Could the Ancestral Diet hold the key to looking and feeling your best? Let’s delve into what could be the world’s first diet!
Advances in technology mean that life is very different today than it was for our ancient ancestors. This is especially true in the areas of nutrition and physical activity. Where our ancestors were originally hunter-gatherers or, much later, subsistence farmers, modern humans have an abundant supply of food available 24/7.
Ancient humans had to work hard for their food, whereas we can order up a feast from our phones. While it’s a modern privilege to never know hunger and starvation, the abundance of food today can lead to a host of problems, including non-communicable diseases of excess, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes (1).
However, despite these dramatic lifestyle and dietary changes, your body is much the same as your earliest ancestors. You still have the same number of limbs and organs. Although you might be cleaner and taller, humans have not fundamentally changed over the last 2.5 million years.
Modern technology means modern life is considerably easier and safer than it was for our ancestors. Still, modern humans are not necessarily healthier than their forebears. There are diseases today that were unheard of a few centuries ago, many of which can be linked directly to modern nutrition and low levels of physical activity.
Such conditions are often called mismatch diseases because they’re caused by environmental changes (diet/physical activity levels) for which our bodies have not evolved.
Interestingly, some nutrition experts believe eating more like our ancestors is the key to long-term health, effortless weight management, and increased longevity. They term this the Ancestral Diet.
In this article, we’ll examine the details, pros, and cons of the Ancestral Diet, helping you decide if it’s the right nutritional program for you.
What is The Ancestral Diet?
First and foremost, it’s essential to note that there wasn’t a single ‘ancestral diet’ (with a lowercase a and d) universally followed by all ancient humans. The food available and the dietary preferences of our ancestors differed significantly based on their geographical locations and the periods they lived in. For instance, the diets of African hunter-gatherers varied greatly from those of European subsistence farmers.
However, many of these diets, varied as they were, shared some underlying similarities. It’s these shared characteristics that have been woven together to form what we now call the Ancestral Diet (capital A, capital D).
For those interested in the Ancestral Diet, it aims to mirror the eating habits of our forebears. This dietary approach underscores the importance of natural, organic, and whole foods while minimizing industrially processed items. It champions foods that could historically be hunted or gathered, with a focus on seasonal and local produce. Today, such foods can be sourced from specialized stores, local markets, or even cultivated in one’s garden. Before considering this dietary shift, it’s prudent to consult with a dietitian.
The Basics of the Ancestral Diet
In simple terms, the Ancestral Diet revolves around eating the foods that were available 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago and before humans transitioned to mass cultivation and farming. They still raised crops, but most populations supplemented their homegrown food with what they could hunt and gather in the wild.
The Ancestral Diet typically includes (2):
- Grass-fed beef
- Free-range chicken
- Wild-caught fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel)
- Free-range or pasture-raised eggs
- Leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale)
- Root vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, carrots)
- Cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower)
- Berries (e.g., blueberries, strawberries)
- Citrus fruits (e.g., oranges, grapefruits)
- Apples, pears, bananas
Beans and Legumes
- Black beans
Nuts and Seeds
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Full-fat yogurt
- Raw milk cheese
- Brown rice
- Oats (soaked or sprouted)
Wherever possible, foods should be obtained locally and seasonally. Foods that have traveled thousands of miles to reach you or have been raised artificially so they’re available all year around are generally not acceptable on the Ancestral Diet. Like a hunter-gatherer, your diet should change according to what’s naturally available throughout the year.
Foods to Avoid or Limit
Eating like your ancestors means that most modern (post 10,000 years BC) foods are considered new foods and off limits. This includes:
- Hot dogs
- Deli meats (e.g., bologna, salami)
- High-fructose corn syrup
- White sugar
- Artificial sweeteners (e.g., aspartame, sucralose)
- White bread
- White rice
- Breakfast cereals
- Potato chips
- Candy bars
- Burgers from fast-food chains
- Fried chicken
- Energy drinks
- Pre-packaged fruit juices
- Foods with “partially hydrogenated oils”
- Processed cheese slices
- Flavored yogurts with added sugar
- Ice cream
Canned or Pre-packaged Foods
- Canned soups with preservatives
- Instant noodles
- Microwaveable meals
- Sugary cocktails
So, in an ancestral nutshell, following the Ancestral Diet involves eating foods you could hunt, gather, raise, or make yourself. If a food isn’t found in nature, your ancestors wouldn’t have eaten it, and you can’t either. Assuming you choose to try the Ancestral Diet, of course!
