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Imagine for a moment an isolated village surrounded by mountains. The only food and water source comes directly from the land that is bordered by these mountains. There are no paved roads, no hospitals, no dentists, no doctors, and no electricity. There are also no modern health foods (low calorie, reduced fat, raw kale chips, smoothies, zero-calorie sugar, soy-based meat, milk & cheese substitutes), and not even tooth brushes!

Such a place once existed, in the Lötschental Valley, located in the Burnese Alps of Switzerland. In 1931 when Dr. Weston A. Price first visited, the Lötschental Valley was nearly inaccessible. It is almost a mile above sea level and surrounded by steep mountains. Due to their remoteness, the villagers were completely isolated and were fully dependent on what they could harvest and produce for themselves. Everyone in the village would work to help out, and such skills were taught to children as part of their general education in school.

Diet

Like other traditional cultures that endure long and cold winters, the villagers of Lötschental Valley relied on animal products to sustain them. Staples of the villagers diet were raw milk, raw butter, raw cheese, raw cream, and sourdough rye bread. A typical lunch children would eat was a swiss cheese sandwich which had two very thick slices of soured rye sandwiching an almost equally thick slice of raw swiss cheese.

Butter was a very important staple to these villagers, and it was revered to a very high degree. Dr. Price writes in his book:

From Dr. Siegen, I learned much about the life and customs of these people. He told me that they recognize the presence of Divinity in the life-giving qualities of the butter made in June when the cows have arrived for pasturage near the glaciers. He gathers the people together to thank the kind Father for the evidence of his Being in the life-giving qualities of butter and cheese made when the cows eat the grass near the snow line. This worshipful program includes the lighting of a wick in a bowl of the first butter made after the cows have reached the luscious summer pasturage. This wick is permitted to burn in a special sanctuary built for the purpose. The natives of the valley are able to recognize the superior quality of their June butter, and, without knowing exactly why, pay it due homage.

Generally when Dr. Price was visiting a village, he would send samples foodstuff back to his lab in Ohio for testing. In his book, Dr. Price mentions how the cattle’s hay that he had tested was “far above the average in quality” for such feed. This in turn means that the nutritional quality of the products that came from these animals was superior in nature and highly nutrient dense.

Being so far above sea level in the mountains of Switzerland meant that the villagers of Lötschental Valley had a very short growing period for any produce. This means that their diet relied heavily on their storage crop of rye as well as various forms of dairy for daily sustenance. This flies in the face of conventional nutritional guidelines that suggest to consume a diet of 50% or more of plants (or the staunch suggestions by members of the PCRM that ones diet must include 90% or more of plants or face disease).

Sheep’s meat was eaten once a week by the villagers, and the bones then were used to make mineral-rich stock which would be used in other dishes and for soup throughout the week.

During special athletic performances, athletes were fed bowls of cream and special, mineral-rich cheese.

As published in the July 1933 issue of Dental Digest by Dr. Price, here is the breakdown of their diet in nutrients:

Calories Food Fat Soluble Vitamins Calcium (grams) Phosphorus (grams) Iron (grams)
800 Rye Bread Low .07 .46 0.00
400 Milk High .68 .53 0.00
400 Cheese High .84 .62 0.00
100 Butter Very High 0.00 0.00 0.00
100 Barley Very High 0.00 0.03 0.00
100 Vegetables Low 0.06 0.08 0.00
100 Meat Medium 0.00 0.12 0.00
2000   Very High 1.76 3.04 0.01

General Health

Despite a diet high in (mostly saturated) fat, mainly from dairy, and very little fruits and vegetables, the villagers of Lötschental Valley were of superb health. When Dr. Price came to Lötschental Valley, the first thing he did was examine the teeth of everyone in the village.

Dr. Price’s findings were astonishing: for every 3 people examined, only one would have a cavity. These people did not brush their teeth, by the way; Dr. Price mentions:

The reader will scarcely believe it possible that such marked differences in facial form, in the shape of the dental arches, and in the health condition of the teeth as are to be noted when passing from the highly modernized lower valleys and plains country in Switzerland to the isolated high valleys can exist. Fig. 3 shows four girls with typically broad dental arches and regular arrangement of the teeth. They have been born and raised in the Lötschental Valley or other isolated valleys of Switzerland which provide the excellent nutrition that we have been reviewing. They have been taught little regarding the use of tooth brushes. Their teeth have typical deposits of unscrubbed mouths; yet they are almost completely free from dental caries, as are the other individuals of the group they represent. In a study of 4,280 teeth of the children of these high valleys, only 3.4 per cent were found to have been attacked by tooth decay. This is in striking contrast to conditions found in the modernized sections using the modern foods.

