What Are Ancestral Eats?

There have been a lot of improvements and upgrades since our grandparents’ generation, but taking steps forward does not always mean progress. Our grandparents’ generation may not have grown up with all of the modern conveniences we have, but they definitely had a few things right. One of those things was food.

Imagine if our great-grandparents, or even our grandparents, saw some of the modern foods that are available to us today. Presented with something like candy corn, or a frozen single-serve pasta meal, they may stare at us dumbfounded and ask “Is that even food?” (No Grandma, no it is not). It is no surprise then why so many people are getting back to the basics and going back to their ancestral roots when it comes to cooking, food, and recipes.

Whether you are interested in authentic Filipino recipes, traditional Norwegian recipes, or any other country your ancestors may have hailed from, here is everything you need to know about ancestral eats.

ancestral eats

What are ancestral eats?

Many of us may think ancestral eating is from ages ago. (We are talking like hundreds or thousands, maybe even millions of years ago). In truth, ancestral eating is only two to three generations behind us.

Jessica Randhawa, the head chef, recipe creator, photographer, and writer behind The Forked Spoon, explains more about ancestral eats. “Many ancestral eats include recipes that do not waste any parts of animals that took a lot of time and energy to gather or hunt. Animal bones, feet, fish heads, knuckles, and tails [all] contain nutrients that were too good to pass up for our ancestors for thousands of years.”

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating says, “There are communities in the world who still eat like this and live like this. It just is not commonly seen in the world, as they are slowly being eroded by convenience and industrial influence.”

Why ancestral eats

Why exactly should we be eating like our ancestors now anyways? The Institute for the Psychology of Eating says it beautifully.

“As time steers us further from the age and memory of our ancestors, so grows the distance between our two diets. The detriments of this reality are staring us in the face and our medical bills. Sometimes we need to take a step backward. Sometimes we just need to slow down and take that walk, or grow that garden.”

That is right, people. It is finally time to say so long to fancy food and over-the-top eating experiences. Instead, let’s gather around the table for authentic traditional dishes enjoyed by our ancestors. We are talking about eating natural, organic, wholesome foods just like our ancestors.

How do you eat ancestrally?

Eating like our ancestors depends on where we are in the world. Ancestral eats is all about ingredients and local culture. Essentially, what is available to us where we are located geographically.

Ancestral eats will look very different to those living in Coastal France versus someone who lives in Greece. The same goes for someone living in Africa or Japan. Ancestral eats will even vary in the United States. I mean think about the different foods available in California versus Hawaii, Maine, or even the Rocky Mountain West.

No matter what region of the country or world we are in, the goal of ancestral eating is health. “When it comes to eating ancestrally, the quality of our food is extremely important,” writes the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. “Access to fresh produce, quality proteins, and health-supporting fats and oils are key.”

Ultimately, ancestral eating is going old school and heading back to the most basic, logical, and traditional ways of eating. It is all about simplifying food choices and going back to the most natural ingredients possible.

Benefits of ancestral eats

Kyle Risley, founder, and CEO of Lift Vault, shares some of the health benefits of eating like our ancestors.

“Ancestral eats are based around the foods that early man would have had at their disposal while hunting or gathering for food. Many ancestral eats also include primitive crops, like some basic grains. By building a diet around these foods, people naturally eat fewer calories and benefit from more nutrient-dense meals. They also tend to eat more filling meals, as ancestral foods tend to be higher in fiber and protein.”

Another reason we may want to eat like our ancestors is because  many of these foods were non-inflammatory. “Many foods that are commonplace now, like nightshades and certain types of beans and legumes actually have inflammatory properties that can make people with sensitivities feel unwell,” says Risley. “By avoiding these foods entirely, you can also eliminate common side effects like bloating that affect most people when they eat these inflammatory foods.”

Easy ways to eat like our ancestors

  • Focus on eating whole, primitive foods that are similar to what paleolithic man would have eaten, says Risley. This includes common foods like berries, nuts, tubers, and almost all meats. “Focusing on meat and vegetable meals is the best way to eat ancestrally,” she shares.
  • Invest in traditional appliances and kitchenware so you can cook up heritage recipes. Clay pots are the new pots and pans, after all.
  • Lean into unique culinary experiences from around the world. Take your taste buds on a vacation without ever having to stamp your passport with new flavors, ingredients, and recipes from your ancestors.
  • Replace modern meals with global cuisines. Transform a basic, bland, and boring weeknight chicken dinner into a culinary delicacy with a trip around the globe using a few simple spices and ingredients from different regions of the world. 

Some ancestral foods and meals will be delicate while others are meant to be cozy and warm your soul. No matter what though, these foods and meals will be comprised of simple ingredients from global-inspired fare.

Eating like our ancestors sounds complicated, but in reality, it is really rather simple. All we need to do is get back to the basics and go back to our roots while channeling the vibes of our ancestors. They knew what was up when it came to cooking!

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.

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