Feed Your Heart a Hunter-Gatherer Diet

Feed Your Heart a Hunter-Gatherer Diet

Looking for some heart-health tips? Eating a bit more like our hunter-gatherer ancestors could be beneficial to your heart.

A growing number of evolutionary biologists posit that in order to live healthier lives, we should return to more of a hunter-gatherer diet -- with more grass-fed beef, root vegetables, berries, nuts, and eggs. And in a recent study, this style diet appeared to boost cardiovascular health.

Heart of the matter
In the study, investigators fed nine, healthy, non-obese men and women their usual diets for a few days. After switching to a hunter-gatherer diet for 7 days, study participants experienced improved cardiovascular health; greater insulin sensitivity (which means their bodies needed less insulin to keep blood sugar steady); and less after-meal arterial stiffness, a measure of cardiovascular health. Which led some researchers to speculate that our grain- and dairy-based diet over the last 10,000 years may have resulted in epidemics of cardiovascular disease, since our bodies have not had time to adapt to it, genetically speaking. What's more, a Paleolithic-era diet may be more satisfying than other diets. In another study involving men with heart disease, men on the hunter-gatherer diet ate fewer calories per day than men on a Mediterranean diet -- but the Paleo eaters felt just as satisfied. Which suggests that the Paleo diet could result in heart-healthy weight loss as well. (Related: Find out why you should move like a hunter-gatherer, too.)

Ready to sate your appetite with a Flintstone-style diet? Here are four heart-health tips to get you started:

  • Eat lots of root vegetables, such as turnips, parsnips, carrots, and rutabagas. (Related: Get tips on diversifying your diet.)
  • Snack on nuts when you get the munchies. (Related: Nuts can help you control your weight as well.)
  • Replace grain-fed beef with grass-fed beef, bison, or other wild game meats to mimic the nutrition profile of Paleolithic meats.
  • Cut back on grain products as well as cheese and other dairy, which weren't part of the Paleo diet.

Medically reviewed in March 2019.

The Surprising Power of Happiness
The Surprising Power of Happiness
If you had to choose a theme song for your life, would it be, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" or "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? Great news if you picked the l...
Read More
What are the risks of cardiac catheterization?
Brigham and Women's HospitalBrigham and Women's Hospital
Possible risks associated with cardiac catheterization, a procedure performed to further diagnose co...
More Answers
8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health
8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health8 Things Sabotaging Your Heart Health
From long commutes to ibuprofen, learn more about these lesser-known cardiovascular dangers.
Start Slideshow
How Is Meditation Beneficial for Heart Health?
How Is Meditation Beneficial for Heart Health?