The Benefits of The Ancestral Diet
Following the Ancestral diet is going to require some effort. Living like your ancient, distant relatives means giving up many modern staples and eating simpler, less processed foods. So, you probably want to know what you get from this deal, right?
These are the main benefits of eating the ancestral way:
Improved Nutrient Intake
The Ancestral Diet focuses on whole foods rich in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. By cutting out processed foods, you’re not just avoiding harmful additives but also making more room for nutrients that can improve your overall health.
Better Weight Management
The foods in the Ancestral Diet are naturally lower in calories but higher in nutrients, making it easier to manage your weight (3). The emphasis on protein and healthy fats can also help regulate your appetite, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases
Many modern diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers have been linked to poor diet and lack of physical activity. The Ancestral Diet, rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods, can help lower the risk of developing these chronic conditions (4).
Enhanced Gut Health
The Ancestral Diet includes a variety of foods that are beneficial for your digestive system or gut, such as fermented foods and fiber-rich vegetables. A healthy gut can improve digestion, boost your immune system, and even enhance your mood (5).
Increased Energy Levels
The absence of processed sugars and carbs in the Ancestral Diet can stabilize your blood sugar levels, leading to sustained energy throughout the day. No more afternoon slumps or sugar crashes to worry about.
Better Mental Clarity
The healthy fats and quality proteins that are staples in the Ancestral Diet help support brain health. This can lead to improved focus, better memory, and even potentially lower the risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety (6).
Ethical and Sustainable Eating
By focusing on grass-fed meats and organic produce, the Ancestral Diet encourages more ethical and sustainable eating practices. This not only benefits you but also has a positive impact on the environment. Less processed foods also means less packaging and waste, and sourcing food locally and seasonally means less carbon emissions.
Simplified Eating Habits
The Ancestral Diet eliminates the need for calorie counting or complicated meal planning. You eat simple, natural foods in their whole form, making grocery shopping and meal preparation straightforward and stress-free.
So, those are the benefits of the Ancestral Diet. Next, we’ll take a look at how the modern diet developed and why returning to ancestral eating could be a good choice.
From Foraging to Fast Food: How Modern Diets Have Evolved
To understand why the Ancestral Diet may be beneficial, it will be useful to explore how human diets have evolved over the last 2.5 million years. Needless to say, this is a very simplified version of a very complex story, so please excuse any shortcuts or omissions!
When humankind first evolved, they got all their food by hunting, gathering, and scavenging. We were opportunists and ate what we could find. Needless to say, food availability varied from location to location and season to season. Events such as the Ice Age also affected what food was available, as some food sources died out and were replaced by others.
As humans evolved, they mastered making and using basic tools to make hunting more efficient and process the foods they gathered more easily. This included things like hard-edged blades, sharp spears, and grinding and pounding tools to make tough foods easier to eat and digest.
The Shift from Nomadic to Settled Life
Gradually, humans transitioned from living in small, nomadic groups to larger, more settled ones. In other words, they started creating static communities not unlike villages. This meant that local areas were soon exhausted of game and picked clean of fruits, vegetables, and so on. As a result, our ancestors had to turn to farming to feed their growing groups. Animals were bred and raised in captivity and used for milk as well as their meat.
Over hundreds of generations, ancient people became less reliant on hunting and gathering and more on producing food locally. This included the introduction of processing grains to make bread, fermenting milk to make cheese and yogurt, and other “modern” changes.
Interestingly, farming also changed. Crops were chosen for maximum yield and raised to be more pest-resistant and fruitful. Crossbreeding meant that new plant varieties emerged, many of which were sweeter as they contained more sugar and less fiber.
