Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Cyndi O’Meara about Ancestral eating. We have gotten very far away from our ancestors on the way that they enjoyed food. There are many reasons that we should get back to it for optimal health. Read on to learn about fasting, the rise of veganism, how “fake meat” isn’t good for your body, and why eating like our ancestors is our best chance at having a healthy life!
How Did You Start Your Journey with Ancestral Eating?
When I started this, I wanted to do the best for my kids. I wanted to understand everything that was going to happen throughout my pregnancy, throughout the birth, and all the medical things they wanted to do to me (and my baby afterward.) Two months before my baby was born I said absolutely no drugs and they said okay except for Syntometrine (for the mother) and Vitamin K (for the baby).
I did my research and wrote them a paper on why I wasn’t going to use ANY medicine and now I continue to research food. I studied anthropology and saw the connection between human survival and food. I came back to Australia to be a dietician and I thought: “I want nothing to do with this, this has nothing to do with anthropology.” It had to do with:
-No Saturated Fat
I thought there was a big disconnect within this method of thinking. I went back to University to be a chiropractor and after two years I thought that I knew what the human body needed. It was something very much like what I learned in anthropology. That is why I practice ancestral eating now.
I was in the food industry for 20 years and I was one of the guys in the background that was developing products. Initially, I was part of the problem, I was the one putting the nasty stuff in the food. It is inspiring to see someone else like yourself, who is an activist, inspire people and let them know that these products are damaging to your health. -Kriben Govender
Thoughts on The Rise of Veganism?
I went through a lot of health issues when I was younger so I decided to be a vegetarian when I was 14. It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I really craved meat. I listened to my body and then I looked at my anthropology background. Where in the culture of the human species was there a vegan diet? There was a vegetarian diet but not a vegan diet. There was never a culture that survived on a vegan diet.
Jack Kruse (you can read more about him HERE) says that anybody that lives where it’s colder and doesn’t have much light, needs to eat meat. I was thinking that way anyway when the vegan movement came about. We see it everywhere and I don't have a problem with it. We live in a society where we can be vegan because we are privileged. If you take the Himba tribe in Africa, that lives on a desert plain, there are no plant foods. They have to live off of meat and dairy because there is nothing else for them out there.
If you put them on a vegan diet, you are going to kill them. The same with other tribal communities. When we as a western society say the whole world needs to go plant-based, it is just because we are privileged.
With the vegan diet, they say that you must take supplements. If we look at anthropological ways, supplements wouldn’t be available because we had to eat to get our nutrition. This is where I find that the philosophy of the vegan diet falls down. Also, people who would never go vegan are hearing this message over again: Cows produce too much methane gas. They want to do something for the planet so they see these “meats” that look like meat, taste like meat, smell like meat, and they think they are okay.
When I was a vegetarian, TVP (textured vegetable proteins) were available. I used to think, “how could anyone eat this!” We have just refined the TVP into more sophisticated “meats”. There are so many of them coming out and that's where it starts to get scary. Unless you are reading the ingredients, you don't know what you are eating.
Is A Plant-Based Diet Going To Save The Planet?
I have a few friends that are vegan because they want to save the animals and they don't want to eat an animal which is fine! This book talks about how many animals are killed in a monoculture. Not only the vermin but it is either through chemical or mechanical destruction as well. They spray roundup and it not only affects the plant, it affects the yeast and the microbiome of any animal that is in reach of it. Therefore destroying their immune system and killing that animal.
We aren't saving the animals by using a monoculture but I also do not agree with modern-day meat production. There is the way we do agriculture with plants and then the way we do it with animals. In both those terms, I can't agree with them which leads us with nothing to eat!
Zach Bush talks about regenerative farming (you can learn more about that HERE). It is all about using animals to fertilize the land to grow the plants and NOT in a monoculture, more like a permaculture. People like Zach are evolving the way Australians and the world are thinking about where they are getting their food from, how their food is being produced, and what they are consuming.
When a cow is not eating grain then they aren't producing the methane. There are 1.5 billion cows on the planet and there are 8 billion people on the planet. If they have fructose malabsorption (which is becoming a big problem amongst people who are ruining their microbiome through the chemicals in our agriculture as well as antibiotics) then they will be producing methane. I am not sure if it's the cows that are the problem or the humans!
