The caveman or ‘paleo’ diet is so on trend in Western society, so why are we still gathering our weekly food from Coles or Woollies? Should we instead be hunting for food in the wilderness, amongst the lions, giraffes, baboons and stinger bees?
This is something Todd Sampson chose to do with the last hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, the Hadza tribe. It was one of a series of six challenges he puts his body through in the new show BodyHack. This particular episode aired on Channel 10 Tuesday night last week.
It was a privilege to be asked to review Todd’s nutritional status before the series began filming. In particular before he put his body on the line – or in the ring – for the Mixed Martial Arts fighting (MMA) in the U.S. I was quite relieved to hear he’d survived the experience – well, only just!
My work with Todd involved analysis of his diet, to ensure he obtained adequate nutrients, advising on ways to increase energy and most importantly, recovery from his rigorous adventures.
It was interesting to hear the Hadza consume seven times more fibre in their diet than we do in the West, with a diet consisting primarily of vegetables, fruit and roots. Fibre is food for our friendly gut bacteria and helps build our immune.
Many of the clients I see don’t consume enough fibre in their diet, which encourages a healthy digestive function and can help prevent chronic diseases, such as colon cancer. Hanging out with the Hazda might just be a ‘gutsy’ thing for us to do?
I question if the Hadza ever get sick, or suffer from our myriad of chronic diseases? Maybe it’s all the fibre they consume, constantly feeding their micro biome (gut bacteria), making for a healthy gut and robust immune system.
I’m pretty sure there’d be no food intolerances, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or gut dysbiosis – an imbalance of gut flora – amongst the Hadza either, so common in Western society. It makes you realise just how amazing nature is. It knows exactly what to provide and where – we just need to see it and respond.
There was certainly no sign of obesity amongst the Hadza. It was clear food was hunted (no supermarket or dial a pizza here) and eaten as a necessity, highly respected and always shared – can we learn from this?
Todd’s fitness certainly prepared him for the MMA training, and to cope with hunting and surviving with the Hadza. Not knowing where you’re next meal is coming from – or if it just ran past you while you were sleeping – would be a tough challenge for most westerners to endure, I’m sure.
There’s plenty of research around the benefits of eating less and intermittent fasting, which would be a natural way of living for the Hadza, and something Todd’s body appeared well equipped to manage. Could it be worth a try?
As an Ambassador for That Sugar Film, I’m passionate about spreading the message of hidden sugars found in ‘perceived healthy foods’, a message not required for the Hazda – they only eat ‘real’ food.
The science clearly shows it’s better to pluck an apple from a tree and crunch on it than buy a mass-produced apple juice. Juices are stripped of the goodness provided by the fibre, highly concentrated and leave you feeling hungry sooner, minus the fibre to tell you you’re full.
Watching last week’s episode of BodyHack, I couldn’t help noticing how happy the Hazda were. While only a passing observation, I couldn’t detect any anxiety, depression or general moodiness. They just appeared happy with their lot. If only western society could inhale their joy and optimism, versus swallowing the manufactured form (drug) of happiness.
Could it be their healthy gut? Perhaps the lack of refined foods, preservatives or added chemicals in their diet?
Interestingly, 95 per cent of the ‘serotonin’ (our happy hormone) we produce is manufactured in the cells of our gut. And there’s a communication route (well about five) between gut micro biota and the brain.
So could a healthy diet and happy belly be the way to protect our brain for the future – I’ve got a gut feeling it is!
Tune in to BodyHack on Channel 10, Tuesday nights at 8:30pm to watch Todd take on his next adventure – challenging the human body through tough, scary and slightly insane adventures.