Medieval Serfs Ate Better Than We Eat

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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TAGS:  Aging

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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13 thoughts on “Medieval Serfs Ate Better Than We Eat”

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  1. 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!

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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!)

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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)

    1. 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

  7. 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 your bottem and of this tecci thing and go out on the streets.
    listen to me i am right
    thank-you from
    mr cockne

  8. 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?