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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.

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