If we start eating foods from our anthropological times and we start producing foods that are through regenerative agriculture (which has shown that it WILL feed the planet) then we will be much healthier.
Right now we can feed 10 billion people BUT we are making them sicker. If you are basing your diet on carbohydrates then you will want more food vs someone who bases their diet on nutrient-dense foods. My daughter is seeing how little she can live on while also maintaining her health and her weight rather than eating as much as she can. This is a great concept and practice!
In Australia in 1965, 2% of the population had a chronic illness. Now 38%-40% of children under the age of 17 have 1 or more chronic illnesses. By the time you reach 65, you have an 80% chance of having 1 or more chronic diseases.
I love the concept of eating for your footprint and also the whole premise of over-consumption that we are seeing in the West. We are incredibly privileged to have the choice to be able to pick our foods because many cultures don't have that luxury. If we go back to prehistoric times, humans were in their tribes eating whatever they could. Whether it was:
-A bug off of the ground
-A berry that they foraged
-An animal that they hunted
-A tuber or root
With our ancestral roots and the way we evolved, I would guess that we would have to be as flexible as possible. If the world fell apart, the ones that have flexibility in their microbiome to actually digest different types of foods would survive. We eat far too much and we are consuming so many processed foods that we are malnourished so we need to consume more to get the vital nutrients from our food. I noticed for myself, when I transitioned to an organic clean diet, my consumption level diminished substantially. Then there is the whole concept of eating more because it speeds the metabolism and it's totally wrong. It is pure overconsumption driven by powerful marketing campaigns by Big Food. There is a lot to be said about the whole concept of fasting.-Kriben Govender
What Are Your Thoughts on Fasting?
It is becoming more popular and that is a wonderful thing! Let's look at anthropological principles…. We would have definitely fasted because food wasn't always available. In winter, there would be lean meats around and there wouldn't have been plants. They would have been eating preserved foods, like fermented foods. Then in the summer there would have been a lot more food available. The animals would have more fat on them so they were eating fattier meats.
In the summer we would put on weight with the help of the carbs, fruits, and fatty meat. And in the winter the calorie count would have been low. We would have been in the state of ketosis which would give our fat cells 2000 calories per day extra. If we were eating 500g of lean meat and some stored food, we would survive.
We would go through sugar metabolism, metabolize fat, and that is why I think ketosis is becoming so popular. There are many ways to get into ketosis:
-We might be sick and not be able to eat, our body will help us survive
-We may be eating fewer calories
-We may have slept through the night and fasted all morning and go into a state of ketosis.
To me, ketosis is not a diet it is a STATE.
Fasting was always a part of our anthropological times. I do what we call a mimicking fasting diet. I cut my calories down to 500 calories in the winter. I have 100g of meat and greens for lunch and dinner. The only fruits I eat are apples and citrus since that is what we would have had access to. This helps me to strip fat and toxins.
In the summer I LOVE fresh fruits and I eat more. Fasting or slight fasting (you only eat small amounts of food) are two brilliant ways to help you have flexibility. We should be able to do this on a daily basis and on a yearly basis. The problem is, we are always in the “summer” because food is available to us all over the world in a grocery store 24/7.
When you start to think about it, you realize we need to mimic our ancestors. We are evolutionary bodies.
As Jack Kruse would say, we must have that sunlight in the morning to stop the melatonin and start the serotonin. This is not just about diet, this is about going to bed and making sure you don't have bright lights in front of you as well. Then watch the sunrise in the morning. You can be in the modern world and do this. You have to give your body the resources that it needs, otherwise, it will be sick.
Jack Kruse’s Concept About The Light Programming of the Food That We Eat
It's a revolutionary concept. We look at vegetables and fruits and we just think of vegetables and fruits but then there is also this innate programming that happens from the light source that is hitting this plant.-Kriben Govender
I have a farm and we do holistic farming. We aren’t certified organic because that means you CAN use some chemicals. I watch all of the blossoms come up in the spring and I am in awe that these trees just keep giving. It’s sunlight but it's also the ecology of the soil. It’s the microbes (like your gut bacteria.) The light hits that plant and there is this amazing synchronicity that works to produce food for us. When you produce a vitamin, a mineral, or a food additive, there is no light and there is no ecology.
There are scientists that say that there is no difference between Vitamin E from food and Vitamin E from a capsule. But there are some vitamins that are never by themselves. They always have other nutrients with it (including phytonutrients!) They recently started adding those to vitamins as well. We must get our fuel from REAL food. Supplementation, except in an emergency, should be coming from our food. There are a group of farmers out there that love their soil more than they love anything else. How do you know if your soil is working? The plants are happy, the animals are happy, they are resistant to disease there is NO need for chemicals!
The soil ecology is so important. What we have done is strip the soil from all of the mycorrhizal fungi which are communication networks in the soil. That is detrimental to the nutrition of the food. We would need to put mycorrhizal fungi back into the soil. There are also all of these soil-based probiotics that are in there. There are other types of organisms that have been shown in studies that you can improve your mood just by being out in the garden. Then if you are having organic foods and you are able to not use pesticides and chemicals and you don't have to overly wash the products. Then there will be that natural inoculation that is going to happen when you consume the food. Lastly, when you talked about the light shining on the food, Jack Kruse talks about this almost like a GPS signal that goes into the food. I highly encourage people to consider eating local to their region. This is tied into the cycles of nature and also the light that is hitting the food is almost geotagged to the location that the food is in. If we are consuming a lot of imported fruits and vegetables it is confusing to the mitochondria. It doesn't really know where this food is coming and how to properly extract the energy efficiently.-Kriben Govender
What Are Your Thoughts On Eating For The Region You Are In?
If you are eating a mango in the winter, you are confusing the body's ability to understand its place in space and time. Eat as much local food as you can get. Let's look at anthropological times:
There would have been movement. We know that the Himba’s 400 years ago, would have come from the north of Africa. It would have been tropical then they had to move south. They would have brought foods with them that were important to their survival. Such as salt or spices which have been moved around for thousands of years. You can eat locally but I also think you can also add the salt and spices that aren't from your area as well. I agree entirely with your local fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meat. Those foods can be produced locally but remember there were also travelers.
But you also have to be mindful of where you get your produce. If you buy packaged lettuce they are now putting sanitizer on it. This gets rid of all of the soil-based biology. When I get my lettuce I don't even wash it and all of the soil that is on it goes into my salad. This is full of probiotics! Everyone wants to sterilize instead of realizing those soil-based bacteria can actually heal the gut.
It is so deceptive when you go to a supermarket and you think you are buying a fruit or vegetable and you think this is a fresh product. But those packaged products go through EXTREME processing. If you think about it, if there were 300 supermarket stores across Australia that have to have distribution, a longer shelf life would be critical. If you look at the process it is almost industrial-based going through heavy sanitation to maintain the shelf life for a certain period of time. Shelf life is money. -Kriben Govender
We have had listeria outbreaks and with those outbreaks, we have used a chemical that is not only a herbicide but it's also an antibiotic. There are a couple of bacteria that are resistant to this and it just happens to be pathological soil bacteria (listeria!) We are spraying roundup desiccating strawberries, tomatoes, wheat, oats, and all vegan foods. It only takes parts per billion to destroy your microbiome.
- It all started with monocultures and genetically modified corn and canola in 1995
-Then it went to round-up ready canola
-Now they are producing dicamba ready genetically modified crops
I don't know what that is going to do to the health of humans.
It is a combination of these chemicals that they can put on the food supply even before harvest. Then we consume it and kill our microbiome. What is interesting is that Dr. Don Huber said the way glyphosate (Round Up) works is that it stops an enzymatic pathway called the shikimate pathway. That is not what kills the plant, what kills the plant is that it becomes immune compromised then the soil-based pathological bacteria can come up through the plant and kill it.
In normal conditions they can resist these soil-based pathological bacteria but since their immune system is compromised, as a result of the destruction of the shikimate pathway, it can’t. This pathway produces it’s folate, tryptophan, enterobactin, tyrosine, and vitamin k. They are all being killed in the plant. Dr. Huber said that it gives the plant AIDS. This allows opportunistic pathogenic bacteria to kill it.
This is why I have such a passion for this:
I had 6 uncles that had hemophilia (a bleeding disease.) In the 1980s a new drug came out and it was factor 8 which helped them live a normal life and they could inject themselves at home. HIV was in that serum and they all got HIV and died of AIDS. Bayer was the company that made that drug. Bayer has now bought Monsanto and they are now in accord with glyphosate and causing non Hodgkin's lymphoma.
