We think of civilisations such as the Incans and the Romans as ancient. But humans have only been living in cities and cultivating crops for a tiny fraction of our existence.
For the vast majority of time anatomically modern humans have been on the face of the earth, we were hunter-gatherers, living a nomadic lifestyle and eating what nature provided for us.
When we look at humans who still live this way today, their diets have several things in common.
- Their diets all include animal protein
- Their diets are seasonal, eating what they can find when it is available
- The majority of their calories come from animals, not plants
- Food can be scarce at some times, and at other times is in incredible abundance. Humans eat what and when we can, taking advantage of every opportunity for calories
- Nothing is wasted.
This is very different to modern Western eating patterns, in which
- We often include no animal protein, or animal products at all
- We often largely ignore the seasons, with almost all foods available almost all year around. Seasonality and locality are virtually irrelevant
- The majority of our calories come from plant products, plant oils and processed plant foods
- Food is incredibly abundant all the time. It is difficult to avoid food and food availability
- Vast amounts of food are wasted.
THE EXPERTS SEEM CONFUSED!
Medical practitioners talk about a “high quality diet” but what this means seems to vary according to eat “expert”. Some experts seem to push a plant-only diet (which historical humans have never eaten!), while others seem to advocate no change from modern, disease-causing dietary habits at all.
Little of it seems to make a lot of sense!
RETURN TO EVIDENCE, HISTORY AND COMMON-SENSE
This is why I think it makes sense to throw out modern trends and fashionable diets, and instead look at ancient evidence, backed up by millennia of historical human eating patterns.
If we look at the evidence of history, a healthy eating pattern clearly:
- Includes a majority of calories from unprocessed animal sources, ideally local. This includes whole animal products such as offal, high fat cuts, skin and bone products (marrow). Choose cheaper and fattier, rather than lean and expensive, cuts of meat.
- Include seasonal greens, fruits, nuts and herbs. Grow a garden if you can. Eat edible peels / skins and stalks.
- Avoid all processed plant oils. Instead cook with hard animal fats, locally sourced if possible.
- Make fasting a part of your lifestyle, mimicking feast / famine cycles of natural living.
- Waste nothing. Compost leftovers or, if possible, keep chickens to dispose of food that cannot be consumed. Then eat old / spent chickens once their laying cycle is ended.
Over coming posts, I’ll talk more about great meal options that are healthy and affordable, and ways to eat well even when you’re unavoidably eating out with friends at junkfood chains.