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Clues Your Ancestors Could Provide (about the best diet for you)

Posted Mar 29 2011 3:07am
After a few years in nutrition counselling, I’ve come to the conclusion that textbooks aren’t always the best source of dietary advice. Sometimes it’s your ancestors.  Often, the diet that best suits you is the one that your ancestors ate many generations ago, when we lived on what was grown and caught locally.

Look back even further. As man began to populate the earth, we were widely dispersed, so there wasn’t the opportunity to import exotic foods, mostly. Life remained this way for thousands of years, and our genes slowly adapted so that we could thrive on the food in that area. As our societies developed we began to travel more easily, inhabit new lands and meet people from other cultures. Our ability to travel has grown enormously, and our diet has changed faster than our genes can adapt.

I’ve noticed that people often do best on the diet their ancestors ate. For example –

-          People of Mediterranean descent seem to do well on a diet rich in vegetables, legumes, seafood, olives and some red wine.

-          People of Asian descent thrive on a diet high in seafood, vegetables, rice and soy, and not so well on a western diet high in grains, dairy and sugar.


-          Are you of Celtic origin? A seafood, meat, vegetable, fruit and nut diet may suit you with just a little grain.


-          If you have descended from a hunter-gatherer society, a diet high in game meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts may suit you better, with almost no grains or dairy.


-          If you are lucky enough to be descended from the French, it seems you can eat whatever you like with impunity! The ‘French Paradox’ question: why French people do so well on a diet that includes plenty of pastries, cheese and wine, has been studied rigorously by scientists. We still don’t know the answer. I wish we did.

There’s a common theme running through all the diet groups though – an absence of sugar in the vast quantities we tend to eat it in today, and an absence of processed food.  Here’s an interesting exercise: Next time you’re in the supermarket, imagine one of your ancestors is with you. Would he or she recognise the food you’re buying? If not, is that food really good for you?

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