During this period of time in Switzerland, tuberculosis was a major problem. Raw milk has been blamed at times for contributing to this pandemic, but government officials told Dr. Price that there were no recorded cases of TB in the Valley, ever. The people living there were so hardy that children would actually play in the freezing cold rivers (which were created from glacial runoff) barefoot and bareheaded, right in the middle of winter.

While in Switzerland, Dr. Price inquired about other areas that contained isolated populations. In the village of Grächen, Dr. Price notes coming across a 62 year old woman who was carrying an enormous load of rye on her back at an altitude of about 5,000 feet. He continues, mentioning that he and his assistants and translators met her later and talked to her, and found that she was extraordinarily well developed and well preserved, as were her grandchildren who had fine physiques and facial developments.

Life and diet was very similar in all the isolated villages that Dr. Price visited. He continually notes that all the Swiss villagers were strong, sturdy, and had fine endurance. These people had no tractors, nor even employed animal labor. Bushels of rye, as well as the enormous loaves of rye bread (a month’s supply was baked at a time), were carried by hand and likewise the rye itself was thrashed by hand. All of the villagers had exceptional athletes that were fantastic mountaineers as well.

Industrialization

Modernized Swiss, Rampant Tooth Decay, Weston PriceAn argument often made in Dr. Price’s time was that certain villages had perfect teeth because of genetics. However, this is simply not true. When Dr. Price visited modernized towns in Switzerland, their health was completely different. Their teeth were ravaged with decay, their bodies frail, and their immune systems were weak.

In the town of St. Moritz, the children had about 10 cavities per person. Among the group of children studied,

there were three children whose teeth were much better. Dr. Price then analyzed their diet and they seemed to eat similarly to their traditional diet with liberal amounts of milk and dark bread. The diet of the other children was largely that of white bread and no milk.

Throughout the industrialized parts of Switzerland, officials had said that the two biggest health issues that plague them were dental carries and tuberculosis. In St. Moritz, they kept a herd of dairy cows, but clearly they weren’t drinking much of it, and they were also kept in barns to increase production. Dr. Price writes:

Since so many cattle were stall-fed in the thickly populated part of Switzerland, and since so low a proportion of the children used milk even sparingly, I was concerned to know what use was made of the milk. Numerous road signs announcing the brand of sweetened milk chocolate made in the several districts suggested one use. This chocolate is one of the important products for export and as a beverage constitutes a considerable item in the nutrition of large numbers living in this and in other countries. It is recognized as a high source of energy, primarily because of the sugar and chocolate which when combined with the milk greatly reduces the ratio of the minerals to the energy factors as expressed in calories.

Again in the July 1933 issue of Dental Digest, Dr. Price mentions shows a breakdown of the diet of the industrialized Swiss:

Calories Food Fat Soluble Vitamins Calcium Phosphorus Iron
1000 White Bread Low 0.11 0.35 0.00
400 Jam, Honey, Sugar, Syrup Low 0.05 0.08 0.02
100 Chocolate and Coffee Low 0.02 0.07 0.00
100 Milk High 0.17 0.13 0.00
100 Canned Vegetables Low 0.08 0.08 0.00
100 Meat Medium 0.01 0.11 0.00
100 Vegetable Fat Low 0.00 0.00 0.00
100 Butter High 0.00 0.00 0.00
2000   Low 0.44 0.82 0.026

Conclusions

It is amazing how the Swiss villagers of Lötschental Valley and other isolated towns were fit and healthy despite not following what we are told today is a necessary diet. As I had mentioned before, no foods that were reduced in fat, nothing low in calories, and yet they were in great health.

Dr. Price called the foods of these industrialized diets the “displacing foods of modern commerce”. Indeed, it is in the name of commerce that foods like white bread have been brought in and eventually ruined the diet, and health, of traditional people.

Compared to a modernized diet, Dr. Price found that the primitive Swiss had a diet that was higher in calcium (3.7x), phosphorus (2.2x), iron (3.1x), and magnesium (2.5x), as well as a 10-plus increase in the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, & K2), and a large increase in the water soluble vitamins (the B vitamins and vitamin C)

The faces of the villagers that still followed their traditional diets were broad and their jaws had no problem fitting all their teeth. Even without toothbrushes, they were able to largely resist cavities.

