Ancestral Health | Chris Kresser
Interested in becoming an ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach? Enrollment is open now and closes September 30th Learn More

Ancestral Health

Chronic disease is, by and large, a uniquely modern problem. Throughout most of our species’ existence, humans lived largely free of the illnesses that plague so many today. So what changed—and what didn’t? Our environment and our genes, respectively. We’re designed for the hunter–gatherer lifestyle, yet we live as sedentary shoppers, and our well-being suffers as a result. Ancestral health offers a path for helping yourself, or your clients, reclaim the natural vitality our ancestors enjoyed.

What Is Ancestral Health?

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, our ancestors laid out the blueprint for healthy living for us to follow: eat real food, move frequently and sometimes intensively, and give our bodies time to recover. Much has changed since the Paleolithic era. Our jobs often require we sit at a desk for hours on end; there are grocery stores, filled with food-like items at our fingertips—meaning that you may not be following that time-tested plan. Yet, as humans, we remain biologically adapted to life on the savanna.

When we don’t live as our ancestors did, we create a mismatch between our genes and our environment that drives chronic disease. Ancestral health is a prescription for correcting that imbalance. It’s the antidote to chronic illness, and its steps are simple. By eating nourishing meals, sitting less and exercising more, keeping a lid on stress, and getting good sleep, you can stave off the most common conditions and feel—or, if youre a Functional Medicine practitioner, help your patients feel—their very best.

Learn More about Ancestral Health

Back to Top

The Paleo Diet: Getting Started and Fine-Tuning Your Template

There’s no such thing as an optimal human diet, or one diet that works for every individual. However, there are foods that humans, from an ancestral health perspective, are designed to eat. These are the foods our Paleolithic ancestors consumed; thus, eating them is called following the Paleo diet or Paleo template.

Those foods include meats, especially organ meats, fish and shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and starches like potatoes and sweet potatoes, along with healthy fats. You may also discover that full-fat dairy products are a healthful addition for you and that you enjoy and tolerate some legumes well. A wealth of delicious options abound.

Find Out How to Customize Your Paleo Template

ancestral diet

What Is an Ancestral Diet and How Does It Help You?

What did our Paleolithic ancestors eat? While there was no “one” ancestral diet, they all shared common features. Find out what an ancestral diet looks like and how it can fight chronic disease.
An optimal human diet includes a mix of nutrient-rich plant- and animal-based foods, similar to what this member of the Maasai would eat.

What Is the Optimal Human Diet?

If you’re confused about what to eat and frustrated by the contradictory headlines popping up in your news feed, you’re not alone. Here's an in-depth look at the question of what we should eat.
nutrivore diet

The Nutrivore Diet: What a Healthy Diet Looks Like

A healthy diet should be nourishing and meet the individual needs of the person eating it, and the nutrivore diet checks those boxes. Find out more about what the nutrivore diet is in this article.
Ancestral diet for women

The Ancestral Diet for Women: 4 Health Conditions that Benefit from a Whole-Foods Approach

Think the Paleo diet is only for men? Think again. An ancestral diet for women provides high-quality nutrition and can help support health in four different scenarios. Read on to find out more.
Animal protein

Animal Protein and a Whole-Foods Diet: What the Science Says

Science supports the consumption of animal protein as part of a whole-foods diet. Find out why, and learn more about why we should think twice before accepting claims that meat is harmful.
paleo diet facts

20 Things You Didn’t Know about Paleo

Paleo has received a lot of attention over the past couple of years and there are misconceptions about what Paleo means for most people. Here are 20 things everyone should know about Paleo.
These dairy products may not fit in a strict Paleo diet—but there’s room for them in a Paleo template.

Beyond Paleo: Moving from a “Paleo Diet” to a “Paleo Template”

Follwing a Paleo diet doesn't encourage you to think or experiment to find what works for you. Following a Paleo template does.
Nose to tail

Nose-to-Tail Eating: Everything You Need to Know

For a balanced nutrient-dense diet, you need to eat nose to tail, like our ancestors did. Find out how to get organ meats, cartilage, and other cuts of meat onto your plate.
pasture raised

Why Pasture-Raised Animal Products Are Better for Your Health and the Environment

Do you want to eat healthy and also help the environment? Consider sourcing pastured animal products, which are both more nutritious and more eco-friendly than conventional products.
How to Calculate Macronutrients

How to Calculate Macronutrient Ratios that Work for You

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to diet, so how do you calculate your macronutrients in a way that benefits your health status, activity level, and lifestyle? Find out.
This olive oil is one example of a healthy fat.

Healthy Fats: What You Need to Know

Fats get a bad rap in our heart-healthy and fat-obsessed diet culture. Yet fats play important roles in immune function, regulating body temperature, and maintaining healthy skin and hair.

