Ancient humans ate roughly the same amount of proteins and carbs as modern humans, but they ate way more fats and fiber than modern humans do.
The average hunter-gatherer ate about 100g of fiber a day, while we eat 15-20g on average. (1) We have been told for 30 years that fats are bad and, as a result, have seen the fat intake in America declining. (2) While ancient humans ate 28-58% of their diet as fat, we are told not to exceed 30% fat. (3)
Ultimately, it might not be the amount of fat that we eat that is the problem, but the kinds of fats. First of all, ancient humans didn’t have sweets. The sweetest fruit was about as sweet as a carrot, (1) and the ridiculous amount of fiber they ate is significant, 5 times more than us.
The Fat and Fiber Paradox
While we eat fiber to block the excess sugar in the American diet from entering the blood, hunter-gatherers likely needed that fiber to keep the minimal amount of sugars in the gut to feed their microbiology, and likely got their energy and satiety from fat.
It is an interesting paradox. They ate tons of fiber and didn’t eat sugar. We eat way too much sugar and have insufficient amounts of fiber to block its absorption into the blood, leaving us with raging blood sugar issues.
They ate a higher amount of fresh animal fat, and we eat lots of processed fats. (4)
As the population grew, foods were processed so they could sit on a shelf longer. This was accomplished by processing good healthy fats, rendering them unhealthy. As a result, our dietary intake of good healthy fats has dramatically declined, leaving us searching for satiety elsewhere.
Remember, that feeling of satiety and satisfaction we get after a meal is due to the fats that stick to the ribs and make us feel full. Without sugar in their diet, hunter-gatherers were satisfied primarily by fats, while we have been deprived of such satisfying good fats in comparison.
To replace this need to feel full and satisfied, we have gravitated to a diet of carbs and sugars which deliver a more temporary version of satiety. The feel-good, satisfied sensation is delivered much quicker—and modern humans have become addicted to it.
When the food industry began using processed fats in foods that we don’t digest well, the carb content in the American diet began to soar.
Foods have to be pleasing and tasty and this was accomplished with starchier foods with less digestible or useable fats.
Having a hard time breaking the sugar addiction?
Add more fat to your meals. Here’s how:
- Add high quality extra virgin olive oil (with a press date—try to consume within six months of the press date) to each meal.
- Add nuts and seeds to each meal.
- Try to get a tablespoon of coconut oil daily with food.
- Consider cooking with ghee.
- Take high quality fish oils and supplement with vitamin D3, which is a fat soluble vitamin.
- The more good fats you put in your diet, the less you will crave, want or need sugar and sweets.
1. Leiberman D. The Story of the Human Body, Pantheon Press. New York 2013.
2. www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/NutritionInsights/insight5.pdf Is Total Fat Consumption Really Decreasing?
3. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005: Chapter 6 —Fats —Health.gov.
4. Cordain—2002. The Paradox of Hunter-gatherer Diets.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photos: courtesy of the author