What is the best diet in your opinion?

This is an expanded repost of What is the best diet in your opinion? from CFS Remission that I did some 6 years ago. I have added some additional information to it.

I have been asked this often. My answer is extremely logical but not what you will get from most health experts (and unfortunately, may not be easy to determine for some — but that has changed with DNA analysis).

The Diet….

Very simple — the type of diet that your ancestors ate 300+ years ago! Diet changes gene expression, i.e. microbiome AND dna adapts.

Last year, researchers discovered that these kinds of environmental genetic changes can be passed down for a whopping 14 generations in an animal – the largest span ever observed in a creature, in this case being a dynasty of C. elegans nematodes (roundworms)…. Usually, environmental changes to genetic expression only last a few generations.
…  studies have shown that both the children and grandchildren of women who survived the Dutch famine of 1944-45 were found to have increased glucose intolerance in adulthood.Scientists Have Observed Epigenetic Memories Being Passed Down For 14 Generations

From a post that I did in 2015:

Some nuggets that I found in a Christmas Present…

My wife gave me “Danish Cookbooks” by Carol Gold. This is NOT a cook book, but rather an academic study of cookbooks published in Denmark.  I’m 100% Danish and very interested in history.

I have always been inclined towards going for ancestral diet patterns, and did Paleo for a while. My problem with Paleo is that it is more idealogical based than actual (scientific) archeologically based. It is also trying to jump the diet back thousands of years which effectively ignores how our bacteria evolved to meet our changes of diet.

A diet based on typical diet of your ancestors 400 – 1400 years ago is likely a better choice. You avoid the newly introduced foods, for example, potatoes. You also avoid process foods and modern additives. On the plus side, your gut bacteria is likely closer to the optimized bacteria your ancestors evolved from eating the same food for a thousand years. The microbiome bacteria does not evolve as fast as marketing of new foods!

In this book, I found two gems from the historical records:

  • We have decreased the use of spice considerably — in 1600, the common spices were:
    • cumin, anise, coriander, dill, fennel, lavender, sage, rosemary, mint, bay leaves, cloves, pepper, saffron, thyme, marjoram, nutmeg, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, hyssop, wormwood, lemon balm, angelica-root.
    • “The issue here is … the use of seasonings in general slackens” p.47
    • Many of these spices (like wormwood and ginger) have strong antibacterial characteristics which would have kept some gut bacteria families in control well.
  • “Their most common food was meat” p. 122
  • White (wheat) bread was very uncommon, expensive, and typically seen only in upper class homes on special occasions(not as part of the regular menus). It appears that most of the carbohydrates came from Rye Bread.

I am sure that some readers who favor a diet that is vegan or vegetarian on ideological grounds would object to these suggestions.  My response is simple, if your ancestors were vegetarians for centuries or millenniums (as some friends who were born in India can validly claim), then that is the right diet without any doubts.

Evidence shows that gut bacteria is inherited through generations — hence it is good to know what your ancestors ate because your gut bacteria have likely adapted to that diet. Given my heritage (which likely applies to people from the UK, Poland, northern France and Germany etc), this boils down to:

  • Rye Bread without any wheat flour
  • Meat and Fish (especially since the family seemed to always been within 5 miles of the coast back to 1500..)
  • Vegetables:

No potatoes — they really did not enter my ancestor dies until the early 1800’s – after one of my great-grandfathers was born. Little or no sugar (“Worldwide through the end of the medieval period, sugar was very expensive[1] and was considered a “fine spice“,[2] but from about the year 1500, technological improvements and New World sources began turning it into a much cheaper bulk commodity.” – Wikipedia)

This Wikipedia article may be a helpful start for many.

The last item needs to be taken with a touch of salt and sung: “A spoonful of soil helps the microbiome recover!” We have become hyper-hygienic. See the Hygiene hypothesis. This comes from a post in 2016:

“The Amish and Hutterites are U.S. agricultural populations whose lifestyles are remarkably similar in many respects but whose farming practices, in particular, are distinct; the former follow traditional farming practices whereas the latter use industrialized farming practices….Despite the similar genetic ancestries and lifestyles of Amish and Hutterite children, the prevalence of asthma and allergic sensitization was 4 and 6 times as low in the Amish” – i.e. industrialized farming practices resulted in six times (600%) the rate of asthma and allergies. See Innate Immunity and Asthma Risk in Amish and Hutterite Farm Children(2016). This is also echoed in their farm products!!! Amish and Hutterite Environmental Farm Products Have Opposite Effects on Experimental Models of Asthma [2016]. Given a choice of buying groceries from a Hutterite farm or a Amish farm, buy the Amish (non industrialized) groceries!!!!