Farming also became a specialist job so that a few people fed the many. As such, entire populations could go hungry if a harvest failed. When that happened, as it often did, humans had to go back to hunting and gathering or, more often, simply died out. Yes, life was tough for our ancestors!
The Impact of the Industrial Revolution
Our diets changed most dramatically during the Industrial Revolution at the tail end of the 18th century. By this time, much of the world was living in towns and cities, and the demand for food was very high. Industrialization meant that the emerging food industry could produce food quickly and cheaply to feed the masses.
Mass farming meant crops could be grown quickly, often with help from chemicals like pesticides. Animals were routinely treated with growth hormones and antibiotics to help them survive in terrible conditions on poor diets. These drugs also made the animals grow faster, making them more profitable.
The Modern Diet: A Nutritional Paradox
Fast forward to the 21st century, and a large percentage of foods in our supermarkets are made in factories. They contain large amounts of sugar, salt, chemicals, and other processed ingredients and very little of what humans actually need to be healthy.
Where our ancestors ate fruit, modern humans eat fruit roll-ups, fruit-flavored candies, processed fruit juice, and a host of other foods that didn’t exist even a century or two ago. Many people are more likely to eat potato chips than plain old-fashioned potatoes.
While designed (and necessary) to keep us fed, these changes and interventions mean food quality has decreased even as availability has increased. The modern diet is high in energy but often low in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. As such, even overweight people can suffer diseases caused by malnutrition.
The evolution of human diets over the last 2.5 million years has been a complex journey, transitioning from hunting and gathering to industrialized food production.
While early humans relied on what nature provided, the shift to settled communities led to the advent of farming. Over time, the focus on maximizing yield and feeding growing populations resulted in a diet rich in processed foods but poor in essential nutrients.
The modern diet, although abundant, often lacks the nutritional quality of the diets of our ancestors, leading to a paradox where increased food availability coexists with malnutrition-related diseases.
Keep reading to discover how modern diets could shorten your lifespan and make losing weight and staying lean harder.
The Dangers of the Modern Diet: A Mismatch Made in Heaven
While the modern diet will (and obviously does) keep humans alive for many years, it has many adverse effects. Diseases that were once unheard of or very rare are now common killers. Medical science is getting better at treating and managing these so-called mismatch diseases. Still, not so long ago, many of them didn’t exist.
Some of the diseases and conditions directly attributable to the modern, highly processed, energy-rich diet include (7):
Type 2 Diabetes: This metabolic disorder results in high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. The modern diet, rich in processed sugars and low in fiber, directly contributes to the onset and progression of this disease.
Obesity: A condition characterized by excessive body fat, obesity is often the result of a diet high in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats. It’s a gateway to numerous other health issues.
Fatty Liver Disease: This condition occurs when fat accumulates in the liver, affecting its function. Diets high in processed foods and sugars, particularly fructose, are a leading cause.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): A diet rich in sodium and low in potassium, often found in processed foods, can lead to elevated blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Certain Cancers: Diets high in processed meats and low in fruits and vegetables have been linked to certain types of cancer, including colorectal and breast cancer.
Heart Disease: High levels of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol in the modern diet contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, leading to heart disease.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Believe it or not, our ancestors’ tougher diet actually helped their teeth. The modern diet, full of soft, processed foods, doesn’t provide the jaw exercise needed, leading to impacted wisdom teeth.
Osteoporosis: The modern diet often lacks essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, contributing to weakened bones and the onset of osteoporosis.
Gastrointestinal Issues: Diets low in fiber and high in processed foods can lead to various digestive issues, including constipation, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Autoimmune Diseases: While the link is still being studied, diets high in processed foods and sugars may contribute to inflammation.
The Ancestral Diet eliminates many of the causes of these common mismatch diseases, leaving humans to live and thrive without the illnesses that plague and even shorten modern lives.
However, it’s also important to note that the risk of developing some of these diseases is genetic. That said, those same genes existed a millennium ago. Still, those genes are more likely to express themselves if you eat unhealthily and are overly sedentary.
For example, a family history of type 2 diabetes may increase your risk of developing this disease. However, if you eat healthily, avoid becoming overweight, and exercise, those genes may never have the opportunity to affect your health.
