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How to know what your ancestors ate?

Answered on June 12, 2014
Created June 09, 2014 at 4:44 PM

The idea of eating as my genetic ancestors naturally ate somewhat resonates with me, but how do I find out what they would've really eaten?

Also, given the vast array of healthful foods across the globe, would eating strictly ancestral for my genetics (rather than ancestral in the context of humanity as a whole) even be optimal given it would've been so limited and seasonal?

I've put what I know of my family history & current diet in the comments below to avoid the dreaded 'wall of text' questions ;)

Medium avatar

on June 11, 2014
at 11:20 PM

I think turnips were the tubers of choice before potatoes, but I don't know if they're Paleo, nor do I know if they're low carb enough for you. YMMV

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on June 11, 2014
at 06:49 PM

I'd suggest that is covered under the "evolutionary lens"

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on June 11, 2014
at 05:20 PM

I eat more varied than most paleo, and also I eat differently in summer and winter. I guess (F/P/C) 35/15/50 in summer and 45/25/30 in winter. I don't feel well on a carnivorous diet. I probably get of order 10% of calories from fermentable fibers.

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 11, 2014
at 04:29 PM

Thanks for the info but this is still unavailable in the UK it seems, at least not as easy as paying 99$ on a website ;)

At the mo i base my diet firstly off of what feels good to me which is keotgenic, and bring into that framework what I see healthy HG/un-westernized societies eating, mainly seafood, coconut fat, nose-to-tail etc... i wish I could have a bundle of tubers with that but carbs just don't agree with me and I don't wanna sacrifice the super keto-brain.

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 11, 2014
at 04:23 PM

What's the rest of your diet like macro wise? I love eating keto but I still think it's plausible to go the other way and eat mostly tubers/roots, berries with small amounts of fat. The only problem I see, at least in my own body, is that i'd have to be one or the other, high carb or high fat, there's no middle ground for my metabolism, when I combine carbs & fat my body tells me it doesn't like it, apart from my tastebuds of course!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 11, 2014
at 10:22 AM

I'd put those two things way behind acting like a hunter-gatherer and eating more like an omnivore. In other words, quit being sedentary and defy encroaching vegetarianism.

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 09, 2014
at 06:08 PM

Perhaps not many, but to use the example of coconut & seafood again, they have been around for thousands of years, so if you're from that region of the world you can pretty much rest assured eating that way will be the healthiest diet for you as they have been relatively disease free. I'm not from that region of the world, i'm European.... sorry if i'm missing your point but that is my question ;)

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on June 09, 2014
at 06:04 PM

I think the easiest way would be to get a gene analysis, then look in anthropology books to figure out past diets. This is not cheap of course. I did something of the type, asking my parents as far back as they would know (I am of European ancestry), then looked at the history of the Roman Empire, then farther back. I looked for Central European people whose picture resembles mine. This is cheaper but highly speculative, but I am satisfied that my high intake of roots and tubers is in my genes ;-).

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:58 PM

I guess i'm just wondering if, as im European, eating a large proportion of my diet from coconut & seafood is optimal, say compared to a diet high in dairyfat & red meat, or olive oil & seafood... I think either way id still eat a bit of everything but my daily staples could shift one way or the other.

56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:55 PM

why? I came to the conclusion that the RDA profile is far closer to a tropical diet than a cold climate diet.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:53 PM

you are missing the point. You may have evolved to not eat certain things (i.e. lactose), but you did not evolve to eat certain things. This is due to the fact that in the last 50-100 years our environment has changed so significantly that we could not re-enact our diet.

Try this thought experiement. How many animals that we consume today are the same as the ones we ate 500 years ago (which is a minor time span in evolutionary time)

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:49 PM

Point taken, but there's still much to learn/implement from genetics and observing ancestral diets, just like you pointed out how people should eliminate dairy for a while especially if they're from certain groups. If i was from the tropics i'd be easily convinced that coconuts & fish should be my staple foods as coconuts grow rampantly in the tropics along with abundant seafood available and there's evidence that this way of eating keeps them relatively disease free. What did Europeans have for the last thousands of years? Nose to tail wild game & berries/fruits in season?

