Eat Like Your Ancestors.

on Nov 16, 2009
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Stone-Age Secrets to Optimal Health

Diets have come and gone, yet one truth has emerged throughout the years about human health. Honestly, we really have no idea which foods to eat. Fish, pomegranates, blueberries, spinach, and other super foods have been talked up as the “save yourself” foods, but when it comes down to it, I am left with this question:

Do we really know what to eat?

There is good news, though. There’s a new diet about town, only this time there’s nothing new about it. This diet is actually an ancient lifestyle that has been abandoned in the face of agriculture, domesticated animals, and storing foods. The diet I’m talking about is a “Paleolithic diet,” and it isn’t so much of a diet as a return to the foods which complement human’s genetic predisposition. Humans have existed for approximately 200,000 but our modern diet, ripe with hydrogenated oils and GMO’s, has only evolved during the past 30 years. It’s safe to say that our bodies have not adapted yet to the recent unnatural additions to the human diet.

According to “The Ancestral Human Diet: What was it and should it be a paradigm for contemporary nutrition” by S. Boyd Eaton, a Stone Age diet is one which will ward off contemporary diseases while promoting optimal health. Diseases like type-2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease are new in human history, and observed hunter-gather societies show remarkably low rates of these degenerative diseases.

Which eating practices differ between our stone-age ancestors and contemporary humans? More importantly, which aspects of the stone-age diet are unrecognized by “fad diets” like Atkins, Weight Watchers, or South Beach?

Eaton identifies several aspects of modern human diet which differs strikingly from contemporary eating practices.

First, ancient humans practiced a high-energy intake and expenditure diet. Put simply, ancient humans ate high numbers of calories, but also had enough physical activity to work off the calories. Eaten described early Paleolithic physique as comparable to today’s superior athletes. Conversely, today’s Americans take in fewer calories yet become much more obese than our Paleolithic ancestors.

Second, carbohydrates made up 35% of Paleolithic diets, while carbohydrates today make up more than 50% of Americans’ diet. Modern carbohydrate intake is comprised of cereal grains, such as corn, rice and wheat. However, Stone-Age carbohydrate intake was composed of mostly fruits and vegetables.

Third, ancient humans pH levels were lower than modern humans. Human diet is healthiest at a slightly higher level of alkalinity of a pH of 4-7. However, modern diet has driven humans’ pH toward a high acidic diet, resulting in diseases like calcium depletion from bones and muscle wasting.

Finally, a contemporary American diet is much higher in saturated fats than a Paleolithic diet. A typical American diet consists of approximately 11-12% saturated fats, while our Stone-Age ancestors’ diets consisted of only 7-5% total saturated fats. Here, the Stone-Age diet does reflect other fad diets, as saturated fats are a major contributor to modern degenerative diseases.

Overall, it is not humans’ dietary needs which have changed over the centuries. Rather, food abundance and availability have rapidly transformed contemporary diets, lowering our standard of health by diseases of abundance like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. It is not necessary to transform one’s diet to all-liquid, all-vegan, or sans carbs. Rather, we must remember that our bodies contain the genetic makeup of hunter-gatherers, and function best on diet similar to that which allowed our Paleolithic ancestors to prosper.


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4 Responses to “Eat Like Your Ancestors.”

  1. Abbie says:

    I definitely don't think it could hurt to eat a little more like the cavemen did :)

  2. […] Food is no longer food. It is quite tragic that the majority of food that is on the shelves in an average American supermarket is a collection of chemicals. Isn’t bread just supposed to be made from flour, salt, yeast and water? Since when did high fructose corn syrup become part of bread? […]

  3. elephant journal elephantjournal says:

    or "if it comes in a box, it ain't food."

    Rick G
    …but it might be wine!

    if it's in a box, it's not wine worth drinking !

    Rick G
    depends on your standard. if you drink chateauneuf du pape during the week, then yes. if you buy a $6-$10 bottle on occasion (for what Robert Parker might call "uncritical quaffing"), I challenge you to do a blind pour of one of them and with one of the better boxed wines (delicato, black box, hardys) and try to tell the difference.

    Rick G
    one of my "go to" selections is Bota Box: suspend prejudice and check it out. it's an environmentally friendly option, too–far less weight per oz of wine than glass, which means a greatly reduced transportation footprint.

    not drinking boxed wine right now–having a Tablas Creek–but it's a viable choice!
    there's been a number of reports on by the box being more eco…I'll check out Bota Box and suspend disbelief, anything you say Rick I'll trust at least halfway..!

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