Ancestral Eating: What Are the Health Benefits?
The Paleo Diet: How to Eat Like Your Ancestors
By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
July 22nd, 2019
Go to any doctor appointment and you’re likely to fill out a form inquiring about your family's health history. Modern medicine has conditioned us to believe that much of our health is already decided for us with our inherited genetics.
We’re told that it all “runs in our family” and that it’s primarily our genes that dictate whether or not we will develop chronic disease.
But do these chronic diseases really run in our families? Or do our families just sit around the same dinner table, eating the same foods, moving the same way, and thinking the same thoughts?
Science is proving more and more that our health challenges are not so much dictated by our genes, but by our environment and our deviation from living the life we were truly designed for.
Diet and Gene Expression
Our genes are like the instruction manual that tells each body how to operate. Most of us have been led to believe that we have no control over the genes that are passed on from our parents.
But science has found that our genes are not quite that simple.
While it’s true that we don’t have any control over our genetic material, it’s now known that your genes get turned on and off and are expressed to a greater or lesser degree depending on your lifestyle.1
One of the most powerful lifestyle factors that have a direct influence on gene expression is dietary choices, which regulate gene expression through a number of complex mechanisms.2
What a Scientist Learned from Disease Free Tribes
A study conducted by Weston A. Price is a testament to the power of diet and lifestyle in regulating gene expression and the contraction of chronic diseases thought to be primarily genetic. In his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,” he details his findings after spending much of the early 1930’s traveling the world and learning about the dietary practices among primitive people across the globe.
This was a pivotal time, as there were still tribes left to study that were untouched by Western civilization. His records were extensive in comparing the health of natives who had continued with their traditional ways of eating versus those that had deviated from their natural diets.
Price identified some 16 diverse cultures whose traditional diets varied greatly depending on where they lived and what foods were available. Some groups, such as the Eskimos, ate diets high in fats and protein, while other groups such as the Quetchus Indians of South America, ate a small amount of meat and mainly plant-based foods.
Price was amazed to find these primitive cultures to have robust health and excellent physiques and were virtually disease-free. In all his 36 years of contact with these people, he had never seen a case of malignant disease among a truly primitive culture.
Interestingly, Price also saw virtually no heart disease, diabetes, or cancer among these civilizations. In fact, the most feared disease in the world at that time was tuberculosis which was non-existent with these people. Some cultures did not even have a word for “depression.”
On the flip side, he found that all of the “diseases of civilization” frequently occurred when these primitive cultures became modernized and started eating a “white man’s diet” consisting of refined and processed foods.
So What Did Our Ancestors Eat?While the diets of the primitive cultures studied by Price varied significantly, they did share several underlying characteristics, including:
- NO processed, refined, or denatured foods
- All consumed animal products
- All had high levels of nutrients and enzymes
While we can not know for certain the exact diet our ancestors followed, our knowledge of human history and study of primitive cultures gives us a pretty clear idea of the type of diet we evolved to eat. It is safe to say that our ancestors did not subsist on the kinds of foods that line most of our grocery store shelves. To truly give our bodies the tools they need to thrive, we must get back to our roots and approach our diets from a different perspective.
What Is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a set of dietary principles based on what our Paleolithic ancestors ate—which is why it has also been dubbed “the Caveman Diet.” Our ancestors lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and evolved to not only survive but thrive on a diet consisting of a variety of whole, natural foods.
Our modern-day, highly-processed diet is rather recent in human history, and it has taken a toll on our health. The Paleo diet aims to replace the processed and preserved food choices of the modern world, and replace them with the food choices similar to our ancestors.
Even as the Paleo diet is modeled after what our ancestors ate and what our bodies evolved to thrive on, the scientific rationale behind Paleo truly comes from what modern-day science says is best for our bodies.
What Are the Benefits of the Paleo Diet?
