About 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture, certain foods entered our diets for the first time, including cereals, potatoes, bread and milk.
Over time we have evolved to biologically be able to digest these foods, but that’s not the case for everybody. There are still many, many people who are lactose intolerant and have wheat allergies – something left over from the Palaeolithic period? Perhaps.
Today, agriculture has evolved into the 21st century with one sole purpose – to make money. With little regard of the nutritional value of food, genetically modified food is designed to meet the demands of consumers and that’s about it. We’re raising chickens with abnormally big breasts, cows that go mad from our meddling and salmon that grows 10 times as fast as they would in the wild.
So, the question remains: Are we eating the right food?
There is a mismatch between the diet we’ve evolved for and the one that we have – Mark Thomas, professor of evolutionary genetics at University College, London
With obesity on the rise and so many foods being recalled, researchers are examining the eating habits of our ancestors looking for clues. Now, when I say ancestors, I’m talking way, way back by about two million years and the palaeolithic period. Yes, our hunter-gatherer ancestors, before the age of agriculture and over-population. These guys rarely ate meat, probably because it was hard to catch and incredibly big. Who wants a rotting dinosaur carcass stinking up the cave? No, our cave-dwelling ancestors mostly ate vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots and occasionally, meat.
One thing we do know for certain is that Palaeolithic humans didn’t die from poor nutrition. In fact, there was such an abundance of different plants to choose from that the diets of these cave-dwellers were high in nutrition and diversity, which is key to fighting disease. Eat too much of the same thing and your body becomes weak. The same goes for cultivating crops. If a community is too dependent on one crop for their sustenance, when that crop gets infected then famine ensues and people die. Just look at the potato famine of Ireland – same theory.
What scientists have found is that Palaeolithic humans ate 20 to 25 different species of plants, whereas today we struggle to get five plant-based servings in on any given day. This diet would also be rich in seeds and wild berries, fish and meat and pulses or legumes. Compare our diets today that are saturated in fats, high in carbohydrates and consist largely of processed foods, it’s easy to see where the problems lie. We all need to return to a healthier way of eating. This means fewer cultivated grains and more fruits and vegetables.
We need to decrease our reliance on refined sugar and a heavy carbohydrate diet, and replace some of the things we have lost. The natural genes of plants species we collect at Kew will give us an insight into the wild relatives of the crop plants we know today – Professor Monique Simmonds, head of the sustainable uses of plants group at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.
Palaeolithic man was healthier and rarely suffered from what has been termed as diseases of affluence, namely type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. So, before you reach for that lean, skinless chicken breast again for the fifth time this week, consider these things:
- Buying organic
- Adding more diversity to your diet
- Eating fewer cultivated grains
- Eating more and a larger variety of fruits and vegetables
- Avoiding processed foods
Originally published @ FITLODE.COM