Our Culinary Birthright: What’s Wrong With Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones Solutions?
As in Buettner’s first paean to the world’s traditional diets and lifestyles, The Blue Zones, Buettner’s follow up, The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the Worlds Healthiest People, begins with lovely descriptions of centenarians preparing their indigenous cuisines. He finishes off these tales with the description of a regional Costa Rican diet replete with eggs, cheese, vegetables, fruit, grain, meat, and lard that he dubs “the best longevity diet in the world.” He illustrated this by telling of his visit to a primitive home where he was served a typical breakfast of eggs, cheese, lard and homemade corn tortillas.
Buettner then begins to advise us on how we can adapt such ancient eating practices into our own lives. But now we’re in for a shock. He presents us, instead, with a pesco-vegan regimen that is the opposite of everything he has just been lavishly endorsing:
- He wants us to eat almost no meat, poultry, eggs, or dairy products at any time.
- He encourages us to fast every 24 hours by eating only during an eight-hour period each day.
- Aside from small amounts of olive oil, he warns against any added fats.
- He urges us to eat fish daily, something that, historically, only coastal peoples ever did. Apparently, we are to disregard the toxic load of mercury and other contaminants in modern sea food (yet he does, confusingly, acknowledge it!)
- He urges us to eat two handfuls of nuts/seeds daily, an overload of the fragile and always-inflammatory omega-6 oils, that we are already consuming at as much as 20 times the ideal amount.
Why does Buettner abandon his advocacy of traditional eating, especially at this time of modern dietary peril? He bows out, explaining that he’s relying on a group of expert dietary consultants. These “experts” are clearly in the grip of the trendy, i.e. unsubstantiated, notion that a vegan-type diet, new to most of the world’s peoples, is the ultimate in healthy eating.
We have already been exposed to more reckless dietary experimentation in the last 50 years than ever before in human history. None of it has led to improved health, weight, or happiness. In fact, the reverse is true. Let’s go back to Buettner’s original premise; we should all eat like traditional people and enjoy their freedom from unnatural weight gain and degenerative disease. But let’s also learn from his experience how persuasive and irrational modern nutritional enthusiasms can be. Even the world’s foremost proponent of our ancient dietary wisdom retreats in the face of it!
Fortunately we can turn to Buettner’s predecessor, Weston A. Price, who traveled the world over 70 years ago documenting both traditional eating practices and the health declines that followed the importation of American processed foods. The influential Weston A. Price Foundation provides a refuge for those of us trying to find our culinary roots, keeping us up-to-date on research confirming the vital importance of those roots.