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  • Ancient Diet?

    Dunno, maybe it's my own ignorance (and if that's the case I'd love to have the condition remedied) but whenever folks get to talking about (ie - justifying) paleo style diets I always get the impression of an ice-age European style diet. Lots of meats, carbs in season as available, almost no starches and very little fruit (in season, less sweet than modern fruits, etc).

    And of course great weight is placed on the fact that this style of eating is millions of years old and agricultural eating is only 10,000 years old.

    But we really didn't start drifting north of the tropics before say 50,000 years ago.

    During the 2 million years prior to that point we were still hunter gatherers, but in a tropical environment which would have included a considerably greater variety of plant foods in fair abundance most of the year round. Much of the year even fruits (big tropical sweet fruits) would have been available for the bulk of the year.

    That's without even getting into the differences between the diets of inland vs coastal peoples.

    Still probably fairly low on starches and almost no grain consumption. But maybe not as meat-reliant as supposed (or maybe it was just me supposing that).

    Guess I don't have a specific point or question, just wondering what other folks might be thinking.

  • #2
    Theres an interesting series of articles on a similar line of thinking over at the primal wisdom blog, the latest one I've linked here

    His main point seems to be that our ancestors had relatively reliable access to starch and glucose and it formed the basis of the diet.

    Steven Guyenet over at Whole Health Source has posted on similar topics as well.
    "One can only be a perfect physician for oneself alone. " ~ Luigi Cornaro

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    • #3
      Interesting posts. I hope some of the highly knowledgeable people on this list who hold contrary views will critique Matesz's article.

      I find it hard to believe that fruit and starch is "bad for you," but that doesn't mean it is optimum for a given individual. As people age, for example, they tend to consume less protein and become physically weak, which is profoundly destructive to their well being and ability to function.

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      • #4
        This is just my logic, but... You can produce sugar from protein (and fat if you count ketones) and fat from sugar. You cannot produce protein from any other energy source (to my knowledge). Therefore, protein is the most needed of all energy sources. Meat has alot of protein. Meat has always been what we need the most.
        In all of the universe there is only one person with your exact charateristics. Just like there is only one person with everybody else's characteristics. Effectively, your uniqueness makes you pretty average.

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        • #5
          I think fit, active people can eat at the high end of the primal carb target and still be quite healthy. You can eat a fair amount of yam and still stay under 150g of carb per day.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Alex Good View Post
            This is just my logic, but... You can produce sugar from protein (and fat if you count ketones) and fat from sugar. You cannot produce protein from any other energy source (to my knowledge). Therefore, protein is the most needed of all energy sources. Meat has alot of protein. Meat has always been what we need the most.
            Not necessarily. In most situations, protein being used for energy purposes is usually a bad thing for your body. Most of the protein your consuming should go to structural uses, and other specialized functions in the body. I think you've got the logic backwards.

            Think of it this way. If you starve a human being, whats the very last thing they will be able to burn for energy once glycogen and fat are at or near exhaustion? Muscles and other proteins are usually the last thing cannibalized by the body in a food deprived situation. In a survival situation, if the only thing you have left to tap into is protein, you'd want your body to posses the bio-chemical pathways necessary for turning that molecule into both fat and glucose or something similar in order to keep most of your bodily functions running, especially keeping the brain stable for as long as possible. Burning protein is not an ideal situation and it is not the most needed of all energy sources.
            Last edited by Red Wire; 06-02-2011, 08:05 PM.
            "One can only be a perfect physician for oneself alone. " ~ Luigi Cornaro

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            • #7
              This link to a wiki was posted in the Primal Research section.

              It's well worth a look-

              health_and_diets - health

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Red Wire View Post
                Not necessarily. In most situations, protein being used for energy purposes is usually a bad thing for your body. Most of the protein your consuming should go to structural uses, and other specialized functions in the body. I think you've got the logic backwards.

                Think of it this way. If you starve a human being, whats the very last thing they will be able to burn for energy once glycogen and fat are at or near exhaustion? Muscles and other proteins are usually the last thing cannibalized by the body in a food deprived situation. In a survival situation, if the only thing you have left to tap into is protein, you'd want your body to posses the bio-chemical pathways necessary for turning that molecule into both fat and glucose or something similar in order to keep most of your bodily functions running, especially keeping the brain stable for as long as possible. Burning protein is not an ideal situation and it is not the most needed of all energy sources.
                You really didn't get my point. You NEED to take in protein. It is essential to live. Fat and carbs help you thrive (fat moreso than carbs, in my experience) but if it came down to the one energy source you can't live without, it's protein.
                Animals have not only fat (for energy), but a good amount of protein as well when compared to plants. And don't give me that spew about nuts because those are far too difficult to harvest and prepare to have been a substantial part of our diet.
                In order for any human larger than a shrew to survive, meat must be consumed. Please note that this is discounting modern production methods. Automatic shelling machines make nuts easier to get.
                In all of the universe there is only one person with your exact charateristics. Just like there is only one person with everybody else's characteristics. Effectively, your uniqueness makes you pretty average.

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                • #9
                  I have been trying to get the human time line straight. As I understand, the time of plentiful fruit ended before the genus homo came along. It had gotten colder. Hominids probably scavenged whatever they could. It got even colder around the time homo sapiens came along. We may have hunkered down on the coast where it would have been warmer, perhaps the south east tip of Africa. Our Neanderthal kin probably fit the "caveman" stereotype. We probably didn't. We likely were eating whatever we could get near the ocean. When the ice started receding, we mostly started leaving along coastlines. (All of our ancestors came from Africa around 50-60,000 years ago.) So maybe the ideal diet is food that comes from the sea or nearby. Just a thought.

