Diets often come up in conversations of health, and yet rarely do hear anything about what our best natural diet is. Regardless of how beneficial or plausible a diet may be, all of them are inferior to one that caters to our biology.
It’s hard to take some of these diets seriously sometimes, because of how outlandish they are.
There’s the South Beach diet, the tragically awful Atkins diet, diets based around blood type, ones that make you eat filling foods to decrease hunger, and even ones that require starving the body in intervals for the shock.
Sadly, many of these so-called “diets” are still popular, with new ones appearing all the time. So it begs the question, why not simply try the diet we evolved for?
Somewhere along the way, our species completely deviated from what would be considered our natural diet – but that doesn’t mean this diet no longer applies, only that people willfully ignore it in favor of foods we were never meant to eat.
This of course leads to disease, as our bodies over time fail to cope with having to deal with the constant consumption of what was never meant to be put in our bodies to begin with.
It is no question that early humans faced a myriad of challenges. Due to the way in which we migrated from the tropics (likely brought on by competition and scarcity of food to begin with), we found ourselves in environments that were no longer hospitable for our biological eating habits. So as any animal would do, we adopted increasingly desperate means of acquiring food.
The habits we acquired from this period, specifically the eating of meat and dairy, go strongly against our biology. Any “diet” that incorporates meat and dairy is not based on anything but misinformation and personal taste, because it is not rooted in our biology.
Only biology dictates what goes into our bodies. This is how it works for the rest of nature, what would make humans think we are somehow above this? If you haven’t figured it out, we’re a very confused species. But acknowledging this fact and “righting the ship” is what we’re vested in.
So in case no one’s informed you before, you are a frugivorous ape called homo sapiens. Let’s talk about your natural diet.
What is a Frugivore?
First, before we answer that question, we should dispel a certain idea about animal diets that have little to no basis in fact. Animal eating habits do not fall into three easy categories, as much as we’d like to believe they do. The terms carnivore, omnivore, and herbivore are meaningless appellations, nothing more.
In truth, diet is a spectrum for most animals, especially mammals. Depending on their biology, an animal is designed to consume a certain percentage of animal protein (flesh, eggs, bones), vegetables, seed grains, fruits, and nuts.
Note, NO animal is meant to eat dairy as a part of its normal diet. The milk created by mammals is solely for the growth of their babies, and is not meant to be consumed by anything else for any reason. Adult mammals have no use for ingesting dairy, and in fact it is extremely harmful for them to do so.
Staunch carnivores, such as cats, will occasionally partake of a plant if they feel the need for a certain vitamin or mineral they lack.
Likewise, the animals we typically think of as pure plant eaters, such as cows and deer, consume the odd bug once in awhile, and will occasionally even eat a tiny bird or some eggs. Diet is not black and white, but we know by looking at the physiology of an animal what it is primarily supposed to eat and fully digest, as opposed to what it may eat once in awhile or extremely sparingly.
So, given all that we know about human biology, what then are we supposed to be eating?
Well the answer is easy and is right in front of us. As one of the great apes, we are naturally frugivorous, which means that our primary food source should be fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens.
It’s one of those things that’s obvious once you stop to think about it. If you want to get technical, we are probably more herbivorous than most of the rest of the great apes, who only engage in eating bugs and small animals every once in a great while.
I come to this conclusion, because of our extremely close relation to the bonobo, which are more herbivorous than chimpanzees for one, and on the basis of our physiology, which is even more suited for docile fruit-eating than the bonobo.
We are a very meek animal. Our ancestors had no claws, no fangs (even ones to rip the rinds off of fruit, which many great herbivorous apes have), very diminutive body strength compared to our ape cousins, and no kind of thick hide like many animals have.
From physiology alone you could deduce that we were gentle leaf-and-fruit-eating apes that lived in the low-hanging boughs of fruit trees, somewhat sheltered. Our only competition for food was likely other ape species, and other homo sapiens.
I know we love to think of ourselves as this tough hunter-gatherer species.
Popular history has it that we were grunting brutes who spent the better part of every day clubbing animals over the head and cooking them on a spit. While it is true that down the road we adopted bizarre, primitive, counter-intuitive ways of living due to any number of factors, the truth is early homo sapiens likely did not resemble this at all.
What would possess a fruit-eating ape to think meat was its primary food source?
Desperation and confusion, most likely. Were it not for our adaptive minds and ability to craft tools, our species would never have lasted long outside of the tropics. Nor would we have ever started eating a lot of meat.
Remember, we are in no way true omnivores. We cannot consume most animal flesh raw, and even then, we don’t lap blood and suck the marrow out of bones, like carnivores and omnivores do. We slice lean cuts of muscle from the bone and cook it with herbs and spices (plants). If you think for a second that this makes us naturally carnivorous, I have some bad news for you.
