5

votes

If people didn't eat a lot of starch in the paleolithic era then how come so many people feel they need to eat it now?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 22, 2012 at 7:30 PM

How would these starch eaters have coped back then?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 24, 2012
at 09:31 PM

George, my question started with the word "If". Maybe you should learn what that word means before trying to make smart comments?

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:07 PM

you prolly wouldnt be getting downvoted if that comment was edited to be part of your answer.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:52 PM

holy crap, tony!! this is an amazing answer! mah brain just 'sploded. in a good way. huzzah!

Af3e3615beba642bcafd0f21d64d74f7

on February 24, 2012
at 03:46 AM

Downvote all you want, google Robb Wolf's response to people who think they know about human anthropology. Those people who say "Cavemen didn't live past 30", when they have no real clue other than basic assumptions. They are EXPERTS in human evolution without any prior study or involvement in it. Just as with an opinion on Russian literature. My response was in regard to assuming that ALL people didn't eat alot of starch in the Paleolithic Era, when PANGEA was long separated into continents, and surely some people ate starch, others didn't.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 11:34 PM

Lol @ "Happiest dog in the world."

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 11:29 PM

You're too kind Shari, but thank you for your "vote" of confidence :)

2507b557331c8a674bc81197531e609a

(4994)

on February 23, 2012
at 11:00 PM

Nice one Tony!!

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on February 23, 2012
at 10:48 PM

Tony for President!

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on February 23, 2012
at 09:47 PM

It is well known that Quilt is an expert on poo.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on February 23, 2012
at 09:46 PM

It is well known that Quilt is an expert on poo. Particularly of the bovine variety.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on February 23, 2012
at 09:41 PM

Maybe you should consider what you are overlooking Quilt.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on February 23, 2012
at 09:31 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THNPmhBl-8I Paleo botany is nice and all, but come on! It's not brain surgery.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 23, 2012
at 09:20 PM

I haven't been deep into all the literature about coprolites, but what I have read mentioned that most samples found so far were found in cave winter dwellings, and those didn't show plant matter. Which makes sense, it is damn hard to dig up tubers in the dead of winter. Doesn't tell us much about the rest of the year though. And, just a theory about the lack of other coprolites, but has anyone ever seen a dog who's been able to snatch a baby's poopy diaper?...happiest dog in the world.

07ca188c8dac3a17f629dd87198d2098

(7970)

on February 23, 2012
at 09:05 PM

Some of us already have.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:41 PM

After many generations, our guts (as well as the rest of our physiology) began to reflect changes brought about by these new foods. Just as a horse's teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of grass, our teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of a soft (cooked) and high calorie (meat and starch) diet. (Supplemented of course by any other locally available source of calories, whether lizard, grub, bird, herb, etc.)

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:41 PM

I would also like to add that that starchy veggies are most definitely not tailored for human consumption. They are tailored for the long-term storage of carbohydrate for the plant itself. There are numerous toxins found in tubers and they are literally hidden underground. It is hard work digging them up and they do require lots of processing either by soaking/rinsing, cooking, grinding etc. Even sago, a staple of New Guinea tribes is locked away in the core of a tree. The use of tools, fire, and the discovery of processing techniques allowed us to access a new caloric resource... – FED 3 min

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:41 PM

After many generations, our guts (as well as the rest of our physiology) began to reflect changes brought about by these new foods. Just as a horse's teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of grass, our teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of a soft (cooked) and high calorie (meat and starch) diet. (Supplemented of course by any other locally available source of calories, whether lizard, grub, bird, herb, etc.)

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 23, 2012
at 07:38 PM

QUilt, once again your article has nothing to do with what I wrote. " If epigenetics has sped up and you eat a warm climate diet you by definition increase mitochondrial ROS that slowly kills you." Lol that's why the arctic is a longevity hotspot?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:37 PM

The presence in this time means nothing........when you consider what you are overlooking.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:37 PM

I would also like to add that that starchy veggies are most definitely not tailored for human consumption. They are tailored for the long-term storage of carbohydrate for the plant itself. Their are numerous toxins found in tubers and they are literally hidden underground. It is hard work digging them up and they do require lots of processing either by soaking/rinsing, cooking, grinding etc. Even sago, a staple of New Guinea tribes is locked away in the core of a tree. The use of tools, fire, and the discovery of processing techniques allowed us to access a new caloric resource...

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:36 PM

There is a reason there is not a lot poop that some bloggers have yet to explain. I think I know why. but the ones we found support my version of reality and not the version of most bloggers. Time for people to decide. Are you the 90% who fail to adapt or the 10% who change the world? You decide how bat shit crazy I am. http://jackkruse.com/cold-thermogenesis-three/

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:34 PM

http://jackkruse.com/cold-thermogenesis-three/

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:33 PM

Don't be silly?

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:32 PM

That is my though Namby Pampby. It seems like the inclusion of meat and starch (and particularly cooked and primitively processed meat and starch) is what pushed us out of the evolutionary path that chimpanzees and gorillas followed. There is also much to consider regarding the effects cooking may have had on human society. It may be said that human society itself is a product of us having learned to cook.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:30 PM

What is the point of your silly comment, George?

9b0a4701e373d4dd13831cfb9b13f42d

(1677)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:14 PM

Outstanding post, with plenty to research from..

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 23, 2012
at 05:56 PM

+1. I've never gotten past the 19th century on Russians, but I'll read anything you have to recommend. I think Naipaul has a lot to say about the negative effects of a starch/veg fat diet, so I don't write off literature as a source of insights. Some people here have smaller tents and downvote off the wall stuff.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on February 23, 2012
at 03:25 PM

So conclusion: no roots. But humans and his primate predecessors with small guts ate roots. Conclusion: you don't need an enormous gut to process starchy veggies like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes. Enormous guts are for the leaves and stems. Doesn't this suggest that starchy veggies are tailored for human consumption and may have been consumed since time immemorial?

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 23, 2012
at 03:04 PM

@raydawg - that would explain my 20" neck, wouldn't it? It also would explain the number of European-ancestry endomorphs (big body, short appendages), a body style that is not as common in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on February 23, 2012
at 02:49 PM

Cattail is perfectly suited to colder weather -- so it probably would have been available during summer months in colder climates -- and it dries and stores well and can be pounded into flour for months later. Same with chestnuts, which store exceptionally well and make a very effective, starchy flour. Dried palm heart, and sunchoke (though not it's cultivated progeny, the jerusalem artichoke), as well as yuca and taro were probably available during the paleolithic planetary cycle only in warmer climates, but still used in diets.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 02:25 PM

from http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Primates/Facts/FactSheets/Gorillas/default.cfm

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 02:25 PM

"Gorillas are primarily herbivorous, eating the leaves and stems of herbs, shrubs, and vines. In some areas, they raid farms, eating and trampling crops. They also will eat rotten wood and small animals. The diet of western lowland gorillas also includes the fleshy fruits of close to a hundred seasonally fruiting tree species; the diets of other gorilla subspecies include proportionally less fruit. Gorillas get some protein from invertebrates found on leaves and fruits. Adult male gorillas eat about 45 pounds (20 kg) of food per day. Females eat about two-thirds of that amount."

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on February 23, 2012
at 08:50 AM

Coprolites MIGHT only survive if they are unusually hard - i.e. constipated - as a result of eating only meat at that meal due to no starch being available. Perhaps the normal paleo faeces was softer when adequate starch was present, and therefore disappeared into the earth rather than becoming fossilized.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 23, 2012
at 04:17 AM

Wow! This is great!

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94

(4359)

on February 23, 2012
at 03:42 AM

Well, you know if QUILT agrees with you it means you're probably wrong... (cause he's a crank)

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on February 23, 2012
at 03:34 AM

But do gorillas eat starchy roots? I've never heard that they do. They're fermenting the greens and fruits they eat, thus their enormous gut, not the roots. If so, isn't the human gut anatomy built for starch consumption? Meats as well, but starch as a primary fuel source. I tend to think it was 50% starch, 25% meats. 25% fruit & other non-starchy veggies.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on February 23, 2012
at 01:52 AM

Yes, but we don't know what overtook meant. Certain groups do have Neanderthal DNA as part of their lineage, so it may have been more along the lines of inter-mating with rather than war/compete with to extinction.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on February 23, 2012
at 01:50 AM

+1000 I wish that was an option. :)

22fcea5ec4415ff2238c663324aca40f

(556)

on February 23, 2012
at 01:19 AM

You should take into account the macro vs micro environmental changes over the 150ish thousand years we've been modern humans. There is no one Paleo diet, it would have varied. We only know for sure what they didn't eat.

E34fbfa1bca9ae970c9c7313bf9de9f8

(1436)

on February 23, 2012
at 01:06 AM

There's only limited samples of fossilized paleo-poo.. We can assume they were smart enough to dig up and eat roots and tubers, a readily available food source that can't run away. I'm not sure what papers you're referring to, Quilt, but this one by Eaton estimates carb intake at of paleo man at 45-50%: http://www.direct-ms.org/pdf/EvolutionPaleolithic/Eaton%20Paleo%20Nutri%20Review%20EJCN.pdf

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on February 23, 2012
at 12:45 AM

we know from fossilized coproliths They did not eat a lot of starches or plants. Nora G talks about this all the time and its in her book and it is well known in the paleolithic papers. Maybe just not well known here or by some bloggers.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on February 23, 2012
at 12:36 AM

Nice! Love the illustrations...

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 22, 2012
at 10:02 PM

that's the problem. How many commenters here know much about paleobotany? they ate things we never even dreamed of.

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 22, 2012
at 09:35 PM

Gotcha on the Paleolithic happening over 2mil years and all, and it happening all over the world... but humans as a species was absolutely, not happening all over the world (scarcely more than one continent). This is more of me and my devil's advocate hat btw...

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 22, 2012
at 09:32 PM

Devils-Advocate Hat: None of those foods you mentioned were available to paleolithic man with the possible exception of the ambiguous "various tubers". Not that I agree with that logic, "You can have my avocado and chilies when you pry them from my cold, dead, hands" but...

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on February 22, 2012
at 08:54 PM

Who says that they didn't eat a lot of starch?

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on February 22, 2012
at 08:09 PM

It is! Try it some time.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 22, 2012
at 07:58 PM

I would like to "sleep most of the winter." That sounds glorious.

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10 Answers

26
Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 12:19 AM

While we can't know exactly what our ancestors ate, we can know a few things.

They were not primarily frugivores.

We know this because our closest primate relative, the chimpanzee, is primarily frugivorous (although it does eat bugs and some hunted meat). Chimpanzees are adapted to this type of diet by virtue of their powerful lips, teeth, larger guts, and superior climbing ability. They also have higher resistance to plant toxins and bitter compounds that human beings cannot tolerate.

We also know that they were not primarily herbivores.

Looking at gorilla, our second closest primate relative, you can see what kind of digestive tract is required to process a large amount of green plant matter. The gorillas digestive barrel is essentially a fermentation vat and it is their plentiful gut bacteria that convert much of the plant matter they eat into short chain fatty acids that actually fuel the gorilla itself.

They weren't pure carnivores.

When chimps catch a prey animal, such as a colobus monkey, they often eat the intestines and discard the rest of the carcass. If they do eat the other parts of the animals flesh, they will arbitrarily consume leaves along with it to increase the friction and digestibility of the meat. Without processing (either grinding, pounding, cooking, salting, etc.) the time it takes to reduce a bolus of raw meat is considerable. While many modern hunter gathers eat soft organs like liver raw, a consistent supply of offal would have been difficult to procure in the quantities needed for survival. Comparing our digestive tract to that of pure carnivores like lions or even slightly omnivorous carnivores like dogs shows obvious differences. Our mouths are also disproportionately small even when compared to other apes, let alone the maws of carnivores.

We know that they did not eat a primarily raw food diet, either meat or vegetable.

All human societies cook their food, it is a defining and unique characteristic. Raw foods require substantial chewing. Chimpanzees are only able to consume ~300 calories per hour of chewing. This would equate to approximately 6 hours for an average size chimp to consume 1,800 calories. This does not only concern plant foods as animal flesh is difficult to digest unless significantly processed by grinding and cooking. Intact pieces of meat can often be found in the feces of chimpanzees. There was even an experiment done with a man named Alexis St. Martin who had a fist sized hole in his abdomen. A scientist named William Beaumont introduced various foods into his stomach and observed the rate of digestion. A piece of raw beef would still be present after 2 hours when a piece of boiled beef had been completely digested. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459/)

According to the expensive tissue hypothesis, only by reducing energy expenditure in one organ system can energy be freed up for another (i.e. our large brain and relatively small gut). Cooking improves digestibility and nutrient availability in both starches as well as meat and would have increased the range of foods that could be eaten as well as the nutrition derived from such foods. (http://www.jstor.org/pss/2744104)

This suggests that early humans, like modern hunter gatherers, ate a diet that ranged from primarily cooked animal flesh (as is the case with the Inuit) to one that is based on cooked starches (like the breadfruit that forms the staple of the Samoan diet). Because the genetic and archaeological evidence points to an East African origin, it is unlikely that lot of blubber rich sea mammals would have been present. The ancestral human diet is then likely to be similar to that of other equatorial hunter gatherers. A starchy staple food supplemented by hunted game, insects, shellfish, honey, and seasonally abundant fruits, herbs, etc.

(The appendix in the image below is highlighted, but the details regarding the relative proportions of the digestive tract between humans and other animals are still clear)

if-people-didn't-eat-a-lot-of-starch-in-the-paleolithic-era-then-how-come-so-many-people-feel-they-need-to-eat-it-now?

if-people-didn't-eat-a-lot-of-starch-in-the-paleolithic-era-then-how-come-so-many-people-feel-they-need-to-eat-it-now?

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on February 23, 2012
at 01:50 AM

+1000 I wish that was an option. :)

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on February 23, 2012
at 03:25 PM

So conclusion: no roots. But humans and his primate predecessors with small guts ate roots. Conclusion: you don't need an enormous gut to process starchy veggies like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes. Enormous guts are for the leaves and stems. Doesn't this suggest that starchy veggies are tailored for human consumption and may have been consumed since time immemorial?

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 23, 2012
at 04:17 AM

Wow! This is great!

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on February 23, 2012
at 12:36 AM

Nice! Love the illustrations...

9b0a4701e373d4dd13831cfb9b13f42d

(1677)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:14 PM

Outstanding post, with plenty to research from..

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 11:29 PM

You're too kind Shari, but thank you for your "vote" of confidence :)

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 02:25 PM

from http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Primates/Facts/FactSheets/Gorillas/default.cfm

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 02:25 PM

"Gorillas are primarily herbivorous, eating the leaves and stems of herbs, shrubs, and vines. In some areas, they raid farms, eating and trampling crops. They also will eat rotten wood and small animals. The diet of western lowland gorillas also includes the fleshy fruits of close to a hundred seasonally fruiting tree species; the diets of other gorilla subspecies include proportionally less fruit. Gorillas get some protein from invertebrates found on leaves and fruits. Adult male gorillas eat about 45 pounds (20 kg) of food per day. Females eat about two-thirds of that amount."

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:52 PM

holy crap, tony!! this is an amazing answer! mah brain just 'sploded. in a good way. huzzah!

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:41 PM

After many generations, our guts (as well as the rest of our physiology) began to reflect changes brought about by these new foods. Just as a horse's teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of grass, our teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of a soft (cooked) and high calorie (meat and starch) diet. (Supplemented of course by any other locally available source of calories, whether lizard, grub, bird, herb, etc.)

