What do we really know about ancestral diet?


(Genn) #1

I recently listened to the ‘Keto for Normies’ podcast featuring Dr. Phil Goscienski, where he presented information on the Stone Age diet and child rearing. He also had a few strong opinions on keto and the Mediterranean diet, and when asked where he got his information, I seem to recall him citing the internet and a book that is no longer in print. This made it hard for me to believe any of the information and data he presented. I’ve been searching around on the forums, and there are a few topics that skim ancestral eating, but my curiosity hasn’t been satisfied. Goscienski claimed the human diet was 2 lbs of (Stone age) plants daily, and the occasional ‘road kill’, and that when we did learn to hunt, the meat we were eating was lean. This data seems to be missing something, it’s too broad, and with the comments he made about fat consumption, he may have just been shoe-horning data to validate his own belief in the Mediterranean diet. We know that flora and fauna have changed considerably since the Stone age, and that eating habits meat vs carb / feast vs. fast changed due to season and region, so what can we apply to ourselves?

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #2

(Bob M) #3


It’s New England in the winter 2000 years ago. What “plants” are you eating? Let’s not even get back to the ice age.

(Windmill Tilter) #4

What do we really know about ancestral diet?

Almost nothing. We don’t even understand modern diet and nutrition. Most of the thousands of journal articles written each year aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on. After 70 years we haven’t figured out whether or not eggs are healthy or harmful. Does anybody really think we know WTF people were eating 100,000 years ago let alone whether or not it was optimally healthy? :smile:

Most nutrition research is fiction, primoridial nutrition research is something closer to mythology.

That’s my two cents anyway… :yum:

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #5

I think we know quite a bit more than ‘almost nothing’. We know what plants were available, when and where. We know that the cellulose content of those plants was high. We know that species of the hominid family lost the guts necessary to metabolize cellulose at least 4 million years ago. We know that during the same period hominid brain size was growing and required much more nutrient dense food than any edible Pleistocene plants could provide. We know that hominids have the smallest guts and biggest brains of all primates. We know that large ruminant animals were plentiful until the very end of the Pleistocene and could provide nutrient dense, readily metabolized food.

Too many people forget that it was the agricultural revolution of the Holocene (beginning 10K years ago) when humans domesticated and selectively bred some plants to reduce their cellulose and increase their edible carbs content; and, that the plants we now know as fruits and vegetables did not exist during the Pleistocene.

(Windmill Tilter) #6

Is there any anthropological research documenting an aboriginal people subsisting on a ketogenic diet? From what I gather, people pretty much everywhere ate whatever they could get their hands on. Whether that’s fish, seaweed, squirrels, acorns, or cattail roots, bison, pretty much anything edible. From what I gather, not even the Innuit ate a ketogenic diet even in their unbelievably harsh environment. Put differently, humans are omnivores.

Growing up in Maine, we used to cook cattail roots as kids and eat them in our “forts”. I’d prefer a potato, but they’re actually not bad. You can roast over a fire or boil them and eat them like an artichoke or roast them and grind them up into a flour. People have been doing that for a long time. A quick internet search tells me they’ve doing that in Europe 30,000 years ago.

Our understanding of what people ate back then is still limited. The best we can say is that they were hunter gathers. The hunting was the meat part. The gathering was the carbs part.

(Genn) #7

I want (in my own mind at least) to put keto into context of how the human diet evolved, for example, feasting and fasting based on the availability of a food source, carb cycling based on the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables, nose to tail eating, etc. I know keto works, but why? What in our history made us this way? And what about the Okinawan diet, how does that mesh with our theories on ancestral eating?

(Bunny) #8

I did a thread here about this:

It seems as though the manipulation of dried grains is when you start seeing tooth decay in paleontology when it comes to early humans, that’s when you start grinding grains and seeds to process it and make something like bread?

E.g. Eating a slab of corn vs. grinding it when it’s dried (corn meal) makes it less calorie dense and more concentrated, which means eat less?

Fermenting the grain or seeds seems to make it more digestible.

A highly concentrated and refined carbohydrate is not the same as a carbohydrate in its natural form (water density), the body will process it differently.

I also think we ate a lot of seeds that pass through the human digestive system whole (undigested) like birds to spread the vegetation and fertilize it. Most of the fruits that exist now are almost seedless, however that’s not how it was for ancient humans (more seed than fruit), lots of seeds in the human diet. Seeds will make you feel full with-out being digested and mimic fasting so you could be producing more ketones and eating at the same time. E.g. the little seeds on strawberries that is why they are so abundant now in our time.

