What comes to mind when you picture a hunter-gatherer? I think of the remote tribes of Africa, free from westernisation. Their fit, lean bodies, infectious smiles and incredible skills of survival.
On Sunday night I had the pleasure of being a part of The Gut Movie premiere Q&A session, here in Adelaide (awesome work Kale Brock). As I mentioned on the night, there were some real moments that shone out to me while watching the footage of the Sun Tribe in Southern Africa.
I realise there may be difficulties in digging up your tubers and chasing down the nearest wild animal for your dinner feast, but I feel we can make some realistic but effective developments to our day to day life, to mimic the simple, joyful lives of a hunter gatherer.
Read on for my the top 3 lessons we can learn from these wise, warming and robust people.
What You Eat
Hunter-gatherers like the Sun Tribe, know where their food comes from. That’s because they hunted or gathered that food with their bare hands. Sounds pretty simple, but through westernisation, we have lost connection with where our foods have grown or been raised. When you’re at the supermarket, do you check the origin of your oranges? Are you seeking out locally grown leeks and lamb?
There is something special about knowing where your food has come from, and how it has been treated. Opting for organic (or pesticide free), whole foods leads to a diet abundant in fresh food, with increased nutritional value. By purchasing locally grown organic produce you are also caring for the environment by reducing food miles and toxins (herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers), as well as supporting your local farmers and community. My favourite way to achieve this is through shopping at farmers markets, or grocers that support local, organic produce.
A great question to ask yourself while making your regular food shop, is ‘how is this food going to serve me?’ Unnatural foods such as trans-fat rich margarine for example, when placed outside won’t even interest the bugs around your home. Some processed breads and packaged foods are that full of preservatives, they wouldn’t even go mouldy when left out for a week…or even more. Those foods are best kept on the shelf.
Along with basing your diet on organic, whole foods, to eat like a hunter-gatherer you may also need a lesson in embracing nose-to-tail eating. Instead of often opting for steak or chicken breast (including mince and stir-fry strips made from this) for your dinner protein, appreciate the tenderness and flavoursome dishes created after slow cooking cheaper, tougher cuts. When cooked in this way, the gelatinous meats on the bones (think osso bucco, ribs, shanks, drumsticks, legs) are also easier to digest than muscle meats such as steak and chicken breast.
Keep any left over bones, or chicken carcasses for making up a nutritious broth and if you’re really feeling adventurous, go for small amount of cooked organ meats for therapeutic doses of iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, vitamin A, B vitamins and vitamin K. Wowsers, a nutritional bomb right there!
Let’s mimic hunter-gatherers by aiming for organic, whole foods, homemade… and the whole thing.
How You Eat
Do you eat on the run? While you’re rushing around or driving?
Are you scrolling through your phone while mindlessly swallowing your way through your meal?
Are you shovelling in mouthfuls while you’re working?
Does your family meal time include the distracting telly blaring in the background?
Stress, eating on the run and eating too quickly can contribute to poor digestion and malnutrition. You could be filling your diet up with nourishing foods, but if you lack digestive function, you may not absorb those valuable nutrients properly. You are not only what you eat, but also what you absorb. Learn more about ways you can increase your valuable stomach acid for optimal digestion, here.
Now imagine sharing a meal with your loved ones over story telling and belly laughs. Genuine happiness, like shown by the Sun Tribe is contagious as they sat in circles and celebrate their meals together, creating a positive atmosphere for meal time. If you’re home alone, turn of the telly and turn up your favourite tunes. Encouraging a relaxed, happy environment while eating your foods, chewing your food slowly (and each mouthful 20 times), allows your body to concentrate energy on secreting the all important stomach acid, enzymes and therefore leads to a well digested meal and absorption of vital nutrients.
As hunter-gatherers have spent their time and energy tracking down their food source, the gratitude for their meals could not be higher and is a powerful practise to take on board. Even if it’s a simple silent acknowledgement of where your food has come from, the people involved in bringing it to your table and a smile of thanks, this is an influential exercise to introduce into your daily dinner routine.
When you’re a hunter gatherer, there is no waste. You head out daily to track down what is needed to support your family and community for the day. However in the Western society of ‘abundance’ you know there is more (for now) where that came from in isle 1 of the supermarket, so that brown banana can be chucked away, right?
With an average $3,800 on food wastage per household per year in Australia, I challenge you to take a good look at your food wastage and develop strategies to overcome this.
Could you invest in some backyard chooks, so your food scraps are turned into eggs overnight? Don’t have the room? Start a backyard compost bin.
Instead of throwing away your chicken carcasses, meat bones, broccoli stalks, celery tops and slightly bendy carrot, store these in the freezer, ready to add to your next batch of nourishing broth.
Do you have room for a couple of pots to grow your own spinach leaves, lettuce varities and favourite herbs? You’re not only saving money, but also reducing toxic exposures of the chemical sprays of conventional farming. If you’re a keen gardener and have an abundance of produce at once, share these with friends and family and/or arrange community food swaps to minimise produce rotting on the ground.
Fermenting your fruits and vegetables is also another effective way to preserve your excess foods, but gives you bonus good gut bacteria support for strong digestion. Here is one of my sauerkraut recipes and I use this kefir to ferment fruit (use code ‘glow’ to receive 10% off).
Also bring light to the amount of one-use plastic you are throwing away each day and week. Where can you replace packaged foods wrapped in plastic with homemade cooking and use more sustainable material such as reusable glass and stainless steel?
Opt for cardboard and good old brown paper bags for carrying food and use hessian, straw or Aussie made (formaldehyde free) canvas bags and swags over plastic and plastic lined bags and sleeping bags. Yeah I get it, there are times when you forget the reusable bags, so be sure to save them for another use such as bin liners around the home.
Also take a look across here for ways you can keep your fruits and veg fresher for longer, without the use of plastic.
Living like a hunter-gatherer doesn’t have to be as far fetched as you’d first imagine. By making some simple but powerful changes in the foods you eat, the way you eat, the community you surround yourself with and your sustainability practises, develops a deeper connection and gratitude for your food and the hunter-gatherer way.
How do you live like a hunter-gatherer?
Love, health & happiness,
Image sourced from Aino Tuominen, Pixabay