Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Oct

The Cattail’s Outta the Bag

It’s official: we’re closing up shop. They found The Bread. They still haven’t found the flying saucer from Area 51, or the second shooter on the grassy knoll, but they found The Bread.

A crack team of European archaeologists has finally uncovered the evidence that Eades, Cordain, DeVany, Nikoley, I, and a ton of other bloggers have been pooling our incomes together to suppress for years. That supplement and book stuff I sell? It’s actually a (undeclared) non-profit operation devoted to buttressing the final meager thread supporting this whole Primal/paleo thing. And it was working, too, despite our recent setbacks. See, we’ve been taking a lot of hits as of late:

The flurry surrounding the China Study. Boy, we really lost that round, huh?

The emergence of a hyper intelligent, intellectually rigorous, banana-obsessed, fruitarian hominid splinter species with a powerful online presence, before which I find myself cowering.

The piddling sales of both my books and Robb Wolf’s book.

The complete and utter failure of numerous community efforts, like the Ancestral Health Symposium, Paleohacks, or the inaugural NYC Barefoot Run. Not to mention the poor showing of the MDA community during this year’s 30-Day Challenge. Talk about ghost towns!

Vegetarians winning the heart disease wars, yet again. (I didn’t say what they won, did I?)

But through all this and all that, we could still rely on that single thread to support and maintain the veil of delusion surrounding our movement. Just as long as they didn’t find out that our ancestors were using stone grinders 30,000 years ago to process wild roots, rhizomes, corms, and the occasional seed into Bisquik, we could go on in blissful ignorance. Well, they did find the evidence. Our best efforts were for naught. And now we “fans of the so-called Paleolithic diet”, who, I’m told, “[frown] on carbohydrate-laden foods like bread and cereal, and… eat only lean meat, vegetables, and fruit,” must grapple with our world crashing down around us. I don’t know about you, but I’m headed down to the local IHOP for endless pancakes. I don’t have to hide anymore. I’m free.

Seriously, though: are people really surprised by this finding? Think about what you know about humans for a second. Humans will sample, experiment with, and nibble on just about anything remotely palatable or edible in their environment. Little kids put all sorts of stuff in their mouths. Adults go crazy for the latest ethnic food fad. We are curious, orally-fixated creatures, especially when it comes to new types of food. How do you think we got here? You think those early Fertile Crescent farmers woke up on January 1st, 10,000 BC, dropped the spear, and picked up the shovel, ushering in the perfectly organized amber waves of grain?


Up close, history is messy and random. The further you are from it, the neater it looks. When most people think of the World Wars, it’s all big events. Momentous, sweeping occasions. Great men. Countries falling, balances shifting. Stuff you can put on a syllabus and teach in half a semester. The big picture. But there are millions upon millions of individual lives and experiences for which we must also account. A father’s only son going off to war, lovers parting ways, an orphaned child trying to make it in a Jewish ghetto – these are the nitty gritty details that accompany the sweeping narratives, and indeed make them real. We just don’t hear about them all that often.

This Paleolithic “bread” business is the same to me. (By the way, I love how the popular news headlines reference bread when the word “bread” isn’t used a single time in the actual study.) It’s the nitty gritty. It doesn’t shake the core of my beliefs, or whatever nonsense your vegan friend who sent you the link is probably anticipating (hoping); it merely paints a stronger, more vivid, more complete picture of our ancestors’ meandering, exploratory journey toward where we find ourselves today. I love that it came out. It’s fascinating to get an intimate vision of Grok’s daily life.

As for the “vegetal matter” in question, there’s nothing really surprising or groundbreaking to discuss. Of the nine varieties of “starch grain” (the term “grain” having as much to do with grass feed here as it does in the word migraine) discovered on the grinding equipment, seven were roots or rhizomes. If you’re anything like me, you already eat a fair amount of root material: carrots, radishes, cassava, turmeric, turnips, parsnips, to name a few. Rhizomes aren’t quite as common in the modern diet, but they include things like groundnut and cattail (which was the most prevalent starch residue found on the sites in question, actually). And, since both roots and rhizomes, by definition, “self-defend” by embedding themselves in the ground, chemical antinutrients really aren’t necessary. There were remains of a seed, too, and that of a “caryopsis,” which is another word for a grain. The grain hailed from Brachypodium ramosum, a fairly common grass variety that doesn’t seem to have any nutritional data available online. I’ll keep looking, though. So, while I suppose we can’t rule out that our ancestors were playing with small amounts of grain that may have harbored lectins or gluten-ish compounds, we do know that they were a minor player in our overall dietary regimen. Remember: this cereal agriculture stuff had to get started somewhere, sometime.

Of course, as Melissa points out, the evidence, based on bone isotope data, points pretty clearly to animal protein taking precedent in early man’s diet.