Regardless, the Ancestral diet eliminates some of the most significant risks to your ongoing and future health. So, the question is, are you going to give it a try?
Ancestral vs. Paleo: What’s the Difference?
The Ancestral Diet is not the only diet based on age-old eating practices. Before the Ancestral Diet gained traction, Paleo was the most famous ancient eating plan. Like the Ancestral Diet, Paleo is based on how people are thought to have eaten until about 10,000 years ago.
Paleo is short for Paleolithic, meaning Old Stone Age. However, Paleo enthusiasts believe that the best foods for health and longevity come from hunting and gathering, and don’t believe that our Paleolithic ancestors ate grains, beans, dairy, or any other food that couldn’t be hunted or picked off trees.
However, fans of the Ancestral diet are quick to point out that there is evidence that Paleolithic folk did eat some grains, beans, dairy, etc., as they were opportunistic eaters who would take advantage of any food source. That’s why the Ancestral diet contains a few foods that Paleo does not.
As such, the Ancestral Diet can be viewed as Paleo 2.0 as it takes into account the most recent findings on ancient hunter-gatherer diets and applies them to this eating plan. The benefit of this is that you can eat a wider range of foods, making the Ancestral Diet potentially more flexible and enjoyable than Paleo.
|Feature||Paleo Diet||Ancestral Diet|
|Foods allowed||Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds||Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, some legumes and beans|
|Foods excluded||Grains, dairy, refined sugar, processed foods, legumes and beans||Grains, dairy, refined sugar, processed foods|
|Flexibility||More restrictive, only allows foods that were available to hunter-gatherers||More flexible, allows for some foods that were not available to hunter-gatherers|
Which one is best? That depends on you. The best diet is usually the one that you can stick to. Compare these two diets and consider how easy you’ll find it to follow one or the other. Choose the path of least resistance to make sticking to your new diet as easy as possible.
The Ancestral Diet: How to Get Started
If you’ve made it this far, you are probably considering trying the Ancestral Diet yourself. Follow these steps to make transitioning to this ancient diet as easy as possible.
As humankind’s diet evolved gradually over 2.5 million years, you should introduce Ancestral eating to your diet gradually, too. This will save you from feeling overwhelmed or suffering from cravings. Plus, all that fiber could come as a big shock to your digestive system!
So, start off with a few meals a week, e.g., dinners and snacks, and gradually increase from there. This will be much more sustainable than diving headlong into the Ancestral Diet from the get-go.
The Ancestral Diet is quite regimented, which may make it hard to comply with at times, e.g., when eating out, dining with friends, or during social gatherings. Don’t become tied down by your diet. Instead, make like your ancient ancestors would and do your best with what’s available.
Being moderately compliant is better than quitting. So, do your best, but don’t worry if you have to occasionally eat foods that are not part of the Ancestral Diet.
Have a Plan
As we’ve mentioned, our ancestors were opportunistic hunter-gatherers and occasional farmers. This made it very hard for them to plan what they’d eat from one day to the next. They ate what was available.
We modern folks often struggle with uncertainty and, when faced with a tough decision, will invariably choose the easiest path. With dieting, this usually means the less healthy option.
Because of this, most modern-day folk should follow a more structured eating plan and decide well in advance what they’re going to eat for the day. That way, you can ensure you’ve got the necessary food in your pantry and won’t get caught out without the required ingredients.
Create a weekly menu, so you know what you’re going to eat and when. Then, create a shopping list and gather what you need for the coming week.
Learn to Be A Modern Hunter-Gatherer
Knowing what to eat on the Ancestral Diet is not always easy. After all, there is an abundance of tasty food on those supermarket shelves, much of which looks and sounds healthy and natural, even when it’s not.
Adopting the mindset of a hunter-gatherer will make choosing the right foods much easier. Before buying or eating anything, ask yourself, “Could I catch, kill, pick, or grow this myself?”
Obviously, you’ll have to assume that you have the necessary hunting-gathering skills and know how to grow veggies and fruit in your garden, but the answer should be pretty clear.