5 Reasons You May Need More Protein—Even on a Paleo Diet

Most people naturally eat the right amount of protein for their needs. However, there are certain situations where it may be advantageous to increase protein intake at least temporarily.
quality carbs

Carbohydrates: Why Quality Trumps Quantity

Do you obsessively count carbs? The good news is you probably don’t need to. Research suggests that the answer to obesity and metabolic disease lies in the types of carbohydrate we eat.
paleo intermittent fasting

Paleo Intermittent Fasting: How to Get the Benefits of Both Diets

Paleo and intermittent fasting (IF) go together naturally. Read on to learn how IF is in tune with ancestral health, how to implement IF while Paleo, and troubleshooting tips.

More about the Paleo Diet

Back to Top

Why You Should Exercise like Your Ancestors

When you picture a hunter–gatherer, do you picture him lounging lazily on the sofa? Of course not. Our ancestors were almost always on the move. They had to exert themselves, and often quite strenuously, to survive: they sprinted, jogged, climbed, carried, and jumped intermittently throughout the day, on top of walking and running.

Of course, this is in part why they stayed naturally lean and fit. You can too by mimicking the way they moved and embracing ancestral health. That doesn’t just mean hopping on a treadmill for 30 minutes or practicing a session of high-intensity interval training or lifting weights a few days a week. It also means sitting less—a lot less—and moving more every day.

Here’s How to Move like Your Ancestors

Read More about Fitness & Wellness

Back to Top

How to Live an Ancestral Lifestyle

You focus on diet and exercise, knowing they’re crucial to being your healthiest self. But how much thought do you give to your sleep? Or to your relationships or the amount of time you spend in nature or let yourself play? These lifestyle choices have an equally important role to play in well-being.

While our Paleolithic ancestors ate high-quality, nourishing foods and moved almost constantly, they also allowed themselves to rest—to shake off the stress of fleeing a predator or a challenging hunt. Although we live in a culture that values productivity and activity above all else, we can say no to the chronic stress our busy lives create and embrace more ancestral lifestyles.

Learn How You Can Start Living an Ancestral Lifestyle

sympathetic vs parasympathetic

Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic State: How Stress Affects Your Health

If you’re chronically stressed, your body is spending too much time in the sympathetic state, rather than the parasympathetic. Find out the difference between these two states and the impact long-term sympathetic activity has on your health.
These people holding hands are likely experiencing a rush of hormones, which are integral players in how relationships affect health.

How Relationships Affect Health—and How to Feel More Connected

We’re social creatures. We thrive when we feel connected, and we suffer health consequences when we feel alone. Here’s how relationships affect health, and four ways you can build closer connections in your life.
This young man is experiencing the benefits of play while he plays a guitar.

10 Benefits of Play

Think back to your favorite childhood activity. Do you still make time for it today? Or do you think of it as an unproductive, frivolous pastime you had to outgrow on your way to adulthood?
beating insomnia

8 Tips for Beating Insomnia and Improving Your Sleep

Do you have trouble sleeping? Make sleep a priority by following these eight tips that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Fighting stress is important for optimal health.

5 Simple (But Powerful) Tools for Fighting Stress

We can't always avoid stress, but we can influence how it affects us. Learn the tools for changing how you experience it.
health benefits of music

6 Ancestral Health Benefits of Music

All cultures throughout history created music, and it’s universal in our world today. Read on to learn about the health benefits of music and how it changes your brain, boosts your mood, and promotes well-being.
practice pleasure

7 Ways to Practice Pleasure This Week

Are you getting enough pleasure in your life? Discover seven ways you can practice pleasure this week, and how they can improve your health.
This woman walking her dog outdoors is enjoying the health benefits of green space.

The Top Health Benefits of Green Space

Spending time outside can reduce your stress and bolster your mood, improve your cognition, lower your risks for chronic diseases, and help you live longer. Find out more of the health benefits of green space.
Digital detox

How to Tell if It’s Time for a Digital Detox and How to Do It in 3 Steps

Do you have a healthy, balanced relationship with technology? If you find yourself unable to focus throughout the day, a digital detox might be in order. Find out how to go off the grid.
How to Practice Mindfulness

How to Practice Mindfulness and the 20 Ways It Will Transform Your Life

In our hectic world, mindfulness is quickly becoming a necessity. Check out this article for tips on how to practice mindfulness and the ways it will transform your health and life.
How to reduce light pollution

How to Reduce Light Pollution to Sleep Soundly and Feel Energized

Light pollution is a major problem in the developed world; it affects your health and the health of your community. Find out how to reduce light pollution and why it’s worth it to do so.
HPA Axis Dysfunction Diet

The HPA Axis Dysfunction Diet: How to Use Nutrition to Support a Balanced Stress Response

HPA axis dysfunction has far-reaching impacts on your health, but following a strategic HPA axis dysfunction diet may help you recover. Here’s how you can use nutrition to support your HPA axis and stress response.
sleep and eating

The Link between Sleep and Eating and What to Eat for a Good Night’s Sleep

Many lifestyle factors impact sleep, including nutrition. Read on to learn about the link between sleep and eating, and find out how you can achieve deep, restorative sleep.

Learn More about Sleep

Back to Top