What are your thoughts? Does this “discovery” dissuade you from avoiding grains? Or, more likely, have friends and family been eagerly forwarding you various permutations of the paper with “Aha!” in the subject line?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. In “The Old Way” by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas about the Bushmen, in one scene the hunters kill a nursing antelope and the first thing they do is milk it dry right straight into their mouths. So the same could be said for diary consumption, the practice came from roots in our hunter/gatherer past, but really, how much would you get in a year? Hardly any.

    Ken wrote on October 22nd, 2010
    • I have read accounts that during bison hunts, American Indians would eat ‘curdled’ milk from bison cows.

      Poppies wrote on October 27th, 2010
  2. Grok on Mark, you’re the man!

    Shane wrote on October 22nd, 2010
  3. I agree, Mark, that obviously agriculture didn’t just suddenly become the hunter/gatherers’ preferred food source, so it makes sense that a lot of experimenting must have been going on for millennia before they got it right and finally started doing it.

    The results of this study don’t change the effects of grains on us TODAY, so for that reason, I’m still a grain-abstainer. Once I stopped eating them I noticed several positive results – disappearance of heartburn, ease of maintaining weight while eating normally, disappearance of mid-afternoon slump and constant sense of mild lethargy and foggy head, the end of cravings for sweets. My diet will remain primal, because it works for me.

    Paula wrote on October 22nd, 2010
  4. Oh! By the way, did you folks know that 98%…let me repeat that…98%!!!!!..of people who have osteopenia and osteoporosis are gluten-intolerant? And their doctors never tell them that….they just throw Rx’s at them…Rx’s that cause one’s jawbone to crumble…go figure….Wow…Some people will do anything to justify eating stuff that is not really life-giving…all it took for me to give up grains was not being able to get in my car and drive ten minutes before trying to find a gas station with a restroom because I ate something with gluten in it…could not make it to work several times, at a $1200 loss as a result each time because of hidden gluten in some food. When I went gluten(grain)-free, lost twenty pounds without even trying. Same with dairy…the awful pain in the lower intestines is just not worth it..nor is the embarassment of having to turn around and go home and change my clothes. Or the inability to do my favorite thing…get out there and do a 50-mile bicycle ride, uninterrupted, out in the middle of nowhere. No grains for me, nosiree. Just gimme that protein and veggies! And nuts. And dark chocolate once in awhile. Uh-huh! This is serious stuff, folks, not some game.

    Cj wrote on October 23rd, 2010
    • I’d love to hear a source for the 98% figure — can you point me to it?

      Ellen wrote on October 23rd, 2010
  5. Bread IS the most additive substance in the universe. When I tell people I do NOT eat bread, after a moment of shock, they ask, “Then what do you eat?”

    pjnoir wrote on October 23rd, 2010
  6. I’ve always just told people that I don’t eat grains because of the insulin spikes so… SCREW EM, lol.

    MilesHedgehog wrote on October 23rd, 2010
  7. I have to say that I’mn living proof that this lifestyle works. I’m a 50 year old male, 6’3″ tall. In April this year, after much research, I went paleo and I haven’t looked back. When I began, I weighed 269lbs. Without doing anything else but change my diet, I’m now at 233lbs and feeling healthier than I have in many years. Still a way to go, but thanks to Mark’s informative pages and other information on nutrition and vitamins (Dr. Joseph Mercola for example), I’m now an avid disciple of the low carb religion and I’ll never go back.

    Ian Horne wrote on October 23rd, 2010
  8. I had to agree w/ Luke in Oz.

    There is a great movie by the BBC, called “Walking With Prehistoric Creatures”.

    Early man, dated 5 million years ago, was able to differentiate from his ape siblings b/c he: 1) came out of the forest/jungle and hunted, and 2) he ate MEAT.

    Indeed, it was precisely the fact that he ate meat that resulted in his larger (and more evolved) brain. They say that in the movie.

    Mark has made this point before: there are some things we have evolved to do, and there are some things we ADAPT to (e.g., chronic cardio). Eating bread is an adaptation in my view (sometimes not a pretty one for some folks).

    Dr Mercola’s site has an excellent “7 reasons to eat saturated fat” (from beef). The benefits to the nervous system should not be ignored.

    Meat & raw vegetables (including roots called carrots).

    Iluvatar wrote on October 24th, 2010
  9. I don’t think you have to go any farther than that it is one (1) data point. That’s as opposed to what — tens or hundreds of thousands of data points for meat eating? Arguing from one data point against thousands is a waste of air.

    slacker wrote on October 24th, 2010
  10. Now it will just be easier to tell whose after me for my “crazy diet” and whose not!

    Evan Geiger wrote on October 25th, 2010
  11. Just want to re-iterate what others have said here. This is a fantastic post! I enjoyed the part about “history”- which in schools is often taught in a way that you really have no idea what went on in various time periods. We all know about kings and queens and politicians, but never do we get the full story about actually people and daily lives, and what types of things they were dealing with.