For example, yes, you COULD hunt and gather meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. Still, you COULD NOT hunt and gather bagels, candy, potato chips, ice cream, frozen dinners, soda, etc.
Developing your hunter-gatherer mindset will make following the Ancestral Diet much easier, and shopping for food actually becomes kind of fun. However, please leave your spear or bow and arrows at home…
Be Patient, Be Consistent
Transitioning to the Ancestral diet will take time. Initially, you may find the food choices a little limiting. You may not see any benefits to changing your eating habits. Unfortunately, the Ancestral Diet is not a quick-fix eating plan, and its benefits may take several months to become apparent.
So, like a hunter-gatherer out tracking prey, you must learn to be patient and consistent. Don’t give up before this diet starts paying off. In fact, it may take years to see the results of your efforts.
That said, imagine this scenario: Ten years from now, you have no signs of heart disease or type two diabetes. In that case, it’s fair to say your efforts have been well-rewarded.
You’ve now got all the information you need to try the Ancestral Diet for yourself. But, to save you from winging it, the following section contains a sample one-week plan so you can start your new diet immediately.
Ancestral Diet Sample Meal Plans and Shopping Lists
Are you ready to try the Ancestral Diet? Good to hear! Here is a one-week sample menu to follow. Make sure you adjust the quantities to reflect your current body composition goals.
- Breakfast: Eggs with almond flour bread, avocado, and berries.
- Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken or fish, olive oil dressing, and nuts.
- Dinner: Grass-fed beef steak with roasted vegetables and sweet potatoes.
- Snack: Hard-boiled eggs.
- Breakfast: Chia seed pudding with berries and nuts.
- Lunch: Chicken soup with bone broth.
- Dinner: Salmon with wild rice and steamed broccoli.
- Snack: Homemade trail mix.
- Breakfast: Smoothie made with fruits, vegetables, and yogurt
- Lunch: Leftover salmon and wild rice
- Dinner: Pork chops with roasted potatoes and green beans
- Snack: Nuts and seeds.
- Breakfast: Eggs with bacon and vegetables.
- Lunch: Salad with grilled shrimp or tofu, olive oil dressing, and avocado.
- Dinner: Chicken stir-fry with vegetables.
- Snack: Hard-boiled eggs.
- Breakfast: Quinoa with berries and nuts.
- Lunch: Leftover chicken stir-fry.
- Dinner: Lentil soup with vegetables.
- Snack: Homemade trail mix.
- Breakfast: Smoothie made with fruits, vegetables, and pea protein powder.
- Lunch: Salad with grilled steak or lamb, olive oil dressing, and feta cheese.
- Dinner: Fish tacos with cabbage slaw.
- Snack: Nuts and seeds.
- Breakfast: Omelet with vegetables and cheese.
- Lunch: Leftover fish tacos.
- Dinner: Roasted chicken with vegetables.
- Snack: Beef jerky.
Here are some additional tips for following the ancestral diet:
- Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and poultry whenever possible.
- Eat wild-caught fish instead of farmed fish.
- Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and nuts in your diet.
- Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and refined grains.
- Cook with healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.
- Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are a good source of probiotics.
To make things even easier, here’s a shopping list of everything you need for a week on the Ancestral Diet eating plan. Print it or save it on your phone and take it to the store so you don’t forget anything you need.
- Grass-fed beef
- Leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Root vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Other fruits as needed
Nuts and seeds:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Bone broth
- Fermented foods
Here are some additional tips for grocery shopping on the ancestral diet:
- Shop at farmers markets or health food stores whenever possible.
- Look for grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and poultry.
- Choose wild-caught fish instead of farmed fish.
- Buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
- Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and refined grains.
- Look for fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
The Ancestral Diet has the potential to be healthy and help you lose weight, but there are drawbacks, too. These are covered in the following section.
Addressing the Drawbacks of the Ancestral Diet
So far, we’ve focused mainly on the positives of the ancestral diet. However, there are a few drawbacks you need to consider before starting this ancient eating plan. These include:
The modernization of our food supply means that food is widely available and cheap. However, that mainly applies to the foods that are less beneficial to your health. Low-quality calories are less expensive than natural foods.