We are soft-bodied, docile, hairless tree-creatures from the tropics who likely spent hours a day lounging in branches and on the forest floor, stuffing our faces with fruits. If you watch the bonobo, this isn’t far from their behavior.
We had few predators, so we staked our claim on the top of the food chain (whatever that is) by proxy. Our consumption of meat began once we left our natural environment and had to cope with a lack of available food.
Seeing the obvious, we should think about what we are putting in our bodies and what the purpose of food really is.
Animal Protein is Poisoning Us
There is a huge misconception out there that we can digest meat. Surprised to hear that we can’t?
“Well of course we can digest it!” cry the naysayers. “It’s a great source of protein and good meat won’t give us an upset stomach either!” Unfortunately, this has become the criteria for whether or not something is beneficial to eat: whether it makes us feel sick or not. On those grounds, we could eat a bunch of paper and condensed soup and call it a day.
The reality is, we digest very little of what’s in meat.
First off, once something is cooked, it basically becomes a blank slate. You might as well be eating paper for all the nutrients you’re actually getting.
Cooking anything dramatically reduces its vitamin, mineral, and protein content. And of course, we are not carnivores, so we cannot eat most flesh raw. Half the reason we can “eat” it in the first place is because cooking destroys a lot of what even makes meat, meat: the dense animal proteins, the bacteria, the nutrient-rich blood. Once all of that is reduced or taken out, what you’re left with is a highly modified hunk of decaying animal matter that your body has very little use for.
Just because you can stick it in your mouth without throwing it back up, doesn’t mean your body wants or even needs it.
A little animal protein every once in a while won’t harm anything. To be sure, even many completely herbivorous animals, such as gorillas and cows, partake of meat once in a while (usually bugs). But the continuous consumption of it kills us, because we have no means of digesting excess trans fats, and cholesterol.
So over time, these substances accumulate in the body. True carnivores and omnivores don’t get heart disease or clogged arteries. That is the result of consuming substances never meant to enter our bodies more than once or twice a year, if that.
Even the so-called benefits of meat, which are few and far between, can be readily gotten elsewhere and in better forms.
Take protein for an obvious example. Many vegetables and nuts have a much higher protein content than meat, and it is more readily digestible for us, because it is plant matter. We are specifically designed to reap the proteins from plant matter, not meat.
We absorb the nutrients from plants far more efficiently than we do those same nutrients from animal sources. Again, this should all fall into the realm of common sense. One look at our biology would tell you that homo sapiens have no business thinking of themselves as “meat eaters.” On what grounds could we possibly make that assumption?
As far back as the fossil records show, we never had claws, we never had fangs, we never had short carnivore intestines or saliva with an acidic pH. Our biology was never meant for sprinting, biting into the hides of animals, digesting bones, or performing other common carnivore / omnivore behaviors.
It’s not in our nature to salivate at a dead animal, nor do we have the inclination to start digging our noses in roadkill. In fact, as with most docile, plant-eating animals, we have an instinctual revulsion toward anything decaying, because it would make us direly ill to consume it. Carnivores, however, love stumbling upon dead animals and immediately investigate whether there’s anything to salvage by rooting through the corpse with their snouts, lapping at any fluids or edible innards.
By pretending we are omnivores, that can consume meat without ill-effects, we do ourselves a massive disservice. Digesting animal-based substances does not come easy for us, and as the cholesterol fills our arteries and nearly-indigestible animal matter sits in our stomachs and colons for hours-longer than it would a carnivore, decaying and spreading inflammation, we have only ourselves to blame.
Eating For Health: What is The Best Natural Diet For Us?
So what should we be eating then? I mentioned at the start of this article that fad diets keep coming and going, when the answer to our eating issues is simple: eat only what we were meant to eat by design.
Now, switching to a full raw vegetable and fruit diet is not the easiest thing in the world in a society so full of dieting misinformation, but our bodies are very gracious and adaptable. The closer you can get to a full raw diet, the better.
The most important thing you can do at this moment to change your health is to cut out as much meat and dairy as possible. This stuff has no business being in our bodies.
What did our original natural diet look like?
During optimal seasons, our true diet likely consisted of over 75% fruits and vegetables, with the rest of our diet consisting of leafy greens, tubers, shoots, nuts, and the occasional mosses, lichens, and bugs.
The human creature is designed to extract nutrients most efficiently from fruits with high water content and packed with antioxidants and vitamins. We likely got most of our protein from tender shoots and reedy plants, just as bonobos do.
We did not drop from the trees and begin clubbing animals over the head and roasting them on spits. This is a fantasy.
