How to Eat

March 2009

Ran Prieur, on eating things our bodies have adapted to:

What Your Ancestors Ate is Good for You. […] Your ancestors did not eat plastic, or donuts, or many of the "foods" that fill industrial-age supermarkets.

There are several schools of ancestral eating. I lean toward the Weston Price diet, which includes foods from our pastoral and agrarian ancestors: milk and meat from animals raised in pastures, and whole grains that have been either sprouted or fermented. […]

The Paleolithic diet goes farther back, excluding grains, legumes, and dairy, and permitting fruit, vegetables, roots, non-grain seeds, and lean meat. Raw foodists go farther yet, excluding a million years of ancestral adaptation to cooking. I like raw foods but wouldn't eat that way all the time. A raw food diet is a mentally easy way to cut out processed foods and get a short term improvement in health, but people who follow it strictly for years get malnourished.

— Ran Prieur, How to Eat Better

KT commented:

Man, do I have to choose between grains and vegetables to be authentic? That sucks.

KT commented:

Good article though :) Pleasingly common-sensish. I'm getting the feeling that it's going to take a while to implement all these things, even just for myself. At the moment I'm concentrating on working from raw ingredients, thinking about what I can make myself rather than buying pre-made, minimising processed crap, and finding ways to use what I have. Next step will be taking more care about where my ingredients are coming from, and hopefully producing more of them myself. I think I've made quite a lot of progress and have a long way to go.

Nato commented:


Common sense isn't always a reliable guide... e.g. Just because we evolved eating such foods, doesn't imply that we couldn't get a balanced diet, or indeed, a better diet elsewhere. Evolution is a blunt instrument, and made us in such a way that we survived pretty well on those diets. That diets were not created for us to match our every need, we were made to survive, and that diet was what we used to survive. I also note that over the past hundred years human health has improved, as we have moved away from our ancestral foods, to a more balanced diet, as illustrated to the relative decrease in the amount of nutritional deficits we see these days - scurvy is now a thing of urban legend. Yes, it has taken a recent downturn, but that's another story. Wind the clock back a couple of years, yes, but not a million years...

Fluoride. This guy has got it wrong. Fluoride doesn't operate by killing microbes in the mouth, but operates in equilibrium in the mouth, increasing the amount of dentin deposited on the teeth, which keeps the teeth hard and cavity resistant. Further, the levels of fluoride in water are not a health hazard, and this has been demonstrated empirically. There are heaps of substances that are toxic if we ingested them in larger amounts, say 10g, but in microscopic amounts is fine. Fluoride is one.

It's a pity when a source dilutes sound advice with a misunderstanding of science...

Fraser commented:

Updated today:

"I changed the fluoride section because it turns out the way that fluoride helps teeth is much more complex than killing tooth bacteria. Of course it still only works when applied topically, and you should never drink it."

KT commented:

Sure, the idea is a little romanticised, but for me, that works better in real life than counting nutrients, which is too cold-hearted to keep me interested, so I'm unlikely to succeed. I need a concept to latch onto - preferably one that's simple and elegant. The fact that this is a scheme with a certain aesthetic pleasing-ness about it (feeling like I'm part of human history and not a machine) gives me the kick-start I need, and I'm pretty sure one couldn't go far wrong following these general ideas.

I don't think he's really advocating 'going back' to any particular ancestral diet - just saying that thinking in terms of humanity's history is a decent way to get out of the 'food comes from plastic packets in the supermarket' mentality. His list of good foods at the end doesn't match any of the diets he outlines at the top, and includes some relatively recent innovations.

Nato commented:

Fluoride: Nice to see he's changed it, but I'd still say it has a therapeutic effect in very small amounts (below a toxic level), and doesn't need to be applied topically, it's about effecting the biochemistry in our saliva. But anyway...

I mostly agree with his getting away from over produced products, and getting more in touch with what we're eating. I also should mention that I'm happy he mentioned that it's not OK to accept a product that claims it's organic, and often better just to buy from local small farms.

Jim commented:

There are several schools of ancestral eating.

ewwwwww -
"we had grandma for dinner last night- She was kind of stringy"