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:37 PM

European please :)

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 09, 2014
at 04:47 PM

I'm English/French, 6,3", slim, dark blonde hair, blue eyes... most of my family now lives in Mauritius so eats tropical with an Indian twist - curries, fish, coconut, rice, lentils, lots of salt, chilli, plenty of beef & chicken... this has served my grandma well, she's the only person in my recent family to make it past 85. Now i love my coconut but 3 generations of living in the tropics hardly makes it ancestral eating!

So ,what would Europeans have eaten for the most part?

At the moment I eat keto as carbs give me undesirable symptoms, I love the mental clarity of ketosis, and i love FAT!

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5 Answers

0
A0f3488819959ec597664a208e75a92f

on June 12, 2014
at 04:01 PM

Doesn't matter, just be healthy!

0
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on June 12, 2014
at 12:58 AM

I think we don't necessarily have to think way back to our caveman ancestors. My philosophy of ancestral diet is not to eat anything my grandma wouldn't have recognized, but then again, I'm not necessarily eating everything she did, either ( e.g. no Oreos, which were her favorites, no noodles, or bread).

0
Medium avatar

on June 11, 2014
at 02:58 AM

23andme and similar genetic testing companies will help you find your genetic ancestors. They sometimes give you a "raw output" also for use with other websites that help you try and evaluate health conditions based on genetic markers. One popular health concern is "methylation" genetics interpretation. One could go fairly deep into that rabbit hole if one wanted.

Once you know your genetic ancestry you can then hit the library to find anthropological or archaeological materials related to the groups in question. Technically Paleo is anything older than 10,000 years ago, and certainly not any group that was using agriculture to any great extent. The jury is out on whether animal husbandry is disallowed also since nomadic herders might have been around longer than agriculture in some places, and except for dairy, the diet doesn't seem to change much.

Of course if you have a strong tendency toward a certain group of people, especially a hunter-gatherer tribe that you know about, there' no harm in modeling your diet on them while you do personal research also. There's no need to get that technical though unless you find it interesting.

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 11, 2014
at 04:29 PM

Thanks for the info but this is still unavailable in the UK it seems, at least not as easy as paying 99$ on a website ;)

At the mo i base my diet firstly off of what feels good to me which is keotgenic, and bring into that framework what I see healthy HG/un-westernized societies eating, mainly seafood, coconut fat, nose-to-tail etc... i wish I could have a bundle of tubers with that but carbs just don't agree with me and I don't wanna sacrifice the super keto-brain.

0
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:36 PM

I don't buy into the concept of ancestral eating as a function of what foods we should consume. I definitely DO believe we should look into ancestral patterns for what we should avoid.

exempli gratia:

from: medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/digestive_disorders/lactose_intolerance/Pages/index.aspx
  • Seventy-five percent of all African-American, Jewish, Mexican-American, and Native American adults are lactose intolerant.
  • Ninety percent of Asian-American adults are lactose intolerant.
  • Lactose intolerance is least common among people with a northern European heritage.

Obviously there is a link there, and if I were Asian, African, Jewish, etc -- I would probably avoid milk or at least be restrictive in the beginning.

What we should consume should be primarily based upon our lifestyle and physical health.

Paleo, at it's most basic form, is one of two things:

  1. An elimination diet that helps people understand what foods they tolerate
  2. A philosophy of looking at diet through an evolutionary lens to help guide modern humans in determining what to eat.

I think sometimes people get too caught up in the romance of the "Grok" ideal and forget that we are not cavemen, we are not our ancestors, we are modern humans and need to focus on what works for us now -- not some isotope analysis of dental remains of a long-distance ancestor.

http://paleohacks.com/questions/210234/ancestral-f...

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 11, 2014
at 10:22 AM

I'd put those two things way behind acting like a hunter-gatherer and eating more like an omnivore. In other words, quit being sedentary and defy encroaching vegetarianism.

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:49 PM

Point taken, but there's still much to learn/implement from genetics and observing ancestral diets, just like you pointed out how people should eliminate dairy for a while especially if they're from certain groups. If i was from the tropics i'd be easily convinced that coconuts & fish should be my staple foods as coconuts grow rampantly in the tropics along with abundant seafood available and there's evidence that this way of eating keeps them relatively disease free. What did Europeans have for the last thousands of years? Nose to tail wild game & berries/fruits in season?

0
56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:28 PM

it depends which ancestors. Your african ancestors or your european ancestors?

Medium avatar

(138)

on June 09, 2014
at 05:37 PM

European please :)

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