4

votes

Should we eat according to our ancestry?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 27, 2010 at 5:38 PM

Hi all.

I very much enjoy this site and have looked for an answer to this question to no avail.

Do you think it is optimal to stick more to foods that are closer to our paleo ancestry?

Meaning that, for example, someone who had a lot of Amerindian heritage should should try to eat paleo foods native to their land (avocados, tomatoes), whereas someone like me who has 100% European and North African heritage should stick to "Old World" foods (asparagus, yams, leeks and lettuce)?

It just seems to make more sense. I reckon people with New World heritage would probably be ok with eating Old World foods, but those of us with no exposure to New World foods might not have the adaptations...then again, avocado and tomatoes are so healthy! What to do?

Thanks for your help!

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on January 11, 2011
at 09:18 PM

Using a service like 23andme might be a good start!

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on January 11, 2011
at 07:29 PM

how would one find out where ones ancestors were 10,000 years ago? im ethnically armenian and assyrian, but lord knows where we were pre agriculture. maybe still in the "fertile crescent" for the most part? different climate then also would mean different foods available, no?

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on September 27, 2010
at 05:54 PM

Oh, man: if I had to give up coconut and avocado...:-/

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4 Answers

2
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 27, 2010
at 06:09 PM

It's easier on a genetic level to look at individual constituents of foods and look for adaptations to them.

Because really, any vegetable at the grocery store is neolithic because they are all a product of domestication. If you were being totally "paleo" you would have to eat only plants that grow in the wild, which I've certainly done before in Sweden which is an environment similar to where my Scottish ancestors were from and I felt pretty good...but it's not like I feel bad eating coconut either. I suspect and have seen some genetic studies showing people from the far north are better adapted to very high fat diets. Even though coconut is from the tropics it fits the bill.

I will start a thread on known population-level adaptations and variations to specific foods and nutrients.

0
5672b2d190891342389e764cc4056ca9

(1304)

on September 29, 2010
at 02:42 AM

The answer would be "no", according to my guts, pun intended. I'm of European-Mediterranean ancestry, but don't digest very well things like onions, leek, broccoli, cauliflowres, beetroots, asparagus, apples, oranges. I do well with all kinds of meats. Avocado is great for me. Of course I may have an Inuit or Inca ancestor I'm not aware of, but I doubt it, judging from my cute little nose :)

I guess looking to our ancestry for the "original" food may be too dogmatic: better to listen to our body.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on January 11, 2011
at 07:29 PM

how would one find out where ones ancestors were 10,000 years ago? im ethnically armenian and assyrian, but lord knows where we were pre agriculture. maybe still in the "fertile crescent" for the most part? different climate then also would mean different foods available, no?

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on January 11, 2011
at 09:18 PM

Using a service like 23andme might be a good start!

0
D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on September 29, 2010
at 12:48 AM

This question has been bubbling on my mental back burner since yesterday. I'm glad that Melissa decided to open a new thread on study-demonstrated genetic adaptations to specific foods - because otherwise, we could be drawing some very theoretical lines in the sand.

The most common lines in the "eat according to your ancestry" arguments - at least that I have read so far - are "New World/Old World" and "equatorial/polar".

The equatorial/polar one has some merit, as climate obviously hugely influences the available animal and plant nourishment - and those closer to the poles probably ate more meat and fat (and maybe seasonally available fruits), while those closer to the equator probably ate a predominantly plant-based diet, with a lot more carbohydrates as furnished through ever-available ripe fruits.

By contrast, I look at the "New World/Old World" dividing line as somewhat arbitrary, or at least somewhat couched in the American sensibility that everything (history, politics, etc. and yes even nutritional wisdom) revolves around Western hemisphere v. Eastern hemisphere. The reason I say this is - what makes North American foodstuffs that much different nutritionally from what's available anywhere else on the planet at the same climate/latitude (except where warmed by the North Atlantic Drift)?

Being of northwestern European extraction myself, am I therefore excluded from even Mediterranean delights? After all, olives (and olive oil), pomegranates, dates, pistachios, etc. (or their similar paleolithic predecessors) almost certainly wouldn't have been available in such quantity in my ancestors' countryside (more like lutefisk, mussels, wild game, edible fungi and other plants, and the odd in-season sour apples). And where is the line drawn between locales with different dietary adaptations? 100 mile radius? 300 mile radius? Or mapped on a case-by-case basis for each food, featuring overlapping shaded regions for various genotypes which produce an associated food tolerance or intolerance?

Thus, according to the "eat only what your ancestors would have eaten" theory, even a short (relatively speaking) distance - say from northern Germany to the coast of Greece - has big - and increasingly nuanced - implications in terms of diet composition. And while whether to follow this general theory of eating is a personal choice, for me, it's too much of an overhaul to consider - at least until I am faced with compellingly, repeatedly demonstrated physiological adaptations (or lack thereof) for those in my lineage and geno-/phenotypes. Hence being able to keep researching by checking out the genetic adaptations on Melissa's spinoff thread! :)

See: Known Neolithic Adaptations to Food

0
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 28, 2010
at 04:04 AM

Good question. My gut instinct says yes! Might be a good idea to at least consider this issue at least on the basis of percentage of carbs, fat, etc. Those from the tropics probably ate more fruit and those from cold areas probably ate more meat. I don't know if it would help to get down to individual food items though. As was already said, the foods we eat now are not very much like foods from hundreds of years ago. YOu would be hard pressed to actually figure out what people hundreds of years ago in some far away land actually ate and you would be even harder pressed to actually find those foods exactly as they were then and still available now.

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