I wanted to do this post on the idea that grains were not used by our Paleolithic ancestors; however, that is a really difficult avenue to track down scientifically. I mean, really, the fact is that there is little evidence available to us today that would tell us exactly what humans ate 100,000 years ago or less.
Most Paleo, Primal, and Low-carb advocates would tell you that the small bits of evidence we have on the Paleolithic diet would show little to no grain/starchy foods. Of course, this is not the only idea out there in the world of nutrition.
Don’t get me wrong…I do not believe that Paleolithic man ate many (if any) grains. I think that grains are a more modern food-substance invention. I think that it would have been very difficult to cultivate and process grains, and our cave-man ancestors probably did not do this with their crude tools or sparse time. I think that the majority of the Paleolithic world focused on hunting and gathering. This most likely means that our cave-man and woman ancestors would have eaten a lot of meat, maybe some nuts, seeds, and berries, and fish. Depending on the area these people lived in, the diet would have varied (as it really should do now, but does not).
Here is what I have found to be the best timeline of grain domestication in human history:
Grains: wheat, rye,barley, rice, oats, corn, sorghum, millet (Harlan cited in Cordain, 1999).
Wheat and barley domesticated approximately 10,000 years ago in the Near East(Cordain, 1999).
Rice domesticated approximately 7,000 years ago in China, India, and Asia (Cordain, 1999).
Corn domesticated approximately 7,000 years ago in Central and South America (Cordain, 1999).
Millet domesticated approximately 5,000 or 6,000 years ago in Africa (Cordain, 1999).
Rye domesticated approximately 5,000 years ago in southwest Asia (Cordain, 1999).
Oats domesticated approximately 3,000 years ago in Europe.
Sorghum* domesticated approximately 5,000 or 6,000 years ago in East Africa.
The reason I put the * next to sorghum is because I did find an article at University of Canada citing an archeological dig in Mozambique that was supposedly dated to 100,000 years ago. The dig found sorghum on ancient tools, and this led to speculation that the grain was ground and consumed.
In a press release for University of Calgary news, it is stated that the archaeologist and head of the Canada Research Chair in Tropical Archaeology, Julio Mercado unearthed stone tools with bits of wild sorghum, wine palm, pigeon peas, the false banana, wild oranges, and a tuber on them (University of Calgary, 2009). Of course, these plant and wild food remains are not domesticated grains and foods as we have today. They may not have even been used as food. There is no evidence that the diets of the “cave-man or woman” consisted of any one grain. Of course, found in a cave, these could have been used for food or art or a number of other things.
In any case, if you just do an internet search for “when did humans start consuming grains,” you will come up with some interesting results; the least of which will tell you that research and theory have ultimately come to the conclusion that the grains we are urged to eat a ton of by the USDA (United States DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE…not a really good source for the public’s best nutrition information if you ask me) might be slight relatives of ancient wild grains…but they are CHANGED…DOMESTICATED…and HIGHLY PROCESSED!
So, what is the point? Well, in my opinion (and that of many other nutrition experts…not RDs, they are paid to continue that crazy stuff they learned in conventional dietary and medical schools), grains are not really meant for humans to consume safely. They play tricks on the body. They contain products that are not good for our systems unless they go through major processing to “fix” them. So, why do we eat them? Why are we told they are healthy? In actuality, we survived hundreds of thousands of years without grains…and we were more healthy (by we, I mean humans…our ancestors).
Anyway, this post is getting a bit long. I like to keep them relatively short and sweet because I understand the attention span can sometimes drift. Mine ultimately does at times. I happen to like researching this stuff, though, so I can take a bit more. Anyway, I wanted to bring this to the attention of as many of you as would hang with me. In the future, I am going to try to post more information about this topic. I will also try to get a visual aid up, so that you might understand some of it a bit better. For now, I will leave you with the thought that if we survived for hundreds of thousands of years without the trouble and issues grains bring, why should we consume them now?
Until next time!
Have a healthy day!
In any case, most of the science and nutrition world understand that domesticated grains did not become a part of diet for most humans for hundreds of thousands of years.
Cordain, L. (1999). The late role of grains and legumes in human diet, and biochemical evidence of their evolutionary discordance. Retrieved from http://www.beyondveg.com/cordain-l/grains-leg/grains-legumes-1a.shtml#intro
University of Calgary. (2009, Dec. 17). Archaeology: Exploring the stone age pantry. Retrieved from University of Calgary website: http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/december2009/archaeology
I highly recommend you check out the beyondveg.com website of Dr. Loren Cordain! This man is truly an expert on the topic of grains and their functions in the body!