    I agree the discovery is great, and tells a lot of things, including the fact that not EVERYTHING paleolithic man ate and did was optimal for health!

    Kevin wrote on October 25th, 2010
  12. Yep, I’m just going to go back to my old ways now. I can’t stand being thin, toned, stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been before. This paleo diet is really bad for me :)

    Kitty wrote on October 25th, 2010
  13. Yep, someone sent that article to me yesterday. But it wasn’t bread! It was more like a potato/root veggie pancake.

    (Plus I’m willing to bet it was not cooked in trans fat, dyed and covered with sugar.)

    Vicky wrote on October 25th, 2010
  14. So if it were true about 30, 000 year old bread, than why haven’t they unearthed any paleolithic twinkies?

    Chairdr wrote on October 27th, 2010
  15. This is exactly the conclusion I came to when I first read the story.
    The fact that they bashed a few grains with a rock and ate them is unsurprising (I’m sure it was a small supplement to their main diet)… and hardly justifies eating a diet largely based around grains.

    Greg wrote on October 27th, 2010
  16. I am allergic to wheat, barley, rye, corn, or dairy, so I couldn’t go back to a grain laden diet if I wanted to. I don’t need an archeologist, PhD, or MD to tell me what I should eat, my body tells me that this stuff is bad for me.

    Not everyone that smokes will get lung cancer, and not everyone who eats grains will develop diabetes, but why take the chance?

    Poppies wrote on October 27th, 2010
  17. So they found these stones….How about ALL the arrowheads and spear tips we have found already. ’nuff said.

    Sorry if it has been mentioned already.

    john wrote on October 27th, 2010
  18. They found it. Doesn’t mean they ate it. I was often making play doh in my kitchen for my children. Doesn’t mean we ate it.

    It certainly does not change the findings of Weston Price.

    cj wrote on October 27th, 2010
  19. I have been following this site on and off for the past year. I have noticed that sometimes when Mark has a little fun and cracks a few harmless jokes, some folks get very upset and take offense to it. This confuses me, because anyone posting on this site should know that the whole point is to provide information and resources to those looking to adopt this particular lifestyle. Presenting this information without his personal opinion, recommendations and personal style of humor would take away from my enjoyment of the learning experience. It would seem bland and watered down. I don’t know about the rest of you, but to me it seems as though some people need to lighten up. The entire first half of the article is obviously meant to be sarcastic. As far as Mark inferring that certain groups of people are evil based solely on their jobs… That, to me, is just another example of how a little harmless ribbing can be taken to heart when it’s not meant to be offensive. Anyway, that’s just one man’s opinion. Some people just seem overly sensitive to me. Moving on… I also found this article to be very interesting. Does it shake the foundation that my dietary beliefs are built on? Not at all. As many of you have already stated, results speak for themselves. Good luck to all of you on your personal journey towards optimal health and well-being.

    Michael wrote on October 27th, 2010
  20. Great point CJ. The Weston A. Price Foundation website is another great resource for quality information. Also, just an interesting man to read about. I love the fact that they are a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity and that the main sources of support for the foundation are the dues and contributions of its members. They receive no funding from any government agency or food processing corporation what-so-ever. I’m thinking this is a non-biased informational resource if ever there was one.

    Michael wrote on October 27th, 2010
  21. first my english isn’t too good eh!

    when you avoid grains dairy pills soda search a real source of real food (ok the world is seriously contaminated bla bla bla) but that is still possible in my case just eat fish (tuna, sardines and other small fishes i search them fishing like a islander haha) only the small fishes but one day know that i will catch a tuna
    being paleo isn’t a new wave or just another diet that you found on internet
    im’ a surfer and i train since i got memory always eat “healtly foods” but my insulin levels are not right great body and low fat levels 5 or 6 meals per day only for keep away my muscles of the monster of catabolism (he prefer attack after 10 pm) bla bla bla man something is wrong or isn’t?? since 12.000 years ago the mankind is manipulated in the same way that harvest a grain just think a little i’m not a fanatic i’m a 20 years old man that finnaly open his eyes know what you eat it’s more complex that you think is the only way that you have to defend what you believe or want to i eat real meat and breath real air the grains is the most efficient way to manipulate the mankind pills food shoes cars i don’t know millions of products that you can make just by an grain if the industry can live or make all that stuff with butter you can tell me later

