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The concept of ancestral eating has been popular in recent years, but it can often be used to mean different things. So what does “ancestral eating” actually mean and what should an ancestral diet look like?
There Is No Single Ancestral Diet
Many diets fall under the principles of ancestral eating, which include:
- Whole, unprocessed foods
- Healthy animal protein and fat
- Fresh ingredients
- Sustainably grown/raised crops and animal products
- Pesticide-free whenever possible
Ancestral eating can include many different types of diets, as Weston A. Price discovered when he traveled the globe studying the robust health of remote indigenous communities. While the word ancestral is most commonly associated with Paleo or primal diets, it can also be associated with other patterns of eating that adopt whole food, traditional principles.
When Weston A. Price visited various communities, he found robust health. But each culture ate what was seasonally and locally available to them, proving that there is no single diet that produces health.
If your great-grandparents could eat it, odds are it falls under more traditional patterns. The bottom line is that the overly processed, genetically modified, and pre-cooked foods that are now American staples are the opposite of ancestral eating.
What Should Be In Your Ancestral Diet?
Your ancestral diet should be determined by a few factors.
- What is your heritage/lineage/culture? Your genetics may respond well to literally eating the type of traditional diets that your ancestors would have eaten in the past.
- What foods are available to you locally? Eating foods that are sourced from the area that you live in can offer greater nutritional benefits, not to mention convenience. Local organic food sources are often less expensive than purchasing the same items from supermarkets or specialty stores, too.
- What are your health needs/challenges? Your dietary needs can change through seasons of life, as you age, and also as your health dictates. If you’re battling chronic health disorders, autoimmune disease, illness, or you’re pregnant/breastfeeding, then your nutritional needs may be different.
Ultimately your ancestral diet should answer these three questions and should provide a way to nourish your body. The answer can be slightly different for everyone.
Variations to consider for ancestral eating include:
- Low-carb Paleo
- AIP (autoimmune Paleo)
Within every potential dietary variation, you can further customize your food plan based on your cultural preferences, health needs, and what’s available to you locally. Of course, your diet doesn’t need a “name.” You don’t have to consider that you follow a “diet” as ultimately a diet means “the foods that you use to feed your body.”
Traditional diets should focus on nutrient density and food quality and should not be built around restricted calories or unnatural eating patterns.
Also keep in mind that unless your doctor or healthcare provider explicitly suggests a major dietary change (such as starting a keto diet or adopting intermittent fasting), it’s best not to make drastic changes on your own.
What foods might you commonly see on traditional or ancestral diets?
- Grass-fed and pastured meats and poultry
- Wild-caught seafood
- Raw and organic dairy (from cows, goats, or sheep)
- Fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.)
- Ancient grains
- Some legumes and beans
- Unrefined oils (olive, avocado, coconut)
- Animal fats (tallow, lard, etc.)
Today’s Simple Step
Our ancestors did not eat in a rushed or distracted state. Focus with intent on the food you’re eating and who you’re with (or if you’re alone, on the process of chewing your food thoroughly and allowing your body to digest the food in a state of comfort).
This Rainbow Frittata is a perfect way to start your day off with veggies while pairing them with the healthy fats and protein found in eggs.