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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 26, 2007

Medieval Serfs Ate Better Than We Eat

By Mark Sisson
13 Comments

Here we are, the wealthiest nation on earth, from any time ever, with the greatest abundance of calories, variety, and nutrition, and wouldn’t you know: medieval peasants were healthier than we are.

The average peasant loaded up on root vegetables (referred to as “pot herbs”), greens, several pints of antioxidant-loaded, nutrient-rich, full-bodied beer, and small portions of grass-fed meat or fresh fish totaling about 8 ounces by days’ end. Daily bulk was provided in the form of millet, oats, and other sturdy, fibrous whole grains. Of course, peasants spent a minimum of 12 hours in hard labor every day, so their bodies quickly burned off the beer and barley.

It’s often repeated that our ancestors lived half as long as we do. That is true, but it’s not as if 35-year-old men of Medieval times were graying and decrepit. They looked much like a 35-year-old would today, only a bit shorter and smaller. People died young, on average, due to pestilence and plague, starvation and war, not genetics. Researchers believe that if you removed such devastating factors, the average peasant would have been healthier and longer-lived than the average Westerner today. While indentured servitude doesn’t sound like a model we want to return to – although I think we could argue we’ve traded it for servitude of another sort – The Man at it again, the successful bastard – long bouts of low-grade exercise focused on moving, pushing, and pulling, coupled with utterly unprocessed, local, organic, fresh foods comprised of plants and protein and fiber, seems like a pretty good recipe for health and longevity to me.

hans s and jurvetson Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Would Grok Chow the Cheese Plate?

Which Fork is for the Grubs?

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13 Comments on "Medieval Serfs Ate Better Than We Eat"

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Tom WIlliams
Tom WIlliams
8 years 11 months ago

I believe that medieval folks were probably healthier, with all the lean meat and nutrient and antioxidant rich beer that they consumed. And these people didn’t even have to deal with steroids!

sam w.h
sam w.h
7 years 22 days ago

medieval peasants did not eat alot of meat as they did not kill the animals due to money loss from the animals supplies.

Tad
Tad
8 years 11 months ago

What’s the difference between pestilence and plague?

Barry
Barry
8 years 11 months ago

Technically speaking, pestilence and plague can mean the same thing. But more often pestilence is used in the general sense of the word “disease” while plague refers specifically to the bubonic plague or “black death” which wiped out almost half the European population in the fourteenth century.

charlotte
8 years 11 months ago

I’ve often thought it ironic that we spend hours sweating it out on pointless treadmills while using all of our labor-saving devices (like cars) when, instead, if we lived (and ate!) like our ancestors we would get plenty of exercise milking the cows and plowing our fields. Of course, I am very grateful to live in a day and age with no plague (thanks for the clarification Barry!)

bob
8 years 11 months ago

Sometimes I wonder if we health freaks (in a positive way) think in tandem hehe.. I just released a write-up called “Eat Like Our Forefathers Did” yesterday! How timely.Charlotte you take the words right out of my mouth.Sometimes I do find those artificial repetitions a little silly.Instead, why not, forgo the car wash, the lift, park a little further, walk etc and then spend less time gym-ing.

lauren
lauren
8 years 6 months ago
Sometimes I wonder if we health freaks (in a positive way) think in tandem hehe.. I just released a write-up called ?Eat Like Our Forefathers Did? yesterday! How timely.Charlotte you take the words right out of my mouth.Sometimes I do find those artificial repetitions a little silly.Instead, why not, forgo the car wash, the lift, park a little further, walk etc and then spend less time gym-ing. TIS STOLEN! RIGHT OF MAH BLOODY WEBSITE! TIS AN OUTRAGE AN I WILL BEH ACALLIN PARLIAMENT! YES SIH! I WILL SO YOU JUST GET CHESELF AREADY!
kayla
8 years 26 days ago

i am doing a projexct on the medieval serf diet and this didnt help very much.
i am greatly disapointed.

>:(
( thats a mad face. you deserve it)

sam w.h
sam w.h
7 years 22 days ago

you should go to…historyonthenet.com or historylearningsite.co.uk these helped me out alot as i aqm doing a medieval project aswell… good luck, hope i’ve helped

mr cockne
mr cockne
8 years 10 days ago
i no that this is the reason why we are so un fit theas days when i was a young lad that is what is was eating but i want to no how you are going to get this out to people i spent 25 years going round to people saying what they should and shouldn not eat but i did not do it so good on you if tou are going to do that but you dont get a lot of cash to surport your family if you go and do something about it if you are get of… Read more »
the p man
7 years 8 months ago

thats so cool

juliet
juliet
6 years 5 months ago

thanks for the info 😀

Catharine
Catharine
4 years 10 months ago

I really like the idea of eating like our forefathers idea, but i always see examples from european ancestry. How would i work this idea being of south asian (indian) descent?

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