The concept of ancestral diets, which encourages people to replicate the food choices of our prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors, has gained popularity in recent years. The most well-known variation of this is the paleo diet, which advocates for the consumption of lean meats, seafood, fruits, and vegetables, while avoiding grains and processed foods. However, some experts question the validity and benefits of these diets.
When examining ancient human diets, researchers analyze fossil and archaeological records to gain insights into the eating habits and health of our ancestors. Tools used for eating, animal bones with marks from butchery, tooth enamel analysis, and changes in brain size are all valuable indicators. However, there is a major misunderstanding about ancestral diets, according to Fran Dorey, the Head of Exhibitions at the Australian Museum. She explains that there is no one Palaeolithic diet, as the human diet during that period was incredibly diverse, depending on factors such as location and the availability of food.
One aspect of ancestral diets that raises concerns is the consumption of raw meat and unpasteurized dairy. A/Prof. Sara Grafenauer, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and researcher, emphasizes that unpasteurized dairy is not easily accessible or safe for consumption by ordinary consumers. Additionally, the popularity of liver in ancestral diets raises a red flag due to its high Vitamin A content, which can be toxic in large amounts.
Furthermore, our bodies have evolved alongside our changing lifestyles, meaning that excluding “farmed” foods like grains and dairy is not necessary. There have been significant genetic mutations that have occurred across the planet, impacting our ability to digest milk and wheat. Research shows that grains can be digested by modern humans and bring significant health benefits, including the prevention of diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.
In conclusion, while ancestral diets may have elements that align with healthy eating guidelines, it is essential to recognize that the notion of a singular Palaeolithic diet is a misconception. Our bodies have evolved, and excluding certain foods may not be necessary or beneficial. Balanced and evidence-based approaches to nutrition, such as incorporating whole grains and consuming a variety of foods, are crucial for overall health and well-being.
– Head of Exhibitions at the Australian Museum, Fran Dorey
– Accredited Practising Dietitian and researcher, A/Prof. Sara Grafenauer