Saturday, June 30, 2012

Diet Of Early Man: Grain

Julio Mercader says that early hominims living in Africa relied on starchy plants, especially cereals, to feed themselves.

Mozambican Grass Seed Consumption During The Middle Stone Age, Science Magazine, 2009.

It can be read for free here:
Mozambican Grass Seed Consumption During The Middle Stone Age
"A large assemblage of starch granules has been retrieved from the surfaces of Middle Stone Age stone tools from Mozambique, showing that early Homo sapiens relied on grass seeds starting at least 105,000 years ago, including those of sorghum grasses."
About 90% of the starch on food processing tools found deep in a cave came from sorghum, a grass still raised for its grain today. Corn, rice, wheat, barley, and sorghum are the top 5 most important cereal grains in the world. They're all grass seeds.
Photo of sorghum from Mississippi State University.


Angela and Melinda said...

I knew it, I knew it! Glad to have further confirmation of Paleo achievements!

Ben P. DaSalt said...

This notion that we need to eat what we always eat is moot.

The Okinawans ate a high carbohydrate diet comprising of the New World food: sweet potatoes.

They are the longest-lived people in the world. There are other examples of course, but we only really need one. After such a fact, there’s little reason to debate what our Paleolithic ancestors did or did not eat.

According to some paleo advocates, these foods must be inherently poisonous:

Corn, Quinoa, Navy Beans, Black Beans, Kidney beans, Lima Beans, Peanuts, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Sweet potatoes, Pumpkins, Squash, Blueberries, Cranberries, Persimmons, Blackberries, Currants. Beechnuts, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Chilies peppers, Chocolate (cocoa), Vanilla, Maple Syrup, Squashes, Avocadoes, Pineapples, Papayas, and Cassava.

And I’ve only listed foods from the New World that peoples of European and Asian descent hadn’t begun eating until after 1492.

Let’s not even get into foods that were even more “recent” hybrid creations like grapefruits or seedless grapes or all the agricultural foods going back a few thousand years ago that we know humans were consuming that paleos believe are “toxic” like rice, barley and wheat.

It’s like saying, “Don’t eat turkey” (a New World bird) because it’s new to human stomachs since paleo times and it contains a scary chemical called tryptophan which is said to induce lethargy and too much of this chemical will kill you. (Some ancestral-health gurus love to run wild with some dangerous chemical or another they want to implicate.) But we even have examples of wild animals that encounter an entirely new food source and thrive.

This “evolutionary” foundation of paleo is what really hurts it. It just seems strange to evoke evolution, the embodiment of the term change, as a rationale to advocate a static state of existence.

The reasons it “works” are better explained through other means, basically the same ways we explain why whole-foods diets are preferable to processed food, like:

• Processing can strip away nutrients.
• Smaller particle size of processed food leads to faster absorption, promoting weight gain.
• Processed foods tend to have added concentrated fats and sweeteners.
• We tend to engineer processed food to be hyper-palatable, leading to overeating.

Quick reasons (not at all comprehensive) like these are less sexy than romantic calls to eat like our ancestors, but they are far better explanations. It’s better data that we have. Right now. In observable conditions. Today.

Angela and Melinda said...

There's little reason to debate our Paleolithic ancestors, Ben, unless you happen to teach Paleolithic art and are trying to move your students beyond the "Barney Rubble" stereotype of Paleolithic life. I don't give a damn about the modern so-called Paleo Diet. For me, this new discovery falls into the realm of my academic interests.

Laurie Endicott Thomas said...

The "Paleo Diet" is basically the Atkins diet with no dairy foods. It's based on bad anthropology and worse nutritional science.

Ben P. DaSalt said...

Dr. Mel said,
“There's little reason to debate our Paleolithic ancestors…

…For me, this new discovery falls into the realm of my academic interests.”

Oh sure, as far as interesting topics go, it is interesting.

As far as deciding what to have for lunch… kind of irrelevant.

(I had paleo dieting on my mind from the last post on the subject.)

Angela and Melinda said...

There's more to life than what to have for lunch.