December 13, 2011

What Does “Ancestral Eating” Mean?

You may also hear terms such as paleo, primal, stone age or cave man. They all mean roughly the same thing—we should eat the foods that best nourish our bodies and contain as few additives and contaminants as possible. We should avoid foods and food-like products that interfere with health.

Throughout human history, regardless of location, people ate whole foods they prepared in fairly simple ways. They used fermentation and dehydration but they didn’t have today’s manufacturing processes. They ate many vegetables and fruits and they also ate a variety of meats—pretty much the whole animal.

Until about 10,000 years ago people ate little or no grains. As agriculture developed and populations grew, people learned to use fermentation and careful preparation to make grains more digestible. For many people, particularly older ones, grains cause or aggravate autoimmune and digestive problems. Unfortunately, most modern grain products focus on rapid production and profitable sale rather than digestibility.

Dr Kurt Harris did a wonderful job of describing ancestral eating in one page he calls the Archevore Diet . J Stanton at has another terrific explanation. I also like the "5 basics" described by Paleoista.

Frankly, I think many people waste a lot of time trying to find the "perfect" ancestral-type diet. We don't all thrive on the same mix of foods--I happen to have ancestors who were all far-northern and I don't thrive on tropical foods. What's wrong with that? Should I expect folks with tropical ancestors to thrive on the same foods I do? In general, the farther north your "clan" was from the fewer tropical foods you may find delicious and vice versa.

You don’t really have to go back much farther than 50 years to think about healthier eating. If you are over 60, odds are if you think back to your childhood  most adults were slender compared to today. Those who were overweight were said to eat too many sweets—NOT too much fat. People happily buttered their vegetables and ate the fat on their meat.

After the meal, they might have home-made cookies or cake or pie. They didn’t drink a liter-plus of soda every day and they didn’t munch constantly on chips or crackers. Eating mass quantities of snacks/desserts was reserved for special occasions.

Ancestral eating is easy:

1.     Eat real, whole foods, not manufactured food-like products
2.     Eat a variety of meats including bone broth and organ meats
3.     Eat a variety of vegetables and whole fruits
4.     If you can/wish, eat dairy that is organic and free of additives
5.     A few nuts or a little honey are okay but avoid excess
6.     Avoid highly processed foods; this includes grains, legumes and sweeteners. No lists of ingredients unless they are real foods!
7. Avoid all oils except olive and coconut; cook with animal fats such as lard, tallow or butter

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