Should We Be More Traditional In Our Diets?

Is eating more like your ancestors better for you ?

Goulash of wild deer with Semmelknoedel

Goulash of wild deer with Semmelknoedel

This Christmas, I got to do something that I haven’t done in 49 years – I spent Christmas (with my hubbie, children and their partners), in my birth village – a little place in Bavaria called Sulzbach am Main.

 Now when I am at home in Australia, I certainly walk the talk.. I eat largely keto, organic, rainbow foods and as a nutritionist, I know that this is the way to go – especially the organic colour.

 But what surprised me somewhat was that, despite noshing down on the bread (Germany loves its bread and “broetchen”), drinking beer (something I rarely do in Australia) and eating ALL the Christmas goodies from the 7+ Christmas markets that we visited, I gained very little weight.

 This happens every time I visit Germany and it got me thinking “why” and here are the reasons I came up with:

1.      Definitely less toxins in the food – whilst Roundup is still used, the beer is brewed to the German purity law (The Reinheitsgebot) of 1516, which stipulates NO nasties – only 3 ingredients in fact: water, barley and hops. The other cool thing about this law states that not too much profit can be made form beer, so it is seriously cheap. This tends to also translate to many other foods. Especially if you buy them directly from the farmer. I know that there are many chemicals allowed in Australia ( such as methyl bromide on strawberries and sunscreen on apples) that are banned in the Eurozone

2.      We do a lot of walking – sometimes more than 20km per day, but this time, due to the massive snowfalls, we didn’t walk every day as we usually do. And of course, we are also very active at home- walking every day., cycling, hiking, the gym and yoga….

3.      Less stress – of course, I am on holidays!  But I usually don’t get too stressed anyway as I love my job and have a happy life.

German salads are the best and usually served before the main meal

German salads are the best and usually served before the main meal

4.       MAYBE, just maybe, its because I was eating my traditional diet – the one my genetics evolved with?  Whilst I did eat a lot of bread and wurst, I also consumed roasts galore, made the traditional way – generally goose, pork and duck. I also ate “wild”, as in German game. All accompanied by copious amounts of sauerkraut, rotkraut, salads such as cucumber and warm green bean. I also ate potato in every shape known to man. Herring (pickled fish) was also on the menu, also seasonal fruits – apples picked straight form the tree for example,  as was a plethora of German spices and herbs such as dill, caraway, garlic, salt and pepper. And did I mention the cheese? Raw, unpasteurised and delicious. No maize (corn), rice or Asian greens.   I don’t think I consumed excess quantities, but oftentimes in Australia, a big roast meal is enough for me to gain 1kg overnight.

All with no heartburn or bloating. I come home and get a massive case of heartburn after a beautifully BBQd organic steak and salad. So I opened the bottle of heartburn herbs that I took overseas with me and didn’t require, and took a couple so that I could sleep

 So, I started to do a bit of research on the traditional diets and their benefits and this is what I found:

·         There IS research suggesting that eating for our genetics works!

·         Evidence shows that when one takes a person away from their traditional diet, they lose health – I always think of our Asian boarders at the school where I used to work as  a school nurse. They would arrive a trim sprightly size 6 or 8 and leave a sluggish and tired size 18… they weren’t eating THEIR traditional diets.

·          I am not going to re-invent the wheel – there is actually much written on the internet about this type of thing.. I have included some interesting websites that you can click onto:

·         Eat like your ancestors:

·         Why a traditional diet is better than a whole foods diet

·         Why traditional diets?

·         Traditional diets in  a nutshell

·         Determining the best traditional diet for YOU

·         Mediterranean  diet

For many years, I have been saying to my patients, “if you great, great grandmother didn’t recognise it as food, don’t eat it”. But I realised something:

1.      I need to go back a few generations: great, great, great, great perhaps!

2.      And we are talking about YOUR great, great, great grandma, not MINE, not your neighbours, not celebrity chefs etc. so if you are of European origin – the Mediterranean diet works for you, maybe not so well if you are of American Indian, African, Indian, Islander etc origin. You should be looking at your traditional foods. Coconut oil, for instance has  never sat comfortably for me (and I tell this to my patients as well) , but olive oil and butter – now THAT’s a different story of all types of good!

Most meats are served with a healthy portion of fermented cabbage

Most meats are served with a healthy portion of fermented cabbage

3.      Whilst this should be a large proportion of your diet, I am pretty certain that the odd occasional “ foreign “ meal ( for want of a better word) will be OK too . Well, I just can’t go without my Indian -#justsaying. One of my other favourite sayings is that only God is perfect and even he rested on the seventh day!

So it’s time for me to traditionalise my diet a bit: I will continue to stay largely keto and eat the rainbow – easy enough to do when you look at the traditions of my birth land:

1.      No more corn, rice, quinoa or any of the other grains that my ancestors didn’t evolve with (Indian food goes with potato!). And of course in this list I will add soy – it is over processed, GMO and even if I did find an great organic source I was happy with, its not made for my genes.

2.      Butter or olive oil (I have been doing this and recommending this for some years now anyway).

3.      Nuts only from my home continent of Europe – such as almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts.

4.      Berries when they are in season (I LOVE these intuitively anyway – rainbows!)

5.      Ethically sourced meat and fowl, less beef, more game & pork (I wish I could source some wild caught pig – but in Australia, it gets sent to Germany).

6.       Ethically sourced dairy

7.      I will continue to eat organic as always

8.      My grain intake will still be minimal – WHY? Because in Australia the wheat is different and is sprayed with so many chemicals; My great, great, great, great, Oma definitely wouldn’t have recognised what we call bread here. I may buy the occasional loaf of artisan organic slow cooked rye loaf (hopefully with caraway seeds!) from the markets. But this will be a 7th day thing as ANY grain is not keto

9.      As a bonus, there will be more blue in my diet and this is such a rich source of antioxidants – red cabbage, beetroot, cherries, berries etc etc. Luckily most of these are also keto. Also, mushrooms are a big part of the German diet, so more mushrooms for me.

10.  Organic is a non-negotiator for me.. after all great, great, great, great, Oma would not recognise food sprayed with a cocktail of poisons.

So watch this space, I will share my journey with you

Alexandra

The “German” naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist