An ancestral or traditional diet is one that is biologically and genetically appropriate for the human species and is essential for achieving optimal health. Those who follow traditional diets believe that humans are no different to other animals that also need to eat an evolutionary appropriate diet. For example, since cows were domesticated some 10,000 years ago their four chambered stomachs have evolved to primarily eat grass or conserved forage made from grass. Similarly humans need to eat the foods that they have evolved to thrive on.
A number of different health and nutrition movements have become extremely popular. These are generally based on a version or derivation of the human ancestral diet. All are founded on the same principle that a real, whole, nutrient dense, ancestral diet is the foundation for optimum human health.
The Paleo (or ‘Caveman’) diet is based upon every day modern foods that mimic the food groups of our Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer and pre-agricultural ancestors.
The Paleo dietary approach can be summed up as: Eat meat, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, bulbs, herbs and spices as well as some fruit. Eat fats from healthy animals that eat their genetically appropriate diet (e.g. 100% grassfed beef), coconut and some from avocados and olives. Avoid sugar, cereal grains, grain and seed derived oils, legumes (such as beans) and soy. Drink water.
Compared against a standard western diet, the quantities of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial micronutrients are significantly higher, whilst the numbers of anti-nutrients are vastly reduced.
2. The Primal Blueprint
This is an holistic approach pioneered by Mark Sisson and encompasses all aspects of health and wellness, such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, play, stress management and sun exposure. In Mark Sisson’s words:
“Our ancestors evolved over millions of years under certain environmental conditions. These conditions (the foods they ate, the amount of sun they got, the sort of movement that was required of them to survive, etc.) shaped their genome. While the world has changed in innumerable ways in the last 10,000 years the human genome has changed very little and thus only thrives under similar conditions.”
The nutritional element is very similar to the Paleo diet with particular emphasis being placed on 100% pasture raised / grassfed meat and animal products. There is often an inclusion of full-fat raw dairy for those able to tolerate it. There is also a lower carbohydrate emphasis with most people being advised to keep their total carbohydrate content to between 100-150g a day. Subsequently, the balance of calories needs to be made up from healthy fats. There is also the suggestion that intermittent fasting (comfortably going without food for a period of 16-48 hours every so often) could be beneficial for some people when they are adapted to burning fat as a fuel source.
3. The Weston A. Price Foundation
The Weston A Price foundation is an organisation set up in the US in 1999 to promote and disseminate the nutritional research of Dr. Weston A. Price. They have a network of Chapters throughout the world that help local people to locate real, whole and nourishing foods.
Their dietary guidelines are summarised here:
HEALTHY REAL AND WHOLE FOODS TO ENJOY
- Pasture-raised / 100% grassfed meats, dairy and eggs
- Butter, cream and whole raw milk from pasture-fed animals
- Organ meats, such as liver- Wild fish, shellfish and fish roe
- Organic vegetables and fruits
- Traditional lacto-fermented foods
- Healthy lacto-fermented drinks
- Homemade bone broths/stocks
- Properly prepared whole grains and traditional sourdough breads
- Unrefined salt
UNHEALTHY ‘FOODS’ TO AVOID
- Low-fat and fat-free products
- Modern soy foods
- Pasteurised, homogenised dairy
- Processed vegetable oils, margarines and trans fats
- Artificial sweeteners and additives
- Fast foods and soft drinks
- Refined sugar, sweeteners and fruit juices
- White flour products
- Factory-raised meats and farm-raised fish
The main differences between this and the other approaches on this page, e.g. Paleo, are the inclusion of traditionally prepared grains and pulses (i.e. they are soaked, sprouted or fermented and cooked) and also raw dairy from grassfed animals.
4. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation
The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, originally known as the Weston A. Price Memorial Foundation, is non-profit education foundations who have been teaching people how to maintain optimal diet for over 60 years. Their nutritional message is very similar to the Weston A. Price Foundation, such as recommending 100% grassfed beef and lamb, as they also base their advice on the work of Dr. Price. However, they also incorporate additional evidence from Dr. Pottenger whose scientific research, which corroborates that of Dr. Price, showed that animals enjoying traditional diets containing raw and unprocessed meats and milk were stronger, more active, disease free and socially well-adjusted. The mission of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation is:
“To teach the public and professionals about foods, lifestyle habits, healing modalities, and environmental practices that can help people attain vibrant health. The Foundation is committed to being a leading resource for the work of Weston A. Price, DDS, Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD, and others who have discovered the underlying causes of disease and degeneration and how to prevent or reverse these conditions.”