    in my case since one year ago i being suffer fibromialgia and the base treatment is liryca well thats is a weird name to call pregabalina and corn starch i decide avoid that “cure” and research a natural painkiller for my constant fatigue and muscular pain and decide start fasting using the lean gains protocols and my body just adapts i think by instinct to that kind of eating in effect the pain gets lower every day and finnaly can train like old days right now i’m still have a killer pain thats true but nothing like months ago you can call palo as a movement diet religion or whatever you want (is your frewill no?) for me paleo is just avoid the reasons that makes a generations goes to a de-generation open your mind the reason for living of the mankind is simple: train,eat,love,appreciate the mother nature and being grateful with her cultivate your mind for love your brothers (yeah right) and right now fight for that the productive man is really a complete entity well have money a phd. a car house and a insurance for all those right now i feel like an empty person because only the things that comes from the nature really satisfy my soul the human being has been created to be imperfect and for learn not for learn maths or chemistry bla bla bla just for learn how to stay in the road and live the day think about

    right now is time to change and time to get real and also know that “get real” have a big cost my english isn’ good but hope that someone that could understand what i want to say can translate that like you said “grok on” like i said the trully answer isn’t come in a package comes in capsules that you can find just in your self let the real human rise consecuenses that brings in your social stability in my case (i being modelling since 18 years until this year just for my fibromialgia) but also discover a real world with more freedom money liberty and that is priceless fishing training eat what i search thats priceless you can say well i dont have time for that me either but i do what i can for search the time :) good vibes for everyone!

    andres wrote on October 27th, 2010
    • Andres..
      If, like me, you are sensitive to glutamates; even natural occurring glutamates are a problem. This is usually the case in this type of condition. Just a thought. :)

      Be well~

      cj wrote on October 29th, 2010
  22. Andres… Well I think I kind know what you talking about…for give me if I interpert you wrong” your english is pretty good but could be misstaken, for give me cause my spelling is BAD. But I do beleve if you give up graing all togeather your pain will stop,I to was thought to have fibromialiga..but I changed my life and went primal and I have not had an prob. since. And as far as you feeling whole…trust me when you do this and start feeling great you will feel whole:)

    jennifer wrote on October 27th, 2010
  23. Think of it…in 30,000 years they will find perfectly preserved McD buns!

    localad wrote on October 28th, 2010
  24. I like the thesis of your article but I was disappointed by the sarcastic tone of the opening few paargraphs. Take the high road and just state the facts.

    Michael wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • That takes all the fun out of it! Surely it would be mind numbing to only read the facts.

      Maxmilliana wrote on October 28th, 2010
  25. Are we sure this “bread” was meant to be consumed? It could be a weapon for killing real food……

    Jenni wrote on October 28th, 2010
  26. Ok, wow, so maybe they did find some evidence that our ancestors ate grains back in the day but our “grains” today are more than just the roots that our ancestors grinded. We have all these other additives and sugars and only God knows what else, in our grains, breads, cereals, etc.
    It is still not healthy to eat grains. I think these so-called researchers are trying to find excuses to continue to eat grains and SAY it’s good for us.

    From Alaska wrote on October 28th, 2010
    • I don’t believe that’s their intention at all; however it causes some other groups and agencies to jump on that bandwagon propaganda for sure.

      Bob Garon wrote on October 28th, 2010
  27. What I really think is that we should all not have a black and white diet of any kind. Personally I stick to more Paleo ways of eating alongside daily Intermediate Fasting, but do have vegetarian days as well. That being said, grains are not and never again will be a major part of my nutrition. I probably have grains once a week- maybe two- but never ever more than that. Never do I eat such things as soy or gluten grains. When I do eat a grain it is always organic, whole and usually rice, aramanath, or quinoa.

    We must all do what feels best to us. After that processed foods should never ever be an option.

    Bob Garon wrote on October 28th, 2010
  28. Whether they ate it or not doesn’t matter to me. When I keep grain products to a minimum (as in when I’m at a social gathering only) I sleep better, don’t suffer from hypoglycemia symptoms, have more energy, less body fat, and have no stomach trouble.

    I’m not the whole of mankind. I am me, and I know what is working for ME and MY body alone.

    Laura B. wrote on November 4th, 2010
  29. Wasn’t the agricultural revolution caused by a famine? I had heard that the evidence pointed to desertification wiping out regular food supplies in the middle east, which led to people eating grain.

    Which means that grain was considered at best a fallback food. If someone told me I was either going to die in 20 years from poor health, or right now from starvation, I know exactly what I’d pick.

    But that doesn’t mean that it was a part of the regular diet. It was starvation food, which means it was at least better than eating dirt (for the feeling of being full) or than some juicy nightshade (for when you’re sick of starving and decide to give up). Hardly paints a good picture for grains.

    Jesse wrote on November 7th, 2010
  30. Brant wrote on December 6th, 2010
    • Yeah, who would have though it?

      I just had a debate with someone, who is studying to be a Dietician, and thinks that this article by Dr Mercola is saying we should give up fruit and veges. If they are teaching Dieticians that fruit and veges are the main source of carbohydrates it is no wonder the world is in the mess it’s in.

      Kitty wrote on December 6th, 2010

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