Book Review: Primal Nutrition – Paleolithic & Ancestral Diets for Optimal Health, by Ron Schmid

June 21, 2016

Book Review: Primal Nutrition – Paleolithic & Ancestral Diets for Optimal Health, by Ron Schmid


Ron Schmid is a naturopathic physician who has worked for many years with many patients, and believes in using nutrient-dense wholefoods to heal the body from illness.


Part 1: An Ancestry of Primal Nutrition

The book starts with a summary of the amazing work of Weston Price, which I have summarised before in this blog post.


Reading this information again reminded me of the importance of the work of Weston Price, and the lessons we can learn about optimum nutrition from his findings.


Weston Price travelled the world in the 1920s and 1930s and documented the superb health of traditional people eating their native diets, as well as the decline in health seen wherever traditional people adopted the refined foods of modern commerce such as white flour, sugar, canned foods and refined oils.


The book also summarises what is known about “The long-lived people of Vilcabamba, Hunza, and Georgian Russia”. Many people in these regions were reported to live to well over 100 years old, with physical vigour in extreme old age and an absence of chronic disease.


Dr Ron details what these people ate, the main takeaway is that when eating a diet of unprocessed whole foods, particularly a diet containing meat, raw milk and other dairy products and eggs, people could expect to live to a great age. (More modern research into the people living in the Blue Zones shows that people eating a mainly plant-based diet live long healthy lives. I personally think eating unprocessed food is the key).


Chapter 5 discusses the work of Dr Pottenger, and his famous “Pottenger’s Cats” experiments carried out in the 1930s. This work provides some evidence that raw milk is more beneficial than pasteurised milk, but for me the main takeaway from Dr Pottenger’s work is that degeneration occurs when animals or humans move away from their natural diets.


There is an interesting chapter on the important nutrients in seafood – EPA, DHA and the fat-soluble nutrients vitamins A, D and K2. Many traditional people ate large quantities of seafood, and as a result had superb health. Many modern studies back up the idea that seafood is a valuable food source, and most modern dietary guidelines recommend 2 portions of fatty fish per week.


Good sources of fatty fish are wild salmon, tuna and mackerel. It is also likely helpful to take a small amount of high-quality cod liver oil daily. These are the brands I recommend:


  1. Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (EVCLO) – liquid only
  2. Dropi Pure Icelandic Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (EVCLO) – liquid or capsules available

  3. Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO) – liquid or capsules available


Dr Ron stresses the importance of balancing fish oil with adequate quantities of saturated fats and arachidonic acid from grass-fed animal fats to provide a source of vitamin K2. I take this brand of emu oil, which is rich in vitamin K2. You can read more about the benefits of emu oil in this post. He also discusses some evidence that show vegetable oils are harmful (this does not include olive oil), and he cautions against the use of them.

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Part 2: Diet & Disease

Part 2 of the book starts with a comparison of some popular diets such as raw foods, macrobiotic and high-protein Atkins style diets. Each diet has limitations, mainly due to the lack of sufficient fat-soluble nutrients.


Dr Ron then summarises his approach to nutrition, he classifies foods into 6 main groups:


  1. Grass-fed animal foods & fats. Wild fish, shellfish, fish eggs, grass-fed meat, organ meat, bones and broth, grass-fed animal fats, free-range poultry and eggs, raw milk, yogurt, kefir, cheese, butter, lard and ghee
  2. Salad greens, raw and cooked green and other vegetables, fermented vegetables, sprouts, fruits and sea vegetables
  3. Properly prepared wholegrains and foods made from wholegrains, nuts, seeds and beans
  4. Healthy oils (olive, coconut, avocado) and vinegars (raw apple cider vinegar, balsamic), mineral-rich salt (Celtic, Himalayan, Sel de Guerande) spices and seasonings, and alcoholic and other fermented beverages
  5. Special foods, vitamins, minerals and food supplements
  6. Everything else (refined and manufactured foods, particularly sugar and white flour)


The Primal Principles

  1. Most of your diet should consist of foods in groups 1 & 2
  2. Use the foods in groups 3 & 4 in moderation. The key to a healthy use of the foods in group 3 is proper preparation (soaking & sprouting) and moderation. These foods may be a part of a healthy diet but they are not for all people at all times.
  3. Help correct medical problems and achieve optimal health by utilizing the items in group 5.
  4. Completely avoid foods in group 6. The degree to which anyone can tolerate occasional use of these unnatural foods depends on the state of health of the individual, but consumption of these refined foods will not lead to optimal health.


There is then a detailed discussion of how to choose optimal foods from each of the groups, looking for organic & grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, wild fish from unpolluted waters, raw, grass-fed dairy and organic fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.


After reading about the amount of hormones, antibiotics and chemicals that go into the production of conventional meat and dairy and the amount of chemicals sprayed onto non-organic produce, you will be convinced to try and source higher-quality foods to improve your health.


We are extremely lucky here in the UK that these foods are relatively easy to source, all the major supermarkets stock a good range of organic produce and there are excellent vegetable box delivery companies such as Abel & Cole and Riverford where you can also source grass-fed, organic meat and fresh fish.


Raw dairy is also becoming easier to source from farms such as Smiling Tree Farm.


The book ends with Dr Ron’s top 10 health secrets for leading a happier and healthier life, which include: eat animals, eat plants, nap, exercise and have a pet, plus a few other golden nuggets of wisdom which I will leave you to discover when you read the book!


Overall I found this book a really good read. I didn’t learn too much that was new, but I found this a really good summary of the importance of eating an “ancestral diet” and would highly recommend it for anyone new to the work of Weston Price or Dr Pottenger.


You can buy Primal Nutrition here on Amazon.

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