What is the Natural Human Diet

Although humans have not evolved to kill and eat the teeth or claws of other mammals, this does not mean that we should not eat meat. Our early human ancestors invented weapons and cutting tools to replace sharp carnivore teeth. There is no explanation for the fossil animal bones that are covered with stone cutting marks on the fossil site except for eating meat. It also explains our simple internal organs, which don't look like those that have evolved to process large amounts of fibrous plant food.

But gluten is not unnatural. Despite widespread calls for carbohydrate reduction, there is ample evidence that grains are a staple food, at least for some people, long before domestication. At the height of the last ice age, the people of Ohalo II on the Sea of Galilee ate wheat and barley, more than 10,000 years before these grains were domesticated. Paleo botanists even found starch granules in the tartar of 40,000-year-old Neanderthal teeth, with the unique shape of barley and other grains, and obvious damage caused by cooking. Grain consumption is nothing new.

This leads us to the so-called Paleo diet. As a paleoanthropologist, I am often asked what I think about it. I'm not a real fan-I like pizza, French fries and ice cream so much. Nevertheless, food masters have established strong reasons for the inconsistency between what we eat today and what our ancestors evolved to eat. The idea is that our diet changes too quickly and our genes cannot keep up. The result is called "metabolic syndrome", a group of diseases that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, obesity, and abnormal cholesterol levels. This is a convincing argument. Think about what would happen if you put diesel in a car made for regular gasoline. The wrong fuel can cause serious damage to the system, whether you are filing a car or stuffing your face with oil.

This makes sense, and it's no surprise that Paleo diets are still very popular. There are many variations on the overall theme, but foods rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids appear time and time again. Grass-fed beef and fish are good, and the carbohydrates should come from fresh, starch-free fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, grains, beans, dairy products, potatoes and highly refined and processed foods have been eliminated. The idea is to eat like our Stone Age ancestors—you know, spinach salad with avocado, walnuts, diced turkey, etc.

From a paleoecological point of view, the Palaeolithic diet is a myth. The choice of food is not only about what can be eaten, but also about what a species has evolved to eat. Just as fruits ripen at different times of the year, leaves red and flowers bloom predictably, the food available to our ancestors changed over time because the world around them went from warm and humid to cool and dry. Then came back. These changes are the driving force for our evolution.

Even if we can reconstruct the precise nutritional content of foods consumed by specific human species in the past (and we cannot), this information is meaningless for menus based on our ancestors’ diet plans. Because our world is constantly changing, the diet of our ancestors is also constantly changing. Focusing on one point in our evolution is futile. We are in progress. Ancient humans are also distributed in space. Humans living in riverside forests must have a different diet from their cousins on the lakeshore or open savannah.

What was the ancestral human diet? The question itself makes no sense. Consider some of the recent hunter-gatherers who have inspired Palaeolithic diet enthusiasts. The Tikiġaġmiut of the north Alaskan coast lived almost entirely on the protein and fat of marine mammals and fish, whereas the Gwi San in Botswana's Central Kalahari took something like 70 per cent of their calories from carbohydrate-rich, sugary melons and starchy roots. Traditional human foragers manage to make a living around their larger communities of life in a variety of habitats from near extreme latitudes to the tropics. Few other mammals can make such a statement, and there is no doubt that dietary diversity is the key to our success.

Today, many paleoanthropologists believe that the intensification of climate fluctuations during the Pleistocene shaped our ancestors—whether their bodies or their wisdom or both—the flexibility of diet has become a human’s Sign. The basic idea is that our ever-changing world has eliminated the picky eaters among us. Nature makes us a versatile species, which is why we can almost find things that satisfy us on its countless biosphere buffet tables. This is why we can change the rules of the game, the transition from foragers to farmers, and really start to consume our planet.

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