5. The Bulletproof Diet
The Bulletproof diet initially looks very similar to the Paleo diet, however the founder, Dave Asprey states that it came about from extensive research into biochemistry and human performance. The Bulletproof diet focuses on maximising food quality and seeks to minimise the exposure to toxins and harmful substances. In a similar way to the Primal Blueprint guidelines, it is also a lower carbohydrate approach and places particular emphasis on consuming a large proportion of calories from healthy fats. There is also a recommendation for Bulletproof intermittent fasting, similar to intermittent fasting but includes Bulletproof coffee in the morning, for those seeking improvements in body composition and mental performance.
14 Steps To Eating The Bulletproof Diet (from Bulletproofexec.com):
- Eliminate sugar (including fruit juices and sports drinks that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, honey, and agave).
- Replace the sugar calories with healthy fats from the Bulletproof Diet such as grass-fed butter, ghee, Brain Octane™,Upgraded™ MCT oil, or coconut oil.
- Eliminate gluten in any shape or form. This includes bread, cereal, and pasta. Do not make the mistake of resorting to gluten free junk food, which can be almost as bad.
- Remove grains, grain derived oils, and vegetable oils such as corn, soy, and canola. Also remove unstable polyunsaturated oils such as walnut, flax, and peanut oil.
- Eliminate all synthetic additives, colorings, and flavorings. This includes aspartame, MSG, dyes, and artificial flavorings.
- Eat significant amounts of pastured, grassfed meat from big ruminant animals such as beef, lamb, and bison. Pair this with fish, eggs, and shellfish.
- Eliminate legumes such as peanuts, beans, and lentils. If you must have your beans, soak, sprout (or ferment), and cook them.
- Remove all processed, homogenized, and pasteurized dairy. High fat items can be pasteurized, but they should be grassfed. Full fat, raw, whole dairy from grassfed cows is okay for most people.
- Switch to grassfed meat and wild caught seafood. Eat pastured eggs and some pork, chickens, turkeys, and ducks.
- Switch to organic fruits and vegetables. This is more important for some plants than others. See this site for details.
- Cook your food gently, if at all. Incorporate water into your cooking whenever possible and use low temperatures. Do not use a microwave or fry.
- Limit fruit consumption to 1-2 servings per day. Favor low fructose containing fruits like berries and lemons over watermelon and apples.
- Add spices and other flavorings from the Bulletproof Diet. Favor herb based spices such as thyme and rosemary over powders. Use high quality ones, recently opened.
- Enjoy your food.
6. The Perfect Health Diet
The Perfect Health Diet is another evolution of the Paleo diet and came about through the co-creator, Paul Jaminet Ph.D’s search to cure his own chronic-health problems. The picture below is a very helpful guide to their recommendations. Meat from grassfed ruminants is implicit in their recommendation for ‘Low omega-6 meats’ as explained in our Grassfed for health section. Key differences when compared to the first version of the Paleo diet are the introduction of ‘safe-starches’, such as potatoes, plantains and white rice. The latest iterations of the Paleo diet now seem to have incorporated this concept into their framework as well, especially for athletes post-workout.
7. Slow Food
“Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”
We believe everyone should have access to good, clean and fair food.
Since its beginnings, Slow Food has grown into a global movement involving millions of people, in over 150 countries.
Slow Food believes that the way meat is currently produced in the intensive system is unsustainable, with detrimental effects on the environment, human health, animal welfare and the small-scale farmers who are trying to do something different. They are very much in alignment with the grassfed philosophy and plan to launch a Slow Meat campaign in the UK, following the success of a similar venture in the US.
They have a number of recommendations for what consumers can do to improve the situation with respect to the worlds supply of good, clean and fair meat:
- Eat less meat and better meat
- Choose meat produced with high animal welfare standards and avoid meat from industrial farms
- Pay attention to price: overly cheap meat is often a sign of animal and environmental exploitation. Pay a fair price for quality
- Opt for local small-scale farmers of native breeds
- Choose different species. In Europe, for example, the market demands primarily pork and poultry, leading farmers to intensively produce just a few species. Choosing different animals and breeds helps lighten this pressure.
- Choose different cuts. Cattle are not just made up of steaks. The parts we don’t buy often end up as waste and wasted meat leads to the demand for more and more animals to be farmed.
- Push your representatives and policy makers to rethink agricultural policies, providing incentives for sustainable, higher welfare farming that uses local breeds, supplies local markets and discourages the intensive model of agriculture
PHYSICAL FITNESS AND NATURAL MOVEMENT
Correct nutrition through an ancestral diet, is key to achieving optimum human health and physical capacity. However, this is only one critical aspect of the whole health picture, there are many other equally import factors such as: sleep, play, being outside, managing stress, pleasure and connection and also movement and exercise.
