Why is it our ancestors were free of chronic disease? It’s not that long ago that conditions such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, mental health conditions and neurological disorders were few and far between but these days they are becoming more and more common even in children.
Although I don’t think diet is the only reason, it’s what I’m going to focus on in this article. Pollution, chronic stress, artificial light, electronic and magnetic fields and exposure to toxic substances all play a part too. We have evolved so rapidly that our bodies haven’t had time to adapt, and we now have a mismatch between our genes and environment which can lead to chronic disease.
There are many different ancestral diets and they would rotate depending on seasons and food availability but they all share common features. Animal foods from land and sea have been eaten for millions of years but the muscle, organs, bones and fat would have all been consumed. In fact, it was the organs that were normally eaten first or given to pregnant or lactating women. Many indigenous people would practice preconception nutritional programs for both parents where the most nutrient foods such as liver would be prioritised for them.
Ancestral diets consisted of seasonally and locally grown fruit and vegetables so the time of year would dictate how much of the diet these took up. Those living closer to the equator would have more of an abundance of plants compared to those living furthest away. The Inuit tribe would eat some berries during summer and stick to mainly animals for the rest of the year.
Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds would be soaked, spouted, fermented or naturally leavened to make them easier to digest and reduce the anti-nutrients such as lectins or phytic acid which can bind to minerals and prevent us from absorbing them.
Animal bones were used to make broths full of collagen and gelatine and some groups would consume raw dairy. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, beverages and meats were lacto fermented for increased enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
Refined grains and sugars, additives, reduced fat dairy and vegetable oils were not present in any ancestral diet and the work of Weston A. Price has shown us what happend when these foods were introduced.
Weston A. Price was a dentist who travelled the world trying to discover the secret to fine teeth. He studied many isolated groups who were still eating their traditional diet and found that not only did they have perfectly straight teeth with no tooth decay, they were also resistant to disease with no aches or pains or mental health disorders. When he analysed their diets, he found they provided around 4 times the minerals and at least 10 times the fat-soluble vitamins than the new industrialised diets. When he returned to some of these groups after they had been introduced to modern foods such as white flour and sugar, he found that the children born to parents who had adopted these foods, had much narrower faces, crowded teeth and reduced immunity to disease. He concluded that dental caries and deformed dental arches which resulted in crowded, crooked teeth were caused by nutritional deficiencies, particularly Vitamin A and D which promote mineral absorption and protein utilisation. The photos in his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”, speak for themselves.
Sprouting, soaking and fermenting can be time consuming but just removing processed foods from your diet could be all you need on your journey to optimal health. The additives and chemicals in these foods are not recognised by the body on a cellular level and cannot be utilised for energy. On top of this, the body may react by sending a threat signal to the nervous system resulting in a ripple effect of negative events that can impact any system. As a rule of thumb, get into the habit of buying fresh, wholefoods with only 1 ingredient, cooking from scratch and always look at food from an evolutionary perspective, “what would our ancestors have eaten”?