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This is a question I’m frequently asked in one form or another.

What’s your food philosophy?

What did our ancestors eat?

What IS ancestral eating?

How do we eat like our ancestors? They were hunter gatherers.

FIRST, LET’S CLEAR UP WHAT ANCESTRAL EATING IS NOT.

The motivation behind eating ancestrally isn’t to mimic exactly what our ancestors ate. It’s to eat what they would’ve had reasonable access to. It’s about avoiding modern, processed, industrialized food. Eating ancestrally is more about what you don’t eat than what you do; let me explain.

Ancestral eating is not a strict set of rules that needs to be adhered to. It is not a one size “diet” fits all. It is not necessarily black and white – eat this and avoid that. Ancestral eating varies.

Some followers of an ancestral diet eat corn, rice and/or dairy – foods that were not widely available prior to ten thousand years ago. Does that mean these foods are unhealthy and need to be avoided at all costs? Does that mean they aren’t truly eating an ancestral diet? Absolutely not. Some people do well eating these foods, others do not. The more important part of eating these foods is to eat them how they were eaten traditionally: organic, non-GMO and sprouted corn and rice and grass-fed, full-fat and preferably raw dairy.

Traditionally, Asian cultures have a difficult time digesting dairy. Whereas people from cultures like the Nuer of the upper Nile or the Todas from Southern India (two cultures studied by Dr. Weston A. Price), where milk is a traditional staple, have a much easier time digesting dairy.

Some people do well eating various food groups that aren’t necessarily considered ancestral, but are still traditional foods from nature – not from a lab. And this is completely fine. What works for one person may not work for another. Hell, some people can’t eat tomatoes. Does this make tomatoes inherently unhealthy? No. We all have biological differences that necessitates variations in our diets, and that is fine. That’s better than fine, that’s good!

Ancestral eating is eliminating modern day foods like:

  • vegetable oils (soy, corn, canola, cottonseed)
  • refined sugar
  • processed soy and fake meats
  • refined, packaged products

WHAT ANCESTRAL EATING IS.

Ancestral eating is simply eating unrefined, unprocessed, whole foods that have been around for thousands and thousands of years. This includes:

  • grass-fed, wild animals
  • wild seafood
  • pastured chicken and eggs
  • organic fruits and vegetables
  • healthy, traditional fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, lard, butter, etc.
  • grass-fed, full-fat raw dairy
  • fermented foods

Ancestral eating is centered around eating real food. What do I mean by real food? Food as close to its natural state as possible. Ancestral food doesn’t have ingredients – it is the ingredients!

Ancestral eating is eating locally. It’s eating food from your local farmers and farmers markets. This isn’t only great for the environment, it supports your local economy. Every time you buy food, you vote. You can vote for farmers or you can vote for giant corporations. Ancestral eating is knowing where your food comes from. It’s not anonymous. It’s knowing who grew it and how it was grown.

Ancestral eating is eating sustainably. Ancestral eating is about buying food that’s grown as its meant to be. Cows are meant to be grass-fed. Chickens are meant to be pastured. Vegetables are not meant to be grown with dangerous chemicals.

Ancestral eating is seasonally. I’m the first to admit this is something I struggle with. Tomatoes in winter? Sometimes I buy ’em. Just do the best you can. Shopping at your local farmers market makes seasonal eating much easier and more accessible. You’ll buy tomatoes in the summer, broccoli in the fall, squash in the winter, asparagus in the spring. This puts you in tune with nature’s rhythm. It also ensures your food is healthier because it hasn’t traveled three thousand miles to reach you.

Ancestral eating is eating the best you can, in a modern-day world, surrounded by fad diets, quick fixes and processed foods galore. It’s eating foods your body recognizes and utilizes. Some people can and will go out and hunt their food, which is great. But it’s not an optional that’s available to everyone. For most of us, it’s just about eating food our ancestors could’ve potentially recognizes as food: meat, veggies, fruits, nuts; not: tofu, canola oil, soy cheese or Lean Cuisines.

Ancestral eating is eating foods humans have eaten for thousands of years. It’s not a fad diet. It’s hilarious to me when people refer to ancestral or traditional diets as fads. Last I checked, fads don’t last thousands upon thousands of years. Last I checked, no culture not only survived, but thrived on a fad diet. Last I checked – the healthiest way to eat is to eat whole, unprocessed foods from nature, grown locally and sustainably. That’s what ancestral eating is all about!

Eating ancestrally does not happen overnight. Here are some of my favorite tips for transitioning to an ancestral diet:

  • check out your local farmers market
  • find a buying club in your area, this will set you up with an organic farm or farmers that you can order your local, sustainable food from – I found mine at realmilk.com
  • eat organic as much as possible, but especially when it comes to meat and dairy
  • stop buying meals from a box (doing this will save you money as well!)
  • Google farmers in your area
  • start a backyard garden
  • get some backyard chickens
  • take a class on beekeeping (I did this, it was super fun!)
  • simplify your food – a piece of salmon with a side of asparagus and sweet potato is a quick, healthy, super simple ancestral meal, no need to complicate it!

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3 responses on “What is Ancestral Eating?

  1. Jose Carlos

    Don’t you think that an occasional fast (on water or broth) also belongs to ancestral eating? I am sure that our ancestors, wherever they lived, fasted or rather had to fast because of lack of foods.

    1. dani Post author

      I do! But not in all instances. I fasted regularly before getting pregnant, not such a good idea now. But otherwise, great point!

  2. Leah

    Wonderful article! Exactly the way I like eating. I never found that eating Paleo was for me because I do so well on dairy. I’m full Russian and sour cream is an absolute staple in my culture, giving it up just never made sense when there is no problem. Love your website!

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