Something Old is the New “New”

Ancient diets are really nothing new. But new information about those diets is turning some of our conventional wisdom on its ear.

A couple of months ago, I picked up a copy of Time magazine with the cover emblazoned with “Eat Butter. Scientists’ labeled fat as the enemy. Why they were wrong.”

This isn’t meant as a green light to go order the Super-Sized Meal Deal with extra French fries. But it’s a recognition that good nutrition requires a little historical perspective. Way-back historical perspective.

Our bodies didn’t evolve to eat Cheetos and drink sodas with high fructose corn syrup. For the majority of time in human evolution, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. Discovering how to cultivate crops, and to start processing items like grain and sugar occurred relatively recently in our evolutionary history.

According to one study, products like cereals, sugars, refined vegetable oils and other items that comprise more than 72% of the calories we consume weren’t even in our diets before farming began. According to that study, as these foods gradually displaced the minimally processed wild plant and animal foods in hunter-gatherer diets, dietary problems began to arise.

This subject became the topic of dinner conversation with some friends and family a few weeks back.

“The diets of cave men couldn’t have been too healthy. After all, they generally didn’t live past 30,” one of my in-laws said.

“That’s true,” I replied. “And a lot of soldiers in World War II died while eating a diet of K-Rations. The K-Rations weren’t the cause of death.  Cave men had a fairly short lifespan because of a number of factors. Dietary health wasn’t one of them.”

We don’t need to grab a club and start chasing wild game through the local park. But adopting a diet of simple foods produced without synthetic pesticides, and meat without hormones and antibiotics, is a good place to start.

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