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on February 23, 2012
at 03:34 AM

But do gorillas eat starchy roots? I've never heard that they do. They're fermenting the greens and fruits they eat, thus their enormous gut, not the roots. If so, isn't the human gut anatomy built for starch consumption? Meats as well, but starch as a primary fuel source. I tend to think it was 50% starch, 25% meats. 25% fruit & other non-starchy veggies.

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:32 PM

That is my though Namby Pampby. It seems like the inclusion of meat and starch (and particularly cooked and primitively processed meat and starch) is what pushed us out of the evolutionary path that chimpanzees and gorillas followed. There is also much to consider regarding the effects cooking may have had on human society. It may be said that human society itself is a product of us having learned to cook.

2507b557331c8a674bc81197531e609a

(4994)

on February 23, 2012
at 11:00 PM

Nice one Tony!!

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:37 PM

I would also like to add that that starchy veggies are most definitely not tailored for human consumption. They are tailored for the long-term storage of carbohydrate for the plant itself. Their are numerous toxins found in tubers and they are literally hidden underground. It is hard work digging them up and they do require lots of processing either by soaking/rinsing, cooking, grinding etc. Even sago, a staple of New Guinea tribes is locked away in the core of a tree. The use of tools, fire, and the discovery of processing techniques allowed us to access a new caloric resource...

98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

(24286)

on February 23, 2012
at 10:48 PM

Tony for President!

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:41 PM

After many generations, our guts (as well as the rest of our physiology) began to reflect changes brought about by these new foods. Just as a horse's teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of grass, our teeth and gut are adapted to take advantage of a soft (cooked) and high calorie (meat and starch) diet. (Supplemented of course by any other locally available source of calories, whether lizard, grub, bird, herb, etc.)

Medium avatar

(19469)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:41 PM

I would also like to add that that starchy veggies are most definitely not tailored for human consumption. They are tailored for the long-term storage of carbohydrate for the plant itself. There are numerous toxins found in tubers and they are literally hidden underground. It is hard work digging them up and they do require lots of processing either by soaking/rinsing, cooking, grinding etc. Even sago, a staple of New Guinea tribes is locked away in the core of a tree. The use of tools, fire, and the discovery of processing techniques allowed us to access a new caloric resource... – FED 3 min

17
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 22, 2012
at 09:08 PM

Don't be silly. The paleolithic was over 2 million years of history and happened all over the world. Starch occurs all over the world, even in Siberia. It's so Neolithic to think that just because you don't see the starch in your environment, that it wasn't exploited by people who lived completely off the land. There is not a single known foraging culture that doesn't exploit some form of starch. That said, Arctic peoples are probably adapted to not rely on it very much. I think you'll find that the tail end of either side of the starch-adaptation bell curve shows recent adaptations in the genome (the heavy Amylase variation seems quite recent), pointing to our ancestors eating some, but not that much starch.

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 22, 2012
at 09:35 PM

Gotcha on the Paleolithic happening over 2mil years and all, and it happening all over the world... but humans as a species was absolutely, not happening all over the world (scarcely more than one continent). This is more of me and my devil's advocate hat btw...

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:33 PM

Don't be silly?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 23, 2012
at 07:38 PM

QUilt, once again your article has nothing to do with what I wrote. " If epigenetics has sped up and you eat a warm climate diet you by definition increase mitochondrial ROS that slowly kills you." Lol that's why the arctic is a longevity hotspot?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:34 PM

http://jackkruse.com/cold-thermogenesis-three/

10
Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on February 22, 2012
at 07:38 PM

The thing is, we don't know what people ate back then. There are a LOT of starchy ancestrally-oriented foods available out there. Cat-tail root, palm root, taro root, yucca root, celery root, Jerusalem artichoke/sunchoke, various tubers, nuts including chestnuts -- there are a lot of high-starch foods that would probably have been available.