I think that this really shows how deeply diet affects us. Many already know how diet holds a relationship with disease, but few understand how it even affects how our body grows. In the coming future I’ll be writing about what Dr. Price called physical degeneration.

The original recipe given for this is the lazy version and it simply can not compare in taste and nutrition to a more traditional way. First things first, you’ll want to make your own chicken broth, aka, a bone broth. See this month’s article and you’ll know how amazingly nutritious this dish will be. Paraphrased from Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s much-lauded book Nourishing Traditions, here is how you can make your own chicken bone broth:

1 whole pastured chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbone, and wings
(if you can’t find a pastured chicken at your local natural foods grocer, check farmers markets, or find out if there’s a local Weston A. Price Foundation chapter you can join)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar (I use coconut vinegar, but you can use white or cider vinegar)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

Break down the chicken and cut the chicken parts into several pieces. Place the chicken into a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar, and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour ( so the vinegar draw the nutrients out). Bring to a boil, and remove the white scum that rises to the top (generally, this scum contains impurities. This is a traditional method used when making broths). Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 6 to 24 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Now on to the soup itself!

You will want to have some asian noodles (I prefer Koyo round udon), a bunch of cilantro, fresh bunched spinach, and 6 inches or more of ginger (the original recipe calls for an inch, and even after using 6 inches, I still can’t taste the ginger in the soup. Experiment and let me know what you find). Add the cilantro and ginger to the stock and cook it with the rest of the vegetables.

Backtracking a bit now.. When you break down the chicken, cut off as much meat as you can. In addition to the drumsticks, wings, and breasts, there is also a part called the oysters which you will notice just past the drumstick and thigh; cut that small chunk out as well. Having made his dish dozens of times now, I have found some things out through trial and error. Firstly, you can save the breasts in a ziplock bag and put them in your fridge and freezer for another meal. I strongly suggest stripping the meat and skin off the bones of the drumsticks, oysters, and maybe the wings too (I find it to be too much of a pain to bother, so I just throw them into the pot with the rest of the items ).

If you aren’t totally grossed out by it, cut the bones in half, or in a few pieces (likewise, add in a head or feet if you’re brave enough; they’re filled with gelatin). The gelatin inside the bones is very important and very nutrient rich! Now, throw the bones and skin into the pot with the rest of the soaking ingredients. You don’t have to do all this, but in my experience, it’s a major pain to sift through the chicken later and take out very tiny bones and trying to find said tiny bones amongst the rest of the meat. If you’ve ever cooked a whole chicken in a crock pot, you will know what I am talking about. Likewise, the chicken will be tough if you cook it for 24 hours.

Let’s finish this fantastic dish! After the stock is done cooking, take out as much as you can of the chicken bits, bones, and veggies with a slotted spoon; if you have a garden, don’t throw this stuff out, use it for compost!! You will likely have to pour the stock through a strainer to get rid of what’s left. If you don’t have another pot to pour it into, then you can pour it into two or three large bowls.  For the chicken, you can either fry or roast the separate pieces or throw the pieces you want into some of the stock for 20 minutes or less.

Before the chicken pieces are done cooking, cook your noodles and prepare the spinach. If you don’t have two pots to cook the spinach and noodles at the same time, then cook the noodles first, distribute them evenly between two large bowls, and then cook the spinach (the broth will heat up the noodles if they get too cool). If you’ve never cooked whole leaf spinach that’s still attached to the root, simply cut the spinach maybe 3 inches from the bottom and then place it in boiling water. Submerge the spinach in the boiling water and let it sit in there for just a few minutes until all the leaves look slightly cooked and then strain and place it into the soup.

Finally, place the chicken pieces into the bowl and pour the hot soup stock over the noodles. I suggest topping this with a generous pat of pastured butter (the extra fat will help make this more filling and in general butter is incredibly nutrient dense) and some nama-shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce) to taste.  The original recipe calls for mushrooms, but I omit them since I find them to be revolting. If you’re a mushroom hater or just want to try something different, you can add in watercress or sprouts next to the spinach and chicken.

This should yield enough broth for 2 large bowls and a little extra if you’re lucky.

This soup is incredibly delicious, highly nutritious, and once you’re used to making it, you will want to make it all the time (this has become a weekly staple in my home, and I just love the aroma of the broth cooking). This dish is an absolute must try!

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