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Are humans basically grass eaters? What about bark? What are the implications for the paleo diet?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 27, 2012 at 8:04 PM

Benjamin H. Passey, a geochemist at Johns Hopkins University, says so in The New York Times today:

???One thing people probably don???t realize is that humans are basically grass eaters,??? Dr. Passey said in a statement. ???We eat grass in the form of the grains we use to make breads, noodles, cereals and beers, and we eat animals that eat grass. So when did our addiction to grass begin? At what point in our evolutionary history did we start making use of grasses? We are simply trying to find out where in the human chain that begins.???

From the story "Prehuman Species Preferred Forest Foods, Fossil Teeth Suggest"

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/28/science/australopithecus-sediba-preferred-forest-foods-fossil-teeth-suggest.html?_r=1&hp

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on June 28, 2012
at 01:30 PM

Time for a wheat grass smoothie! Blech...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 28, 2012
at 01:09 AM

Technically, cows don't digest beta-glucose polymer either. They have gut microbes that do so.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on June 28, 2012
at 12:11 AM

Zhaan, is that you?

26b0f1261d1a0d916825bd0deeb96a21

(5798)

on June 27, 2012
at 10:42 PM

They all are all former-vegan, now paleo. Makes buying shoes easier.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 27, 2012
at 10:34 PM

Adding the hemp shoes makes vegan life complete.

Ecb90bbbd5a15868b2592d517a4a5e82

(280)

on June 27, 2012
at 09:40 PM

Gotta second Melissa's comment. The nice, lovely, friendly, veggie-eatin', free-lovin' hominids and pre-humans are all dead. I'm afraid we have to face the fact that we humans are vicious, deadly, technology-using, meat-eating predators, as are our closest relatives the chimps. The days of group-hugging the mango leaves on the savannah led to a dead end. It's a pity, but the truth sets us free. :)

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:54 PM

And salicin!!! Willow bark was our best fever and anti-inflammatory medicine for thousands of years and eventually led to the discovery of aspirin.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:29 PM

Yay for cinnamon!!!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:27 PM

No more cow people around.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on June 27, 2012
at 08:22 PM

that's a dead branch of the hominid family tree.

Dfe1dfb34939145fe21b3d8fa6832365

(657)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:19 PM

By that logic wouldn't it make the most sense to go all the way down the chain and say we are energy consumers?

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10 Answers

6
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on June 28, 2012
at 12:02 AM

Australopithecus was our derpy vegan great-granduncle. He died. Never married. Not relevant to us.

He will be missed, he's in a better place now, gnawing on that giant treebark in the sky, with his gigantic teeth and tiny brain. .

5
Ee70ee808f748374744404a00e1c22ed

(1163)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:24 PM

I think Passey's comment is addressing the question of when hominids began consuming savanna grasses, and shouldn't be taken as a comment on the optimal diet for humans today. Yes, early hominids consumed lots of plant matter. That isn't really up for debate. What the article is really focusing on is the evidence suggesting that these newly-discovered hominids in South Africa preferred to consume plant matter from trees, while other early hominids consumed plant matter mainly in the form of savanna grasses. The trick is determining whether this preference for forest plants is an exclusive trait to this species or area, and where these hominids fit in in relation to human evolution.

4
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on June 28, 2012
at 12:58 AM

Just because some ancient hominid started eating grass doesn't mean it is good for us. Maybe a whole tribe was starving and had to eat something and figured out how to process some grains, but maybe almost all of them died malnourished at age 30. Humans are very adaptable but barely suviving on a sub optimal diet and thriving on an optimal one are very different.

4
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:19 PM

I thought we weren't very good grass eaters, and that was why we do best when we let herbivores to turn grass into easily digestible packets, i.e. meat, for us to eat.

Straight up grass has never been a food-stuff for modern humans (well, at least until we got crazy with the wheat grass juicing in the 70's). Bread, beer, etc. go through considerable processing to make it edible, so once again transforming it into edible packets of nutrients, even then, sub par to what ruminants and birds like geese can do for us processing-wise.

3
Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:25 PM

We can't digest beta glucose linkages the way a cow can. But no doubt we tried it when we were starving. Grain and cane juice were probably discovered trying to find some part of grass that we could digest.

About the only good thing we got from bark was seasonings.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 28, 2012
at 01:09 AM

Technically, cows don't digest beta-glucose polymer either. They have gut microbes that do so.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:29 PM

Yay for cinnamon!!!

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:54 PM

And salicin!!! Willow bark was our best fever and anti-inflammatory medicine for thousands of years and eventually led to the discovery of aspirin.

1
8e10b687e328468783a72c55b64710e8

on June 27, 2012
at 11:26 PM

No because we don't have four stomachs

1
26b0f1261d1a0d916825bd0deeb96a21

(5798)

on June 27, 2012
at 10:14 PM

We are also grass-smokers. Well, not me, I have a job, but, well, wait, my massage-therapist friends get away with it.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on June 27, 2012
at 10:34 PM

Adding the hemp shoes makes vegan life complete.

26b0f1261d1a0d916825bd0deeb96a21

(5798)

on June 27, 2012
at 10:42 PM

They all are all former-vegan, now paleo. Makes buying shoes easier.

0
30e525fde0092e6d15f59a2295b49720

on June 29, 2012
at 12:27 AM

well, I think he was actually trying to be funny. Technically, most humans eat grass seeds, in the form of rice, wheat, oats, barley...

0
81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on June 27, 2012
at 08:55 PM

Photosynthesis is where it is at. Ummm...sunlight...so satisfying!

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on June 28, 2012
at 12:11 AM

Zhaan, is that you?

-1
F5be4be097edc85690c12d67ee1a27c0

on June 27, 2012
at 08:11 PM

If we are 'grass eaters' then why don't we eat grass?

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