Because we can only guess what was eaten, the best we can presume is that the overtly processed foods and foods that required extensive cultivation or mechanical preparation were probably not on the menu, only because there isn't really any way they could have been collected in sufficient quantity in the wild to feed a population. So roots and other starches were probably present in the diet to some extent, especially during the cold months, because those kinds of foods hold up really well to long-term storage, and provide bulk to the diet when green foods, leaves, grasses, blossoms, and fragile fruits would have been unavailable in many climates.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 22, 2012
at 10:02 PM

that's the problem. How many commenters here know much about paleobotany? they ate things we never even dreamed of.

Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on February 23, 2012
at 02:49 PM

Cattail is perfectly suited to colder weather -- so it probably would have been available during summer months in colder climates -- and it dries and stores well and can be pounded into flour for months later. Same with chestnuts, which store exceptionally well and make a very effective, starchy flour. Dried palm heart, and sunchoke (though not it's cultivated progeny, the jerusalem artichoke), as well as yuca and taro were probably available during the paleolithic planetary cycle only in warmer climates, but still used in diets.

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 22, 2012
at 09:32 PM

Devils-Advocate Hat: None of those foods you mentioned were available to paleolithic man with the possible exception of the ambiguous "various tubers". Not that I agree with that logic, "You can have my avocado and chilies when you pry them from my cold, dead, hands" but...

9
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 22, 2012
at 09:50 PM

As Melissa said, the Paleolithic was a very broad timeframe.

We tend to romanticize the time spent where Sapiens overtook Neanderthal and lived on a primarily meat-rich diet in ice-age Europe as the mental image for the Paleolithic. But this is the last piece (and a small one, at that) of the puzzle (yet hogs all the credit thanks to the Lascaux cave paintings).

But prior to that, we migrated. Records show from coastal southern Africa, through the Savannah, to the Fertile Crescent, then onward to an area (and climate) where eating less starch and more animal products was simply "adapting". But the African Savannah would not have sustained man from meat alone, and there isn't much in the way of hominid edible plants there either. Roots and tubers were eaten, and I would venture to guess, in some amount of quantity.

It was our ability to eat more than starch (unlike our dopey, annoying, vegan cousin Australopithecus) that allowed us to become the most successful hominid on the planet, which is why we survived in very diverse areas and climates, and cousin Australopithecus is just bones today. But it doesn't mean there was no starch in the Paleolithic, at least not until the very end of it.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on February 23, 2012
at 01:52 AM

Yes, but we don't know what overtook meant. Certain groups do have Neanderthal DNA as part of their lineage, so it may have been more along the lines of inter-mating with rather than war/compete with to extinction.

246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on February 23, 2012
at 03:04 PM

@raydawg - that would explain my 20" neck, wouldn't it? It also would explain the number of European-ancestry endomorphs (big body, short appendages), a body style that is not as common in Sub-Saharan Africa.

7
D3495cd9e3e7173f24e1dbee40774573

on February 22, 2012
at 08:43 PM

If you are eating this way for evolutionary reasons, then eating starch comes under that. In fact, it's one of the most obvious things we can break down. Amylase is the only enzyme in saliva. Maybe it's only meant to be a starvation food, but then again, a lot of hunter gatherer culture heavily rely on tubers/roots. I don't eat a lot of starch because after much experimenting, starch makes me gain weight, especially in combination with fat, and I don't like to restrict fat too much.

6
Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

on February 22, 2012
at 07:55 PM

It's not just a question of what food was available. We live in a different environment now. A lot of the stresses that lead people to 'need' carbs simply weren't a part of the paleo life. Paleo people may have gone to sleep most of the winter, they didn't have 60 hour weeks sat in an office, they didn't drop by the Crossfit box every morning. Also, they didn't grow up as children being bred on SAD. And in addition to what Firestorm said, many believe they lived in the tropics and had fresh fruit year round.