This is because natural foods are harder to produce. As such, switching to the Ancestral Diet may involve spending more on groceries than you’re used to. To mitigate this, consider buying in bulk or opting for seasonal produce.
2. Limited Food Variety
Eating like your ancient ancestors means giving up many modern-day food staples. In many cases, there are no ancestral alternatives to these foods. As such, you may find there is less variety in the Ancestral Diet than in some other eating plans.
3. Social Challenges
Eating out while following the Ancestral Diet can be challenging, as most restaurant menus cater to modern tastes. Dining with friends and family may be equally hard if they are not fans of ancestral eating. Subsequently, there may be times when following the Ancestral Diet is difficult or even impossible. When dining out, look for restaurants that offer organic or farm-to-table options.
4. Time-Consuming Meal Prep
Modern foods are often engineered to cook fast and provide instant gratification. Most are ready in minutes and may only require a quick blast in the microwave. While not all foods in the Ancestral Diet require lengthy preparation and cooking, many do. So, expect to spend more time prepping and cooking food on the Ancestral Diet. Consider meal prepping on weekends to save time during the week.
5. Nutrient Deficiencies
Like any diet that effectively bans certain foods or food groups, the limiting nature of the Ancestral Diet means you may experience nutrient deficiencies if you do not plan your meals carefully. Nutrients that may be low or missing from the Ancestral Diet include:
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
To avoid these deficiencies, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.
6. Initial Detox/Withdrawal Symptoms
Giving up certain foods may trigger symptoms of detoxification or withdrawal. For example, suppose you are used to consuming large amounts of chemical additives, caffeine, or sugar. In that case, your body will quickly let you know how much it misses these things.
Because of this, the first few weeks of the Ancestral Diet may be uncomfortable, and you could experience fatigue, headaches, and brain fog. However, these symptoms should not be severe and should dissipate pretty quickly.
If you experience these symptoms, consider easing into the diet more gradually.
7. Unsuitability for Certain Medical Conditions
While the Ancestral Diet is generally healthy and could even help manage or prevent numerous mismatch diseases, it’s not suitable for everyone. Speak to your doctor before starting the Ancestral Diet if you suffer from any of the following:
- Celiac Disease
- Certain Food Allergies
- Eating Disorders
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Kidney Disease
- Liver Disease
- Malabsorption Syndromes
- Pancreatic Disorders
- Pregnancy and Lactation
- Type 1 Diabetes
Always consult your healthcare provider before making significant dietary changes, especially if you have pre-existing conditions.
8. Ethical Concerns
Food ethics is a complex subject. Food production has a negative environmental impact, and human and animal welfare is often ignored. The Ancestral Diet is not the worst ethically, but it’s not necessarily the best, either. Ethical concerns of the Ancestral Diet include:
- High Meat Consumption: Environmental Impact
- Animal Welfare Concerns
- Unsustainable Fishing Practices
- Food Accessibility and Social Inequality
- Cultural Appropriation of Indigenous Diets
- Potential for Food Waste
However, compared to a diet high in convenience foods, excess plastic packaging, and food that has to travel thousands of miles, often by air, the Ancestral Diet has the potential to be quite ethical and even good for the planet.
If these ethical concerns are important to you, you may want to consider sustainable and ethical sourcing for your food.
9. Accessibility to Quality Ingredients
While you will be able to buy some of the foods you need for the Ancestral Diet in your local supermarket, some will not be as readily available. You’ll probably need to seek out farmer’s markets and other purveyors of natural foods. In short, like your hunter-gatherer ancestors, you’ll need to put some extra effort into securing the food you need. Planning ahead and sourcing your ingredients can make this transition smoother.
10. Learning Curve
The most common question novice Ancestral Dieters ask is whether they are allowed to eat a particular food. “Is it Ancestral?” is a question you’ll probably get bored of asking!
Going from a conventional diet to the Ancestral Diet requires education, patience, and practice. While it’s not a complicated diet, it is sufficiently different that you will need to arm yourself with some extra nutritional knowledge to follow it correctly. With time and experience, you’ll become more comfortable with the diet’s guidelines.
