If you’re like me, you’ve tried all the diets – from Weight Watchers to Atkins and everything in between. And, like me, you probably rebounded off these fad diets pretty hard. (I lost more than 30 pounds on Atkins in two months before gaining back about 45.)
That’s because – according to shiny, new facts – these diets are not sustainable as a lifestyle. When you’re trying to lose weight, you need to be realistic about the long-term. As with most things, biological anthropology can help with that.
One diet I never got into was the Paleo diet. If you haven’t heard, this diet asks participants to only eat meat (lots!) and other foods that could be hunted and gathered by our ancestors over the last two million years.
The problem with this is, we’ve been evolving for about 20 million years. Two million years is a sliver of time in comparison and probably didn’t have a huge effect on the evolution of the human diet. If we go back to our beginnings, our diet should mostly consist of vegetables.
That doesn’t mean we should be folivores, or vegetarians. Meat was essential in providing sufficient energy to evolve our big brains. It is still an important part of the human diet. However, the problem lies in modern domesticated bovine – cows. They are full of unhealthy fats, which contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease. Leaner, wild proteins from sources like deer are superior.
Obviously, this isn’t realistic for everyone. So, what can we do with this knowledge? Base your diet around mostly vegetables. Then, add some fruit and proteins from seafood, nuts and seeds. Eat red meat in small portions unless you’re getting it from a lean, wild source.
Keep in mind, our ancestors were extremely active. Strong, nomadic hunter-gatherers. Like with any lifestyle change, exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy mind and body. Even with our new-ish sedentarianism, we should all be getting at least 150 minutes of activity in per week!
If this selection of food isn’t cutting it for you, don’t worry. It isn’t the only option. (Although, the exercise still applies.)
Biological anthropologist Stephen Le released a book this month about our more recent ancestors and how we should emulate their diets. He doesn’t mean the general human population, either. His book calls for you, the individual, to find your regional roots and to adopt the ancestral menu of that region.
Those are your only two options.
Just kidding. Those are just suggestions scientists have provided evidence for. The bottom line is the modern human diet is at the core of our health crises.
There is so much dissent when it comes to nutrition and diet and what works versus what is good for us. But most scientists say the same thing: Everyone’s body is different based on genetics and environment. Do what works for you. If you listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs.
Also check out this interesting multimedia piece by National Geographic, “The Evolution of Diet.”