The benefits of the Paleo diet are quite impressive. Since it is based on modern-day science, there are thousands of studies that support the efficacy of the Paleo diet in improving overall health, preventing disease, and even reversing the effects of many chronic and deadly diseases. Some of the most notable benefits of the Paleo diet include:
- Weight loss
- Reduced risk of heart disease 3,4
- Reduced risk of cancer 5
- Improvement of symptoms in autoimmune disorders (Read more about the autoimmune Paleo diet here) 6,7
- Restored insulin sensitivity and improvement in the management of type 2 diabetes 8,9,10
- Reduction of triglycerides and improved cholesterol levels 11
- Lower blood pressure 12
What Can I Eat on the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet focuses on consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods in their most natural form. Paleo-approved foods include:
- Vegetables of all kinds (corn doesn’t count as a veggie)
- All fruit
- Quality meat including organ meats (preferably grass-fed, and pasture-raised meats when possible)
- Fish and shellfish (preferably wild-caught)
- Nuts, nut butters, and seeds (peanuts are considered a legume and are not considered Paleo)
- Healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, fatty cuts of meat/fish, avocados)
- Probiotic and fermented foods (kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, coconut milk yogurt)
- Herbs and spices
- Natural sweeteners, such as honey or blackstrap molasses (consume in moderation to minimize sugar intake)
Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet
Following the Paleo diet means cutting out certain food groups that our bodies did not evolve to thrive on, such as:
- Refined and processed foods
- Grains and pseudo-grains (this includes cereal grains like wheat, rye, corn, and barley, as well as pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat)
- Legumes (although legumes with edible pods are okay)
Refined oils (vegetable oils, such as canola oil, safflower oil, or corn oil)
Refined sugars (high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown rice syrup)
- Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, etc.)
Following a Paleo Lifestyle
The word “diet” is often used when discussing a temporary restriction of foods in an attempt to lose weight or achieve some other goal. But when it comes to the Paleo diet, the word “diet” simply refers to the types of foods you eat on a regular basis. The Paleo diet is not meant to be a short term stint of self-deprivation; it’s designed to be a way of life.
Following a Paleo lifestyle doesn’t just encompass the foods you eat either. Maintaining a lifestyle that resembles our ancestors as close as possible is the best way to experience health and vitality. On top of following a Paleo diet, some ways to embody a Paleo lifestyle include:
- Getting adequate and quality sleep
- Managing stress
- Making time for exercise and movement every day
- Prioritizing meaningful connection and spending time with others
The Paleo diet and lifestyle are a set of principles based on extensive scientific and nutritional research to support optimal overall health. And it is designed to be flexible and sustainable so you can maintain your health for your entire life.
Are You Ready to Take Your Health to the Next Level?
Adopting a Paleo diet and lifestyle is hands down one of the most effective ways to optimize your health. But while living life in a way that mimics our ancestors sets the foundation for optimal health, the truth is we are fighting an uphill battle.
With modern day agricultural practices, ever-increasing toxins, and the stressful demands of everyday life, we must be proactive in giving our bodies the support they need to be healthy. That is why we created our Native Path line of supplements—to give you a leg up when it comes to becoming the healthiest version of yourself.
Each and every one of our supplements is backed by scientific research and sourced from the highest quality ingredients. Our Native Nutrients, NativePath Collagen, NativePath Antarctic Krill, and NativePath Probiotic are all on our best seller’s list.
And if you want to learn more about the Paleo diet and how your diet can impact your health, check out these articles for some additional reading:
- Why is Everyone Sick? 3 Ways Our Modern Diet is the Cause
- 6 Benefits of the Paleo Diet: Your Ultimate Guide to Success
- Paleo & Leaky Gut: How to Know, What to Do
Here at NativePath, we are on a mission to help you discover the exact way of eating, thinking, and moving that is right for YOU. If you’re ready to take your health to the next level and truly thrive the way that nature intended, sign up for our free weekly newsletter. Our best and most valuable tips are delivered straight to your inbox each week. Just enter your name and email address below!