided how we fuel our body is important.”
The connection to the farmer who raises her family’s food is very important to Nevra Ledwon, a foundation member who lives in McLean.
“That direct relationship with the farmer or fisherman is important,” Ledwon said. “Your chances of being defrauded are pretty low when you look the producer of your food in the eye and speak to him.
“I want to talk to the actual producers and see the dirt under their fingernails.”
Ledwon writes about food and farming at churnyourown.com, and cares deeply about the animals who sustain our lives, ancient foodways, the importance of the local and the healing effects of traditional diets.
Ledwon considers that there is a degree of hypocrisy in dropping a hundred dollars on a bottle of wine, but not spending a few extra pennies for organic vegetables. In a blog post called “The Terroir of the Turnip,” she has fleshed out her thinking.
“Wine lovers care a lot about ‘terroir,’ or the patch of land where the grapes used in making their wine are grown. You could have two wines that use the same grape, the same vineyard management techniques and the same production methods, yet one will sell for 10 to 100 times the price of the other if grown on particular plots of land in Burgundy. Similarly, the most valuable bourbons come from Kentucky and the surrounding area, thanks to the low iron and high limestone content of the water under the ground. Why does this affect price so much?
“Because of the difference in taste imparted thanks to the terroir. So then why doesn’t terroir matter for other foods, like turnips?”
Morell says organ meats are 10 to 100 times more nutritious than muscle meats. Moore, who leads the foundation’s Reston chapter, is a fan of liver and other such cuts.
“Muscle foods, what we think of as steak, used to be thrown to the dogs,” Moore said. “Most of the nutrition is in the organs. People say, ‘I can’t afford organic.’ I tell them to eat organ meat.”
The foundation discourages people from following a vegetable-only diet. Its brochure “Dangers of Vegan and Vegetarian Diets” says it is a myth that a vegetarian diet is safe for children.
“Some children can grow well on vegetarian diets rich in dairy products from pastured cows and eggs from pastured chickens. Children brought up on vegan diets have poorer bone health and reduced mental capacity compared to children brought up on diets containing animal foods. Rampant tooth decay in the baby teeth is common among children born to vegan mothers.”
Another brochure, “Nutrition for Mental Health,” states, ”Studies show that vegans and vegetarians suffer more depression and anxiety than those who include meat and other animal products in their diet.”