So I advocate not a Paleo diet, but a regional medieval-food diet (modified for modern nutritional needs). No prepared foods (talk about being extremely unnatural!), so food prepared from scratch — ideally organic with heritage seeds.

Using DNA to help determine diet

The site https://mytrueancestry.com/ offers diet profile based on you DNA and what related DNA ancestors ate over the last 12,000 years. The foods list come from the archeological sites that the DNA comes from. I find people talking about Neanderthal diet and similar diets, are naive in understanding diet, human DNA and the microbiome. You want a diet that matches your DNA; DNA has a great influence over your microbiome.

For myself, this is what is computed:

It is very consistent with the information above and what has helped me normalize my microbiome.

Skyr is a form of yogurt or soft cheese but with different bacteria than the usual health food yogurt. There appears to be a “modern form” of it available from. While it is made from cow milk, it was not the cow milk of today. We are fortunate that the viking age cattles are alive and well and living in Iceland today.

Scientifically based information is available indicating that certain milk constituents in Icelandic dairy cows differ from those of milk in other Nordic countries where cattle have been interbred with exotic European breeds, mainly in efforts to increase yield per cow. Thus special protein and fatty-acid characteristics in the milk may contribute to healthiness and it has been suggested that it may give protection against diabetes in children.

Icelandic Dairy Cattle –

How is it different?

  • It has a higher fat and protein content. Icelandic cow’s milk averages around 4% fat and 3.3% protein, higher than the typical composition of milk from mainstream dairy breeds. This richer milk contributes to a creamier, more flavorful dairy product. [Icelandic Cattle | Oklahoma State University (okstate.edu)}

This is interesting because recently we switched to A2 milk and yogurt — we feel better afterwards – we now know why!

It is also interesting to note that chicken, beef or domestic pig are not listed. WIld boar is very different than domestic pig. (As a FYI, the concept of a “beef cattle” was largely unknown in Iceland until recent times).

  • Fat content: Wild boar meat is much leaner than domestic pork. It contains a higher proportion of protein and less fat, especially saturated fat.
  • Nutritional value: Wild boar meat is generally considered more nutritious than domestic pork. It is higher in protein, zinc, and other minerals while being lower in cholesterol and calories.

Take wheat, over the last 120 years (i.e. since 1900),The gluten components have changed: gliadin proportion decreased by 18% and glutenin increased by 25%. [Gluten in Wheat: What Has Changed during 120 Years of Breeding? ] The old varieties are einkorn, emmer, spelt. For example [source]:

  • Einkorn has consistently higher protein content than modern wheats, around 40% more protein.
  • Einkorn contains higher levels of antioxidants like carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin), tocols, and phytosterols compared to wheat.
  • It has 2-4 times more lutein than modern wheat, which is beneficial for eye health.
  • Einkorn shows higher total antioxidant activity than durum and bread wheat.
  • While einkorn contains gluten, it has a different gluten structure with fewer T-cell stimulatory gluten peptides, potentially making it easier to digest for some people with gluten sensitivities.

Is it little wonder that we have increasing issues with modern wheat gluten?

Barley and 100% rye bread (from Germany) are the grains for me! P.S. The shelf life of the bread below is over a year.

Bottom Line

Going with your ancestrial DNA diet is likely much healthier for you and for your microbiome. Many foods have been breed for things like better shelf life, faster growth rate, larger size at a cost of major shifts of the contents of the food. This applies to animals and cultured crops. Eat like your DNA ancestors as much as is possible. There will be challenges finding the foods. I do find that https://www.perplexity.ai/ can speed research because it links to data sources.

Know the true history of “cultural foods” aka allegedly “traditional foods”

Many people would think that “Danish Pastry” is traditional danish food, it is not. It is called  “wienerbrød” in Denmark — meaning “Vienna bread”. It came into Denmark because of a bakers strike in 1850 when bakers from Vienna were imported. These folks brought their southern fancy bake goods with them. They became popular in the big cities. My great grandfather is unlikely to have ever seen a wienerbrød in his life! We can say the same for “Pizza” which entered the US market as a result of returning troops who fought in Italy in WW2. Hot dogs and Hamburgers came into the menu after 1900.