You now have all the information you need to start and maintain an Ancestral Diet eating plan. Still got questions? No problem! There’s a handy FAQ in the next section.
Related: Liver King Diet and Workout Program
Ready to dive into the Ancestral Diet but still have a few lingering questions? We hear you! Check out this FAQ and clear up any uncertainties you may have.
1. Can I follow the Ancestral Diet if I’m vegetarian or vegan?
Absolutely, with some modifications.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a mixture of animals and plants. In fact, it’s hypothesized that eating meat gave early humans the energy they needed to build bigger brains and develop intelligence. As such, the Ancestral Diet includes meat, fish, eggs, etc., making it an omnivorous diet.
That said, if you are a vegan or vegetarian and don’t eat meat, you can still adopt many of the principles of the Ancestral Diet, such as eating natural, locally sourced foods and avoiding modern processed foods.
However, you must ensure you consume enough plant-based protein and take care to prevent nutritional deficiencies. So, while it’s possible to adapt the Ancestral Diet to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it would require careful planning to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
2. Is intermittent fasting compatible with the Ancestral Diet?
Yes, it’s a natural fit!
Intermittent fasting combines well with the Ancestral Diet. This makes a lot of sense given that our hunter-gatherer forebears often had to go without food until they found something to eat. They had limited food storage capabilities, so if they wanted to eat, they had to spend time and energy seeking out their next meal. As such, fasting was a very common occurrence.
However, if you are new to the Ancestral diet, make sure you are comfortable with that eating plan before combining it with another. Trying to do both diets at the same time may be too much initially.
3. How can I make the Ancestral Diet more budget-friendly?
Buying food for the Ancestral Diet can be expensive, especially compared to modern, mass-produced foods. Ways to make the Ancestral diet more budget-friendly include:
- Batch Cooking: Prepare and freeze meals in advance to take advantage of bulk savings.
- Buy in Bulk: Purchase larger quantities of meat, grains, and vegetables to save money.
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Join a CSA for discounted fresh produce.
- Compare Prices: Use apps or websites to compare grocery prices in your area.
- Decide if Organic Produce is Necessary: Organic food are more expensive than non-organic food. Ask yourself if the benefits of buying organic is worth the additional cost.
- DIY Snacks: Make your own trail mix, jerky, or granola bars to save money.
- Freeze Leftovers: Make larger meals and freeze portions for later.
- Generic Brands: Opt for store brands over name brands for pantry staples.
- Grow Your Own: Start a small herb or vegetable garden to cut costs.
- Limit Specialty Items: Avoid expensive “superfoods” or exotic ingredients.
- Local Farmers Markets: Often cheaper and fresher options than supermarkets.
- Meatless Days: Incorporate one or two plant-based meals per week.
- Plan Meals: Reduce waste by planning meals around what you already have.
- Seasonal Shopping: Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season for lower prices.
- Shop Online: Look for deals and discounts on pantry staples.
- Use All Parts: Utilize all parts of an animal or vegetable to minimize waste.
4. Can I drink alcohol while following the Ancestral Diet?
Alcohol is generally not part of the Ancestral Diet due to its high sugar content and the modern processing methods used to produce it. However, if you do choose to drink alcohol, opt for less processed beverages that contain fewer additives.
Stick to organic wines, gluten-free beers, and spirits like tequila, gin, or vodka made from natural ingredients. Limit your consumption to moderate levels. For men, this means up to two drinks per day, and for women, one drink per day.
Remember, the key is moderation and making mindful choices that align with the principles of the Ancestral Diet.
5. Do I need to count calories on the Ancestral Diet?
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t count calories, yet they were relatively lean. They gained fat when food was abundant and lost weight when food was scarce. This was a natural part of our ancestor’s lives. They were also more physically active than the average Westerner.
So, in theory, provided you eat sensibly and let your appetite guide your food intake, you should be able to achieve your ideal weight without counting calories.
However, a life of eating very calorie-dense foods could mean your appetite is an unreliable indication of how much food you should eat. Even mild hunger could lead to overeating, and you may be unable to tell when you’re full enough to put your knife and fork down.