For millions of years animal protein probably made up less than 5% of our total diet, and even that is a stretch, considering that pound for pound, the great apes don’t consume a ton of termites and other bugs in comparison to the bulk of leafy greens and fruit they eat.
The biggest, most muscular land animals in the world eat nothing but vegetation, so have no worries over where you’re getting your protein from.
In fact, if you eat a natural diet, you don’t have to worry much about nutrients at all. It’s mostly only modern man in “developed” Western societies that fall victim to nutritional deficiencies, unless you live in abject poverty.
Nutritional deficiencies are something you rarely see in the animal world.
It should be noted that by and large, there is a tasty vegan alternative to almost all animal-based foods. Perhaps the most notable example are all of the varieties of delicious milks available on the market, all 100% plant-based and most taste far better than cow’s milk.
Once you have a taste of good almond or coconut milk, you’ll never go back.
Eating Clean With Our Natural Diet
A crucial factor to remember when planning out your diet is to stick to what’s natural.
If you are looking for optimal health, an optimal diet should be first on your priority list. It’s just that simple.
Getting Essential Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet
Protein – The best natural sources of protein are lentils, beans, chickpeas, chia seeds, hemp seeds, spirulina, quinoa, oats, and rice. However, all fruits and vegetables are made up of slight amounts of protein. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you do not ever need to worry about protein intake. Even bananas and watermelons have protein.
Calcium – Broccoli, kale, collard greens, chickpeas, most kinds of beans, sesame seeds, almonds, flax seeds, Brazil nuts. Many fruits have calcium, including figs and oranges.
Iron – Many green leafy vegetables, legumes, most beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, watermelon, natural and ancient grains.
Magnesium – Brown rice, beans, legumes, nuts, broccoli, oatmeal, whole grains, bananas, figs, bran, peanuts.
Phosphorus – Beans, whole grains, almonds, other kinds of nuts, lentils, peanuts, peas, natural rice, avocados, most common vegetables.
Potassium – Bananas, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, avocados, dried fruits such as raisins, tomatoes, oranges, berries, melons.
Copper – Most nuts and seeds, figs, whole grains, beans, lentils, and many varieties of mushrooms.
Zinc – Whole grains, corn, legumes, pumpkin seeds, lentils, peas, most nuts, sunflower seeds, collard greens, spinach.
Manganese – Whole grains, oatmeal, wheat, nuts, seeds, black beans, kidney beans, legumes, leafy greens like spinach and kale, avocados, pineapples.
Iodine – Kelp, prunes, bananas, cranberries.
Chromium – Whole grains, broccoli, apples, nuts and seeds, peanuts, leafy greens.
Biotin – Whole grains, peanuts, walnuts, legumes, carrots.
Folic Acid – Lentils, many kinds of legumes, oranges, leafy greens.
Pantothenic Acid – Whole grains, legumes, peanuts, avocados, sunflower seeds, bananas, oranges, many leafy greens, potatoes.
Selenium – Brazil nuts, whole grains, most seeds such as chia and flax, asparagus.
Vitamin A – Carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, squash, leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – Whole grains, oatmeal, legumes, sunflower seeds, most nuts, melons.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Legumes and beans, whole grains, spinach, broccoli, sesame seeds, mushrooms.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – Nuts and legumes, green vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Whole grains, peanuts and various legumes, most nuts, bananas.
Vitamin B12 – Unwashed organic produce, various mushrooms, nori seaweed. While supplements and fortified plant milks are an option, you will get most of what you need simply by eating the occasional unwashed organic carrot. Issues with vegan B12 deficiencies are blown wildly out of proportion.
Vitamin C – Found in most fruits and many vegetables as well. Broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, cabbage, leafy greens, potatoes, melons, berries, papayas.
Vitamin D – The best and most natural way to get Vitamin D is sunlight. There are a variety of fortified products on the market but this form of Vitamin D is difficult for our bodies to absorb and use. Get as much sunlight as possible.
Vitamin E – Sunflower seeds, whole grains, nuts, legumes, leafy vegetables.
Vitamin K – Leafy vegetables, parsley, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that somehow our diet and our health are two different things, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The single most important step you can take on the road to a balanced life, personal wellness, and self-mastery, is changing how you eat.
You don’t have to make the leap immediately, but you owe it to yourself to return to a natural, healthy way of life. There is so much delicious food out there that is packed with life-giving nutrients, you simply have to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.
Buy some almond milk and have it over some whole grain cereal, start making fruit smoothies with a little kale, ditch the processed foods and buy whole grain bread and rice. Small steps could lead to great rewards down the road.
The founder of Digital Sages, Matt has an extensive background in self-mastery and has authored several books on the subject. His goal is to demystify important esoteric subjects and help people transform their lives through self-awareness and personal empowerment.