Natural human movement
Just as our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a more biologically and genetically appropriate diet, they also moved in a more biologically and genetically appropriate way because they had to in order to sustain life. Whether it was finding, capturing and collecting food and water, building a shelter, or moving location, there was constant lifelong movement at the core of their lives.
The modern day interpretation of natural human movement
Just as there are now a number of dietary and nutritional approaches that are guiding us back to an ancestral diet there are also a number of movement paradigms and philosophies that are encouraging us to start moving in a more real, functional and natural way. The fascinating thing is that most of these physical approaches are intertwined with the ancestral nutritional recommendations we have already mentioned, so it is usually a similar type of person who will see the many benefits of 100% grassfed beef as well as the innumerable benefits of natural movement.
What follows are a number of popular fitness trends that encourage their communities to follow ancestral diets and consume grassfed meats. Chalk Valley would also like to point out that many of the international level athletes are using grassfed meat, including but not limited to the England rugby team, Saracens rugby team and GB rowers.
CrossFit is a fitness programme designed to give participants the broadest fitness base possible. The CrossFit prescription is “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement”, in order to prepare anyone and everyone for the unknown and unknowable. They define ‘functional’ as real-life natural movements such as: squatting, putting an object over-head, pushing, climbing, pulling, picking something up, swimming, running and jumping. These movements can be practiced by employing the most effective elements from disciplines like athletics, weightlifting, gymnastics, rowing and strongman, combined in an infinite variety of ways to allow the body to adapt and change. The load, intensity and duration are always varied and scaled to suit the individual, be they Royal Marine Commando, athlete, office worker, or grandparent.
CrossFit and the wider CrossFit community is very much in favour of an ancestral diet and places particular emphasis on 100% grassfed meat because of the better balance of omega 3 vs omega 6 fats and the increased levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
The practice of MovNat encompasses the locomotive skills of breathing, walking, running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing and swimming (plus related aquatic skills). In addition, they practice the manipulative skills of lifting, carrying, throwing & catching, plus the combative/self-defence skills of striking and grappling.
The creator of MovNat, Erwan Le Corre, fully endorses a Paleo type of diet including products from animals that eat their natural diet, such as grassfed beef. However, it is not stipulated for participants, preferring to offer individuals a personal choice as to what works most effectively for them. However, many of the practitioners and instructors form an integral part of the ancestral diet community.
The sport originally termed Art du Deplacement, now also often referred to as Parkour or Freerunning, was founded in France in the 1980s by a group of nine young men. David Belle first introduced the term ‘Parkour’ in 1998. Parkour derives from the French word Parcours meaning ‘route’ or ‘course’.
Parkour / Freerunning / Art du Deplacement is the non-competitive physical discipline of training to move freely over and through any terrain using only the abilities of the body, principally through running, jumping, climbing and quadrupedal movement. In practice it focuses on developing the fundamental attributes required for such movement, which include functional strength and fitness, balance, spatial awareness, agility, coordination, precision, control and creative vision. – from www.parkouruk.org
Like MovNat it is a very pure form of natural human movement and is available to anyone anywhere.
4. Obstacle racing
Obstacle course racing is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and around the world with millions of people taking part each year. It is a sport in which a competitor or team, traveling on foot, must race over a set distance overcoming various physical challenges along the way.
Distances vary between sprint events of 3 miles to marathon length challenges. The races are designed to push contestants to the mental and physical limit of what they think they are capable of. Obstacles include, but are not limited to, climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water, crawling under barbed-wire, jumping through fire, mud and water pits, electric fences, swinging across chasms and many more.
The running element and length of the course tests competitors’ endurance, whilst the obstacles are designed to test strength, speed, coordination, accuracy and balance. Whilst obstacle racing is not in itself a method of training, it does require a much greater degree of all round fitness and natural movement skill than standard running races.
Current popular UK races include:
- Spartan Race: http://www.spartan.com
- Tough Mudder: https://toughmudder.co.uk
- Tough Guy: http://www.toughguy.co.uk
- Total Warrior: http://www.totalwarrior.co.uk
- Major Series: http://www.majorseries.com
- Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest: http://www.mhsurvival.co.uk
TACFIT workouts are 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise and employ a variety of equipment such as body-weight movement, kettlebells, clubbells, parralette bars, gymnastic rings and plyometric boxes. There are a variety of sub-programmes and specialisations under the TACFIT umbrella, some focusing on a single modality, such as clubbells, or others focusing on a combination of different tools or just bodyweight alone. Founder, Scott Sonnon, has previously used Primal nutritional principles in some of his own nutrition material, including his strong recommendation for 100% grassfed beef.