How were humans designed to eat?
This question has been asked in every possible way — and received every possible answer — since the beginning of time. The realm of nutrition has gone through seemingly every imaginable fad, diet and supplement in its endless quest for finding ‘the best’ way to eat.
And yet, some wellness communities believe that our ancestors had the right answers all along.
Before scientists, nutritionists or even farmers influenced the human diet, people hunted and gathered their food. Hunter-gatherers foraged or hunted for nuts, seeds, plants and animals — or put more simply: Stone Age food.
Stone Age food formed the human diet during the Stone Age, before the invention of agriculture . Below, we dive further into Stone Age food and why eating like prehistoric people could actually benefit your health.
What Is Stone Age Food?
Stone Age food is what hunter-gatherers ate during the Stone Age. Today, Stone Age food serves as the foundation to the paleo diet, caveman diet or Stone Age diet.
The Stone Age began when humans first started using stone tools, about 2.5 million years ago . The Stone Age lasted until the Bronze Age began roughly 5,000 years ago, followed by the Iron Age. The Stone Age was divided into three periods — the Paleolithic Period (Old Stone Age), Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age) and Neolithic Period (New Stone Age) .
During the Stone Age, humans’ way of life was very different. Humans shared the planet with Neanderthals, a now-extinct species similar to humans known for their hunting skills . During the Stone Age, the Earth was in the last ice age. To survive, Stone Age people travelled in small groups to hunt large animals such as woolly mammoths, rhino, bison and deer. Tools found at archaeological sites hint that humans used tools made from stone, bone, antler and ivory to skin fish, butcher animals and hunt wild game.
Cave paintings and archeological finds may prove that the Stone Age could be credited with the invention of the ax blade and humans’ first spears. In addition, during the Stone Age, early humans used cooking utensils for the first time. Ancient clay pots show that hunter-gatherers began cooking over open fires and storing food, which paved the way for modern-day cooking.
What Is a Stone Age Diet?
A Stone Age diet involves eating foods consumed before the invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals.
Stone Age food consisted primarily of two food groups: plants and animals. Modern humans might replicate a Stone Age diet by eating meat, fish, eggs, starchy vegetables (such as tubers), fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
During the Stone Age, every morsel of food had to be hunted or foraged — therefore, humans did not waste food. All parts of the plant and all parts of the animal (i.e., nose-to-tail) were consumed rather than tossed away. Bones, cartilage and other connective tissue were eaten regularly, whereas they may be disposed of today.
Stone Age food does not include any food that was developed through agriculture. This includes grains (even healthy, whole grains), legumes, dairy products, alcohol and all processed foods. So, many ready-to-eat foods — including breakfast cereals, pretzels, granola bars and other snack foods — are completely excluded from a Stone Age diet.
Why Would I Eat Stone Age Food in Modern Times?
In the last century, humans saw a boom in industrialisation. And while advances in technology have improved how we live, they’ve hindered how we eat.
The advancement of technology caused a rise in ultra-processed, packaged and readily available foods. The increase in packaged foods is correlated with a direct increase in a rise of obesity rates, diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease .
Since the 1970s, there's been a growing interest in moving away from processed foods and returning to how cavemen and women ate.
Since Stone Age food focuses on plenty of fibre from plants and high-quality protein from animals, it can be associated with a number of health benefits. Preliminary studies show that following the paleo diet or ancestral diet is shown to decrease oxidative stress, risk of cancer, obesity, insulin sensitivity and circulating triglycerides .
How Can I Start a Stone Age Food Diet?
You can eat a Stone Age diet, even in modern-day times. And no, you don't need to hunt or gather your food in order to do so.
To follow a Stone Age diet, focus on eating plants and animals. An easy rule of thumb is to shop the perimeter of the supermarket, filling up your basket with vegetables, fruit and animal products. Specifically, fill up on the following:
- Red meat: Pork, beef, lamb, venison, organ meats and bone broth
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey and quail
- Fish and shellfish: Clams, mussels, salmon, haddock, cod and sardines
- Nuts and seeds: Cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, almondnut butters and seed butters
- Eggs: Chicken, ducks and quails eggs
- Vegetables: Carrots, potatoes, leafy greens, cauliflower and other veg
- Fruit: Kiwis, watermelon, apples, mangos and other fruit
Avoid processed foods (often found in the middle aisles of the supermarket), grains, legumes, dairy products and alcohol.
Specifically, stay away from the following foods:
- Grains: Rice, oatmeal, wheat, corn, cereals, pasta and bread products
- Legumes: Peanuts, peas, black beans, kidney beans and lentils
- Refined sugar: Candy, fizzy drinks, cakes and other processed sweets
- Dairy products: Yogurt, milk and cheese
- Alcohol: Beer, wine and spirits
You may have to do a cupboard and refrigerator purge prior to starting a Stone Age food diet. Be sure to check the labels of any packaged products, looking for hidden ingredients containing grain and sugar.
Common foods to avoid include:
- Condiments: Ketchup, mayonnaise, sauces and other condiments often contain hidden artificial sweeteners, fillers and preservatives.
- Salad dressings: Salad dressings often use corn, vegetable or rapeseed/canola oil as a base. Try searching for salad dressings made from avocado or olive oil.
- Snack foods: Packaged snack foods almost always use grains as their base. In addition, they often contain refined sugar as a sweetener along with refined vegetable oils.
- Supplements: Supplements, such as protein powders, often contain dairy products and artificial colors or sweeteners.
Get Started on the Stone Age Diet
The Stone Age existed roughly 2.5 million years ago, before the invention of domestic animals or crops. During this time period, humans hunted or gathered their food, eating vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts and seeds.
Science shows there are a number of health benefits connected to this ancestral way of eating. Following a Stone Age diet is connected with a decreased risk in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
To eat Stone Age food in the modern era, focus on eating plants and animals and avoid grains, legumes, sugar and alcohol. While an initial kitchen purge could leave your cupboards looking bare, Hunter & Gather can help. Hunter & Gather products are completely compliant with the Stone Age diet, including sugar-free sauces, avocado oil mayo and collagen peptides. Restock your cupboards with better options and introduce yourself to this ancient way of eating.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.