I hope people are getting the message that antibiotics aren't good for the gut. Meat is the biggest source of antibiotics in terms of people that follow the normal diet. But for people that are vegans and vegetarians, Cindy has highlighted that there are antibiotics in these vegan type foods as well. Food preservatives, chemicals, glyphosate, which all operate like antibiotics, they kill bacteria.-Kriben Govender
What Is Happening In The “Fake Meat” Space?
We have seen this explosion of soy-based products that mimic meat. There is a lot of capital going into this and the money is going into the patents of the chemicals that they are making that fake meat tastes and looks like meat. One patent is on this group that grows on the root of legumes called leghemoglobin. They take the gene out of the soy plant that makes that leghemoglobin and they insert it into yeast. Then they ferment it, produce a lot of it, extract the “hemo” group out of it, they then put it on a substrate. They include proteins and amino acids (not food-based ones!) For Example:
They will add this to flavor precursors and then all of these volatile chemicals come off of it. These chemicals can smell like bison, chicken, lamb, and beef. It is a completely fake sensation to the body.
I wrote down an example of the ingredients in one of the meats that have this leghemoglobin in it:
Textured wheat protein- it might have glyphosate in it and how do they make it?
Coconut oil- is it a coconut oil that is good or deodorized?
Potato Protein- how do they produce that?
Natural flavor- there are 48 chemicals in a natural flavor. There is nothing natural about it!
When I started working in industry I was a flavorist. I use to develop natural flavors and most of them are carcinogenic. I had to wear a mask and full suit to compound these chemicals. Most of the MSDSs state that they are carcinogenic.-Kriben Govender
One of the things we are learning about is ferritin, which is the iron storage in our body, and the amount of it. If you have TOO much in your body it is a good indicator of heart disease and heart attack. We have this product on the market that is in a plant-based modality but we wouldn't eat the root of soybeans. I am wondering if there is going to be an association between these vegan meats and a rise in heart disease?
Anytime you tinker with nature it's going to be dangerous. Most consumers in the meat-free space might be confused with the health benefits of these products. They might think that it’s going to be good for them.-Kriben Govender
There is no light in that meat! It is made up of vitamins, minerals, and xanthan gum. Where is the light in this? Where is it coming from? It is confusing to the body. For 1000’s of years your body has eaten fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables. But it has never eaten this so it doesn’t know what to do. How does it construct a body with good eyesight, energy, and how does it affect the mitochondria to produce our ATP? These are “generally regarded as safe” where are the safety studies on this?
It takes time to establish these studies before they are released into the wild. Until you start to see the potential impacts…. and at this point, it might be too late. It is all about going back to nature, eating how nature intended, taking the chemicals out, and just eating real food as much as possible from your local environment. I have zero problems if you choose to go plant-based, but it is all about eating as nature intended. Clean and real food. -Kriben Govender
It doesn’t matter what diet you are on, just make sure that it is from nature, as local as possible, and that you questioned your farmer. Food security is so vital. Especially when you don't want to be duped by someone that is at a farmers market that is not a farmer.
Tips on How You Can Improve Your Gut Health?
Stay away from monocultures, genetically modified foods, eat foods that are local, and eat as clean as you can. Watch out for packaged foods because they have a stamp of approval that shouldn't be there. I am the one ingredient pantry girl. And from that, I can make thousands of recipes. People are now becoming allergic to foods and we are heading into crisis care where we have to eliminate all plant-based foods. We can bring the plant-based foods back in but we have to get the microbiome right again. We are trying to decimate the pathological bacteria and soothe the gut. We then need to give the body prebiotics and probiotics that will feed the good bacteria. This is Kefir and yoghurts that have been in every culture. It’s time we go back to our culture. You need all of the bacteria that are in our cultures from our soil and from these ancient processes. In order for us to heal what we damaged, we have to remove everything that is damaging and put everything in that's helping
There you have it, if you live as your ancestors did, it will help you with your overall health. Remember to limit your processed foods intake, be mindful of where you get your food from, eat with the seasons and eat locally, and veganism isn’t always the best bet if you aren’t aware of the other problems that it contributes to as well. Share this with a friend that could learn from this!