                  When the Sea Saved Humanity
                  Ancestral Health Info

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Alex Good View Post
                    You really didn't get my point. You NEED to take in protein. It is essential to live. Fat and carbs help you thrive (fat moreso than carbs, in my experience) but if it came down to the one energy source you can't live without, it's protein.
                    Animals have not only fat (for energy), but a good amount of protein as well when compared to plants. And don't give me that spew about nuts because those are far too difficult to harvest and prepare to have been a substantial part of our diet.
                    In order for any human larger than a shrew to survive, meat must be consumed. Please note that this is discounting modern production methods. Automatic shelling machines make nuts easier to get.
                    I don't disagree that protein is absolutely essential for survival. Your referring to it as an essential source of ENERGY is what I'm disagreeing with. It can be used for energy, the body would prefer it not be. If all you had to eat was straight protein, i.e. lean meat with absolutely no fat, you wouldn't live very long or well. Humans are omnivores for a reason.
                    Last edited by Red Wire; 06-02-2011, 10:03 PM.
                    "One can only be a perfect physician for oneself alone. " ~ Luigi Cornaro

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by DFH View Post
                      This link to a wiki was posted in the Primal Research section.

                      It's well worth a look-

                      health_and_diets - health
                      That's really interesting, and depressing. Primitive people - Effed in the A by white man food.

                      It seems like the belief in a single optimal diet solution is misguided, as much under the guise of 'paleo' eating as any other diet. There was so much variation, and many traditional diets had far less reliance on meat and fat than they did on vegetable matter (and the people were healthy, fit and happy) than the 'paleo' community would like to acknowledge. As I read somewhere, people ate what was available to them, and what was available varied so much around the planet.

                      I see the paleo thing as naturally very America-centric (bacon?). I see it brought up time and again, "look how much fat this wild bison carried", or the benefits of pemmican, etc., and this higher fat, higher meat style seems to be taken as the be-all-and-end-all of 'paleo' diets.

                      I'm not afraid of fat, I think it's good to eat, however I think it's overblown, particularly in the context of "well, native americans ate a lot of it and did alright, so we should to", when we could just as easily point to the PNG Highlands and say, "look, these people got 90% of their calories from sweet potato, they're fit and healthy, why are we not eating a shitload of sweet potato?". I'm not well read in this area, but I'm sure we could find many examples of the huge variety which existed. As for protein, its prominent place in paleo eating in think is again as much a product of Americanism and the desire to be muscular. Of course it's good to eat it, but we can't base that claim in traditional diets.

                      Like any idea, information is cherry-picked to support it: this study, that counter-study, just ignore this study over here. So much contention and argument, what the hell is correct, and does it even matter? This is driving me nuts especially since starting to read these forums and blogs. I support the principles of paleo eating, but take the 'culture' with a big tasty grain of salt.

                      People who have gotten to the point where they're fat and unhealthy may need that kind of scientific precision to get back to normal, but for those just wanting to maintain health and fitness and are looking to the ancient world for inspiration, I think ultimately it's about just eating simple food provided by nature (whatever that may be), and being active enough to utilise it.

                      Science is the worst thing that's happened to food and diet since the agricultural revolution (and no, I don't care about the starving millions). Not only what it's done to real food, but also all this information overload, and conflicting informaiton. Worrying about how much walrus the Eskimos ate vs. how much sweet potato Highlanders ate is unnecessary navel-gazing (and yes, I'm guilty of it). You're not an Eskimo, you're just a soulless westerner with too much access to manufactured stuff masquerading as food (and so am I).

                      I'm crapping on, what am I even talking about? I forgot, maybe I'm just not eating enough walrus... shit!

                      Edit: I think my point is that it's not so much what 'primitive' people did eat) and in what ratios, it's what they didn't eat (modern western food abominations), that made them prime human specimens.
                      Last edited by Sambo; 06-02-2011, 11:24 PM.
                      Meri bilong mi i belhot!

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                      • #12
                        Sambo-

                        Good one!

                        I like your point about it's more about what Grok and co didn't eat.

                        All the reading about Paleo times is good info. In the end, the important thing is that we use it to make the best decisions for now. We don't need to pressure ourselves to copy it exactly.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Sambo View Post
                          That's really interesting, and depressing. Primitive people - Effed in the A by white man food.

                          It seems like the belief in a single optimal diet solution is misguided, as much under the guise of 'paleo' eating as any other diet. There was so much variation, and many traditional diets had far less reliance on meat and fat than they did on vegetable matter (and the people were healthy, fit and happy) than the 'paleo' community would like to acknowledge. As I read somewhere, people ate what was available to them, and what was available varied so much around the planet.
                          Over time, I'm coming around to the idea that the macro-nutrient composition of your diet matters very little. If your getting enough micro-nutrition, chances are you'll be healthy. The biggest lesson you can take away from the primal community is the value of fat in your diet.

                          IMO, a healthy diet can be defined by pretty easily

                          1. Avoid PUFAs
                          2. Avoid Trans Fats
                          3. Avoid ______ because your allergic to it (insert grains, dairy, or whatever here)
                          4. Eat the most micro-nutrient dense foods available to you.


                          1 - 3 are easy
                          4 is tough, and probably the essence of the human struggle to eat well in both modern and ancient times. Not only must you secure nutrient dense foods, you have to find the appropriate way to release those nutrients and make them bio-available to you.
                          "One can only be a perfect physician for oneself alone. " ~ Luigi Cornaro

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                          • #14
                            This is just my logic, but... You can produce sugar from protein (and fat if you count ketones) and fat from sugar. You cannot produce protein from any other energy source (to my knowledge). Therefore, protein is the most needed of all energy sources. Meat has alot of protein. Meat has always been what we need the most.
                            +1

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                            • #15
                              Misleading title, was hoping this thread was talking about eating mummies

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