There's a lot of variables. And even then in your question you say 'coped'. That's it too, they would have been able to cope (genetically speaking). However they find they get more out of life eating a different way. I believe it's just as easy to understate the advantages of carbs as it is to overstate the disfunction that removing them causes. It seems to be very personal for some people though.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on February 22, 2012
at 08:09 PM

It is! Try it some time.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 22, 2012
at 07:58 PM

I would like to "sleep most of the winter." That sounds glorious.

4
Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 22, 2012
at 08:05 PM

It doesn't have much to do with feelings. Most of us have adapted to eat starch since paleo times. We don't have to worry about how the ancestors would have fared on high carbs, but probably not as well as we do. We certainly do well on their diet. I don't think any modern would starve on a paleo diet.

Dobzhansky refers to evolution as a linear process. It's a one way trip. You can't go back.

2
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on February 23, 2012
at 05:10 PM

This is a guess, but as Robb Wolf's brief foray into the land of T.V. seems to suggest, taking down an animal seems to be the best use of one's time in the paleolithic era. The next best would likely be something like honey, which various mammals seem to be willing to put up with bee stings to get. Fruits, nuts, vegetables- all very likely to be eaten, mostly in season, though I don't doubt folks rapidly figured out a few things could be kept longer with a little sun or fire drying.

Digging for starch and processing starchy things to make it more palatable likely started when there wasn't enough of the preferred stuff. Starch keeps you alive, and it may not have been too bad for our ancestors. They likely reduced their consumption when summer came, or when there was a lot of game about.

But the neolithic era arrived. Fermentation probably had a lot to do with that. Alcohol is a lot more fun than starch. As I write this I am quite aware of my ignorance, and I've just started wondering about nomadic peoples versus more localized ones and how they fit into this. Seems they would naturally have had more dependence on animals, while island peoples had a lot of starchy and sweet things available.

As to now, frankly, starch is cheaper. If you can get calories from it without turning into a Sumo wrestler, it makes economic sense for you to eat it. If you are young, academically minded, and haven't had your metabolism seriously deranged, you might even advocate for them.

If however, you were ever obese, you will forever regard them with a wary eye. How do you make something hyper-palatable? Add refined carbohydrates. Quick, insert epicycle here, so we can keep anathematizing all those low carb zealots!

We are all developing reasonable narratives, but we need the studies that the mainstream (and the people with the funds) aren't interested in.

2
94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on February 22, 2012
at 10:30 PM

There were plenty of starchy roots and tubers in the paleolithic diet - see my answer to a similar question:

http://paleohacks.com/questions/79755/why-do-some-paleo-ers-think-tubers-arent-paleo/79785#79785

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:37 PM

The presence in this time means nothing........when you consider what you are overlooking.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on February 23, 2012
at 09:41 PM

Maybe you should consider what you are overlooking Quilt.

0
Af3e3615beba642bcafd0f21d64d74f7

on February 23, 2012
at 03:05 AM

What is your opinion on 18th century Russian literature?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 23, 2012
at 07:30 PM

What is the point of your silly comment, George?

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on February 24, 2012
at 02:07 PM

you prolly wouldnt be getting downvoted if that comment was edited to be part of your answer.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 23, 2012
at 05:56 PM

+1. I've never gotten past the 19th century on Russians, but I'll read anything you have to recommend. I think Naipaul has a lot to say about the negative effects of a starch/veg fat diet, so I don't write off literature as a source of insights. Some people here have smaller tents and downvote off the wall stuff.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 24, 2012
at 09:31 PM

George, my question started with the word "If". Maybe you should learn what that word means before trying to make smart comments?

Af3e3615beba642bcafd0f21d64d74f7

on February 24, 2012
at 03:46 AM

Downvote all you want, google Robb Wolf's response to people who think they know about human anthropology. Those people who say "Cavemen didn't live past 30", when they have no real clue other than basic assumptions. They are EXPERTS in human evolution without any prior study or involvement in it. Just as with an opinion on Russian literature. My response was in regard to assuming that ALL people didn't eat alot of starch in the Paleolithic Era, when PANGEA was long separated into continents, and surely some people ate starch, others didn't.

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