In this case, counting calories may be helpful, especially if you’re trying to lose weight but not making much progress. However, after a few weeks, you should be much better at reading your appetite and naturally adjusting your food intake. So, while calorie counting isn’t strictly necessary, being mindful of portion sizes can help, especially for those new to the diet.
6. What are some quick and easy Ancestral Diet-friendly snacks?
High-fiber foods with plenty of protein and healthy fats should keep you feeling fuller for longer than most processed foods. However, even on the Ancestral Diet, there may be times when you feel hungry or need a quick and easy energy boost. Here are some healthy snacks fit for your ancient ancestors!
- Apple Slices: Pair with almond butter for added protein.
- Beef Jerky: Opt for grass-fed, if possible, and watch for added sugar.
- Chia Seed Pudding: Made with coconut milk for a dairy-free treat.
- Coconut Chips: Make sure they are unsweetened.
- Dark Chocolate: Choose one that’s at least 70% cocoa and low in sugar.
- Fresh Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries are a sweet and nutritious option.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs: A protein-packed option that’s easy to prepare in advance.
- Mixed Nuts: A handful of almonds, walnuts, or pecans for quick energy.
- Olives: A savory option that’s also high in healthy fats.
- Seaweed Snacks: A crunchy, salty snack that’s also low in calories.
- Sliced Avocado: Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt for flavor.
- Vegetable Sticks: Sliced cucumber, carrots, or bell peppers are great for crunch.
These snacks are not only aligned with the Ancestral Diet but are also convenient for on-the-go lifestyles. Enjoy!
7. How do I handle dining out or social events while on the Ancestral Diet?
Navigating social events and dining out while sticking to the Ancestral Diet can be a bit challenging. Still, it’s definitely doable with some planning and flexibility. Here are some tips:
- Research Ahead: Look up the restaurant menu online to see if there are options that align with the Ancestral Diet. Many places now offer gluten-free, paleo, or farm-to-table options.
- Speak to the Chef or Server: Don’t hesitate to ask how a dish is prepared or if minor substitutions can be made to make it more Ancestral Diet-friendly.
- Opt for Simple Dishes: Grilled meats, salads, and steamed vegetables are usually safe bets. Avoid sauces and dressings that may contain sugar or processed ingredients.
- Be the Planner: If you’re going to a social event, offer to bring a dish that you know fits within the Ancestral Diet guidelines. That way, you know there will be at least one thing you can eat.
- Practice Portion Control: If you find yourself in a situation where the options are limited, opt for smaller portions to minimize the impact of any off-diet foods.
- Don’t Stress: If you find that there are no suitable options, don’t stress. One meal won’t derail your efforts. Just make sure to get back on track with your next meal.
- Enjoy the Experience: Social events are about more than just food. Focus on enjoying the company and the experience.
By being proactive and flexible, you can enjoy social outings without compromising your commitment to the Ancestral Diet.
The Ancestral Diet – Closing Thoughts
Modern foods can make it hard to eat healthily. Foods are often marketed as healthy when they’re anything but. For example, fruit juices and fruit-based snacks, cereal bars, low-fat yogurts, breakfast cereals, and even pre-made salads contain an abundance of sugar and processed fats, both of which can contribute to weight gain and chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
The Ancestral Diet is designed to eliminate these foods from your menu, freeing you from their fattening, health-harming effects. However, such a dramatic shift from modern to ancestral foods can be jarring and won’t be easy for many people.
But, if you can make the transition, the Ancestral Diet has the potential to be healthy and help you achieve and maintain your ideal weight. Moreover, while more research is needed, some studies suggest it could even contribute to a longer life.
The key takeaway here is, the only way to determine if the Ancestral Diet is right for you is to try it. Start gradually introducing more ancestral meals and foods into your lifestyle as you feel ready.
Finally, remember there is no one-size-fits-all diet that’s perfect for everyone. So, feel free to borrow elements of the Ancestral diet and other eating plans to create your ideal approach to nutrition. Ultimately, the best diet will always be the one you enjoy and can stick to.
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