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Ancestral Diet - What is it and What Are the Benefits?

Ancestral Diet - What is it and What Are the Benefits?

What is an Ancestral Diet

So, what is an ancestral diet? Put simply; it is a diet based on the foods our ancestors consumed. This can be confusing as people from different regions consumed different foods. Those living close to the sea may have consumed more seafood, while those living inland may have eaten more red meat. However, despite the differences in types of food, all ancestral diets are bound by some common qualities:

  • Natural foods
  • Whole foods
  • Non-GMO foods
  • Foods free from industrialised processes
  • Diet comprised of meats, dairy, vegetables and fruits
  • Organ meats were commonplace
  • Nutrient-rich/nutrient-dense

What Foods are in an Ancestral Diet?

Unlike other diets, there is no single ancestral diet. It doesn't restrict food groups (like vegan/vegetarian diets), nor does it prescribe a specific macronutrient (fat, protein and carbohydrate) breakdown (like keto diets). According to Price Pottenger, the following foods are found in an ancestral diet:

  • Grass-fed and pastured meats and poultry
  • Wild-caught seafood
  • Raw and organic dairy (from cows, goats, or sheep)
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.)
  • Ancient grains
  • Some legumes and beans
  • Unrefined oils (olive, avocado, coconut)
  • Animal fats (tallow, lard, etc.)

Ancestral Diet vs Modern Diet

The key difference between an ancestral and a modern diet is the presence of modern, industrialised processes and ingredients in food creation. An ancestral diet comprises whole foods free from industrialised methods and ingredients. In contrast, the modern diet features foods that contain synthetic ingredients and are made via industrial processes. This is evident in most supermarkets, where most of the food on shelves is processed. The modern diet is characterised by the following:

  • High in sugar
  • High in synthetic oils
  • Contains preservatives
  • Captains artificial flavours
  • Contains artificial colours
  • Contains artificial sweeteners
  • High in empty carbohydrates
  • Low in (healthy) fat and protein
  • Not nutrient-rich


Is an Ancestral Diet a Paleo Diet?

An ancestral diet and a paleo diet are very similar; however, they are not the same. Both the ancestral diet and paleo diet promote the consumption of nutritionally-rich foods like animal meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts; however, they differ in one key area. As the name suggests, a paleo diet promotes foods that were available to hunter-gatherers in prehistoric, Palaeolithic times. On the other hand, an ancestral diet promotes foods consumed by our direct ancestors before the industrialisation of the food chain (approximately 200-500 years ago).

The issue many take with the paleo diet is that most foods consumed during prehistoric times are no longer available for consumption. Foods that fall under the umbrella of ancestral diet are more readily available (despite supermarkets being dominated by modern foods).

Is an Ancestral Diet the Same as a Keto Diet?

Again, an ancestral diet and a keto diet are very similar and often overlap; however, they are not identical. The premise of the ketogenic diet is to utilise fat as the body's primary energy source instead of carbohydrates and glucose, which promotes a state of ketosis. Most ancestral diets echo this ideology as our ancestors derived most of their calories from animal products. Thus, fat (derived from animal products) was traditionally the body's primary energy source.

But while a keto diet is very prescriptive regarding macronutrient breakdown and low carbohydrate consumption, an ancestral diet is not necessarily bound by the same rules.

What are the Benefits of an Ancestral Diet?

The benefits of an ancestral diet lie in avoiding processed, unhealthy foods that are commonplace in the modern diet. When you follow an ancestral diet, you avoid; sugar, empty carbohydrates, synthetic oils and artificial ingredients responsible for so much of the chronic disease and illness we see in modern society.

Another benefit of an ancestral diet is that they are typically high in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates. A high-fat diet is particularly beneficial for health as it assists the body in absorbing essential vitamins and minerals. One of the most nutritionally important vitamins, Vitamin K2, is fat-soluble - meaning sufficient dietary fat is required for the body to absorb and utilise it. The same is true of vitamins A and D.

The Benefits of Ancestral Eating

Some of the tangible, quantifiable benefits of an ancestral diet are as follows.


Improving Body Composition / Fat Loss

Ancestral diets are free from the sugary and carbohydrate-rich processed foods responsible for much of the obesity and poor body composition we see in modern society. Because ancestral diets are nutrient-dense, they are also more satiating - meaning fewer calories need to be consumed. Thus, by following an ancestral diet, you could expect to lose fat, gain muscle and improve body composition.

Improved Gut Health

An ancestral diet promotes foods that are better for digestion and microbiome diversity. Foods like sugars, refined flours and refined oils that are part of the modern diet are responsible for much of the poor gut health we see in modern society. By following an ancestral diet, you could expect to improve gut health.

Reducing Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a primary catalyst for diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease and arthritis. Sugar, refined carbohydrates and oils are all inflammatory and responsible for chronic inflammation. By following an ancestral diet, you avoid inflammatory foods and reduce inflammation.

Alleviating Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that co-occur and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar and excess body fat (obesity). Metabolic syndrome is driven by mitochondrial dysfunction, which results from the overconsumption of sugar. By following an ancestral diet, you are reducing sugar consumption which can help to reverse metabolic syndrome.

Improving Quality of Life

Following an ancestral diet will generally aid the improvement of health and wellbeing, thus improving the quality (and perhaps longevity) of one's life.

Is an Ancestral Diet Good For You?

Yes. An ancestral diet is generally good for you as it will tend to be far more nutrient-rich than a modern diet. However, it is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all answer regarding a diet. Everyone is biochemically unique, and the best diets are formulated according to your body chemistry.

The benefit of evaluating body chemistry when considering diet is that you can account for imbalances in nutrients and vitamins specific to you. Doing this will ensure your diet meets your exact nutritional requirements and will allow you to achieve optimal health.

Our Thoughts on an Ancestral Diet

We generally extoll the virtues of an ancestral diet. An ancestral diet will almost certainly be better for you than following the government-prescribed food pyramid or any other diet (such as vegan and vegetarian). An ancestral diet will typically be far more nutrient-dense than these diets, as it won't feature empty carbohydrates and processed foods.

However, we do place one caveat on the ancestral diet; that it does not consider your exact vitamin and mineral needs as per your biochemical makeup. This is why we always advocate for following a diet based on your blood chemistry. Click here to learn more about blood chemistry and how we tailor an eating plan to your specific needs.


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