As Amber O’Hearn pointed out, the fruits in ancient time did not have the amount of sugar (fructose) in them they do now as well as humans eating tree and plant roots (just to get water sometimes) and tubers (potato’s).

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #9

I don’t deny that humans have eaten plants during our evolution. All I claim is that for most of that evolution the plants available were high in cellulose and low in digestible carbs. Thus, they could not have provided more than relatively low level and quality of nutrition. This during an evolutionary period when our ancestors were growing a very energy demanding brain that required constant feeding. Our ancestors had to get that food from somewhere and plants did not cut the mustard. Meanwhile, there were lots of large ruminants to provide nutrient dense and easily digestible meat and fat. Our ancestors weren’t stupid.

We are 12k years into the Holocene. 10K years into the domestication and selective breeding of plants. Any/all aboriginal people consume the escapees that have colonized the world wherever climate and environment are suitable. The Inuit were probably the last hunter/gatherers eating anything like what they ate during the Pleistocene.

(Jane Srygley) #10

The fact that cave art depicts ruminants and humans with spears is pretty telling in my opinion. And mammoths were not low in fat. There is a lot of evidence out there that humans ate meat and preferred fat. Just keep looking!

(Windmill Tilter) #11

No argument here. I think our ancestors stuck a spear into every damn thing that would hold still long enough. There’s a reason we involuntarily drool when we smell a steak cooking… :smile:

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #12

And why veggie/vegans want their soy to look, taste and smell like meat. :crazy_face:

(Bunny) #13

…and that’s a processed food?

That’s bad news for vegans?

(Genn) #14

Two friends of mine are vegetarians and hate the smell of meat. I invite them over and have to light a candle in the house because it always smells like bacon. I’ve asked them both if they would try the impossible burger, and both told me they don’t like the taste of meat, and even if they did, they wouldn’t trust food service workers to give them the correct patty.

So, faux meat is more for meat eaters than vegetarians or vegans (nice try vegans, but I’m not eating those weird processed bleeding plants).

Vegan activism vs the meat industry : saving the world with the Impossible Burger?
(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #15

Yes, I suspect the fake meat is aimed primarily at those of us who eat the real stuff. To save the planet, doncha know! As if millions of acres monocultured soy is saving the planet. Vegan propaganda. :kissing_heart:

Vegan activism vs the meat industry : saving the world with the Impossible Burger?
(Genn) #16

Has anyone heard of Dr. Phil Goscienski, or looked into his research? His credentials were never confirmed on the podcast, and I’m not sure if his source material. The concept of the interview interested me, but the content just irked me.


not much at all.

too much has changed now. We can’t compare our frankenfood farmed foods with natural life foods from long long ago.

We can’t compare our daily lives in any way.
Climate changes and more.
We can’t compare medical treatments and all now from having nada back then.

Nothing is the same and what is to truly compare? Not a darn thing in reality of it all.

boy we can make a ton of guesses off a little bit of science discovery of what the past might have been, but it is a monster stretch for any true comparison to modern life now.

very cool thread, enjoying reading it!!

(Ken) #18

I tried the Impossible Whopper. It did taste just like the regular one. It caused some bloating. I’ll stick to the regular ones for.an occasional treat.


ewww bloating. from a burger…me knows that is not meat then. icky, cool ya took the hit to tell us :slight_smile:

(Genn) #20

Agreed, but I think we can extrapolate the reasons certain blue zone diets with the evolution of the human diet. For example:

Intermittent fasting works because our ancestors did not always have access to food. Their bodies were forced to burn fat (not muscle) in order to search out their next meal, defend themselves, and do whatever they could to survive. Burning muscle is counterintuitive to the body until it becomes absolutely necessary for the body to continue functioning.
Our ancestors had seasonal access to high amounts of vegetation, so carb consumption would be cyclical, gaining and losing weight seasonally (perhaps like bears) for long term survival during harsh conditions. Our bodies still understand this cycle of carb intake, but the SAD is completely out of sync with it. This is why carb ups can be beneficial to our diets, but why constant high carb intake is a detriment.

Guys, let me know if this sounds right to you, I’m still pretty new to the scene. If you’ve got any more similar comparisons, I’d love to hear them.