Did Your Ancestors Know Best?

By Jennifer Laity

When it comes to knowing what to eat, there is so much confusion these days. Should we go with Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, Keto, or some other current diet trend? The answer may lie in more closely following the dietary habits of our ancestors which may be a better match for what our genetics best set us up to metabolize. As the research into our gut microbiome (the genomes of the microbes in our digestive system) continues to expand, it would seem to indicate that consuming those types of foods that our ancestors would have eaten will prove to be the best for disease prevention and optimal health. While many of us have lived in the U.S. for years, and many of our families for generations, our genetics are not that much different than those of our great grandparents which means, even though we now have access to foods from all over the world and a huge variety of modern, processed foods, our bodies and our guts are not necessarily ‘evolved’ to appropriately handle these different foods metabolically.

Across all cultural diets, the one common trend has been that, until very recently in human history, highly processed, food-like substances did not exist. Our ancestors, regardless of where in the world they came from, generally ate food that came almost directly from a tree, plant or animal with minimal processing involved other than perhaps grinding, cooking, or preserving via fermenting, drying, and curing. While traditional diets have varied dramatically in their macronutrient content, from the Inuit tribes in Alaska eating a diet that is 80-85% animal fat and protein and some sub-Saharan African tribes consuming a diet that is at least 80-85% plant-based, these people groups have generally been completely free from metabolic-related disease such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity that are prevalent in the Western world, until introduced to more modern, processed foods, in particular refined wheat flour, white rice and refined sugar.

As the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) more recently, and as Weston A. Price, a dentist who researched how diet was related to dental health in the 1920-30s, discovered in researching people groups around the world, those individuals who are able to more closely mimic their cultural diets have the lowest rates of disease and birth defects. Even those who have eaten a more modern diet for years that begin to re-introduce more of their cultural foods show a significant improvement in overall health, since refined grains, sugars, and modern fats are typically reduced, nutrient density is increased, and absorption of the nutrients consumed seems to be improved. For example, an individual with strong Asian-Indian heritage is likely better served eating the traditional pulses (i.e. millets) and ghee rather than quinoa and canola oil, or an individual with strong Hispanic heritage is likely better off using traditional corn, beans and pasture-raised lard rather than oatmeal and olive oil. Those of us from a more mixed heritage likely have a small advantage in being able to properly metabolize a wider variety of foods however those foods should still come from food sources that are as similar as possible to what humans have eaten throughout history. That means minimizing our intake of refined grain-based carbohydrates and sugars, while eating a variety of nutrient and fiber-dense plant-based foods, healthy traditional oils and fats, along with moderate amounts of quality sources of animal products (wild-caught, grass-fed/pasture-raised) if our religious and philosophical beliefs allow. So the next time you’re trying to decide what to eat, you may want to ask if your great grandparents would recognize it as real food. If so, enjoy!

Resources:

Dietary Change and Traditional Food Systems of Indigenous Peoples. Kuhnlein and Receveur. Annual Review of Nutrition, Vol 16, 1996: 417-42

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit_cuisine

http://www.fao.org/docrep/w0078e/w0078e08.htm

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston A. Price. 1939

https://www.genome.gov/27549400/the-human-microbiome-project-extending-the-definition-of-what-constitutes-a-human

 

Jennifer received her Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Gerontology Certificate from the University of Georgia and her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Hayward. She is an ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist and has completed the Wellcoaches Core Coach Training program. In her 20+ years with BaySport, Jennifer has been providing wellness coaching and programming, fitness center management, personal training, group exercise class instruction, health screenings, and fitness testing. Jennifer previously worked as an exercise physiologist at Duke University’s Center for Living, and was a graduate assistant in the Cardiac Rehab and Adult Fitness program at the University of Georgia. In her free time, she enjoys researching ancestral medicine, playing almost any sport, volunteer work with her church, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Healthy Eating at Work

By Molly McEvoy

Eating at your desk may seem convenient but it is not the healthiest lifestyle habit. A misleading benefit of eating at your desk is the thought of multitasking with simultaneously working and eating. Creating a pattern of eating at your desk everyday can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Eating lunch should be viewed as the working professional’s version of recess. A strategy to taking advantage of lunch time is to make an effort to eat with a friend or a group of people. Setting plans with others will encourage you to get up and away from the desk. Buying lunches everyday can eat up a lot of your paycheck. Packing lunches and snacks will help monitor what you are eating and help with planning your day. Meal prepping is a great lifestyle habit to start incorporating in your weekly routine. A strategy to help with meal prepping is to prepare foods on either Sunday or Monday evening, depending on your work schedule. Plan to prepare foods for 3 to 5 days and schedule in one day to eat out during your work week. Preparing grab-and-go types of snacks can help with scheduling your day. Try to incorporate eating snacks in your daily schedule. For example, if you eat breakfast at 7:00 a.m. and have a meeting at 10:00 a.m., plan to have a snack right before your meeting to keep your energy up and to help stay focus during your meeting.

Meal prepping is a great lifestyle habit to have in order to help maintain a healthy diet. Bringing your own lunch to work does not mean you have to sit at your desk and eat it. There are several strategies to help motivate you to walk away from your desk during lunch:

  1. Place lunch in a refrigerator or other designated areas that is furthest away from your desk.
  2. Eat your packed lunch outside
  3. Make plans to eat in a different area at your work place with others who have packed their lunch

If you must eat at your desk, take a walk before and after your meal. Only eat your meal, do not work at the same time. Studies have shown that pushing through the work day without taking a break has less productivity. Let your brain rest and refresh while you fuel your body. Put all work to the side, sanitize the area and have a place mat. This helps limit the possibilities of germs or getting anything on your desk contaminated.

References:

Tips on how to create everyday habits that will help you balance work and your health. Rampton, J. (2015, May 5).
12 Ways to Eat Healthy No Matter How Busy You Are. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245770
How to make eating at work more efficient. Hatfield, H. (2008, December 12)
7 Tips for Eating While You Work. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/7-tips-eating-while-you-work#1​
Statistics showing the reasons why eating at your desk is not great for your body and mind.Bratskeir, K. (2016, February 26).
Eat At Your Desk is Terrible for You and Your Work. Retrieved February
08, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eating-lunch-at-your-desk_us_56d0847fe4b0bf0dab31debd

Molly McEvoy bio: Molly graduated from CSU Monterey Bay with a degree in Kinesiology and an emphasis in Exercise Science. She has been an athlete her entire life and loves the active lifestyle. Molly got started in the Fitness Industry as a swim coach and instructor. From there, she obtained her Aquatic Therapeutic Exercise Certification from ATRI. Molly is kept motivated to stay in the industry by her love of helping people set and achieve goals they never thought possible. In her spare time, Molly enjoys trying new activities like paddle boarding or rock climbing.

Nutrition Controversies Summed Up

New information and research keeps the field of nutrition dynamic and evolving. Some of the information that is shared and liked is evidence based and some is hyped without being completely understood. A healthy diet is considered to be the most important tool in reducing heart disease risk so knowing which fad to believe and which to avoid can be life changing. Here is an article from the trusted Journal of the American College of Cardiology that breaks down the diets that have been proven to be heart healthy, those that have been proven to be harmful and those that are still inconclusive at this time.
Read the whole article here:
http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/69/9/1172