Several years ago a new fad began. Or maybe it was an old fad, because it was a way of eating based on the way our ancient ancestors used to eat. It’s been called the Caveman Diet, Paleo Diet and other names. The idea was simple, but somewhat flawed: eat like you’re a caveman because that’s the closest you’ll get to what’s natural for your body. Now a newer-older fad has arisen: People are once again foraging for food in the wild.
Anthropologist William Leonard, Northwestern University, studies primitive diets and has discovered some interesting facts about the health benefits of foraging for food instead of hopping in your car, wheeling a cart around the local grocery store then coming home to pop a frozen pizza in the oven. The professor said, “Our work has shown that throughout most of our evolutionary past and among tradition subsistence-level (i.e., food producing) populations today, food availability was marginal, and populations had to work much harder to obtain food and stay alive. Our work with traditional foraging, farming and herding populations has shown that these populations typically expend more calories over the course of a day than people in modern, urban societies.”*
Leonard said, “The reconstruction of Paleolithic diets potentially gives us an idea about what humans were eating throughout most of our evolutionary history. This is the central idea of evolutionary approaches to health and nutrition: that many of our health problems today reflect an imbalance between our current dietary and lifestyle patterns and the conditions we adapted to throughout most of our evolutionary history.”*
Today’s typical diet of processed foods, pesticide-laden and genetically engineered produce, fast foods and fares full of chemicals pale in comparison to the nutritious diet of early humans, which is why some people are looking toward the past for a more healthful future.
Guidelines for berry pickers?
Recently, Saint Joseph’s University released a set of guidelines for food foragers. If you’ve got the time and stamina to eat wild and supplement your diet with home-grown plants, the tips may come in handy.
“Foraging as part of a lifestyle is not really new,” says mycologist Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology. “Guidebooks for food foragers have been around for years, as well as publications like Mother Earth News.”