What paleo diet?

I keep hearing about this imaginary paleolithic diet, and I wonder how they know, and also find it strange that there was apparently one people a 100,000 years ago, and they all ate the same things. Everything about it seems wrong.

Now there is some evidence that humans were roasting starchy tubers in their caves.

Based on plants that would have been locally available, Stone Age people likely cooked tubers and roots in the cave, the scientists say. Compared with raw starchy plants, their cooked counterparts would have provided an especially efficient source of glucose, and thus energy, to people. Human fossils previously found in the coastal cave, located at Africa’s southern tip, also date to around 120,000 years ago.

Ancient starch eating at Klasies River Cave supports the possibility that Homo sapiens evolved genetic upgrades to help with digesting hard-to-break-down starch long before people started farming starchy crops in Africa around 10,000 years ago. Scientists have determined that people today carry more copies of starch-digestion genes than did Stone Age populations, such as Neandertals and Denisovans.

Ancient humans in southern Africa likely ate a mix of cooked roots and tubers, shellfish, fish and game animals, Larbey’s team says. Roots and tubers would have been available year-round. And while little is known about the origins of cooking, campfires were being built at least 300,000 years ago in Africa.

Well, maybe there is something to this paleo diet stuff, because I started salivating. I don’t have any shellfish or game, but I’m thinking now that dinner tonight might be some roasted tubers seasoned with some of the herbs my wife is growing in her garden. Our many-times-great grandparents weren’t stupid people. We might as well give those starch-digestion enzymes they bestowed on us a happy workout!


  1. blf says

    There used to be a local paleo diet (they used the English spelling) cafe here in the S.France seaside village where I live. I never ate there, being rather opposed to actively / knowingly supporting woo-woo, and also noticing the list of ingredients didn’t seem to include any seafood or shellfish — fairly likely (local) ingredients for people of that time, settled or not. (I seem to recall it’s been shown that Neanderthals in Spain(?) did eat oysters(?) from the Mediterranean.)

    That particular cafe has long since closed — they didn’t last much longer than the tourist-full summer — and has been replaced by another cafe, albeit out with an (unusual for France) large selection of vegetarian / vegan dishes.

  2. ardipithecus says

    One advantage of being an omnivore is that you can eat pretty much whatever you can catch.

    OK, we’re not so good with cellulose, but still.

  3. jrkrideau says

    I do not know much about the paleo diet but it always struct me as stupid. If one is hungery then you eat anything. A nice tasty bug is just as good as a steak.

  4. sparks says

    @6 jrkrideau:
    And you just defined the paleo diet. “If one is hungry, then you eat anything (available). The real problem if such exists is in our modern definition of what was available. I’m guessing we missed some things on that score.

  5. says

    One thing left out of the paleo diet is starvation.
    I always say if we still had food shortages McDonalds’s would be considered health food. Except for maybe the salt.

  6. PaulBC says

    “And while little is known about the origins of cooking, campfires were being built at least 300,000 years ago in Africa.”
    Maybe it was just so they could sing an early version of the Campfire Song Song, having developed self-referential humor long before they learned how to cook tubers.

  7. pilgham says

    Stone Age man ate french fries!” No ketchup though. And salt was worth it’s weight in gold.

  8. susans says

    And when you explain to GMO haters that women doing small scale agriculture thousands of years ago were very likely deliberately breeding plants and animals, they will tell you: but that’s completely different.

  9. davidnangle says

    I wonder if humans have been selected for jibber-jabbering about cooking and ingredients constantly. Because you have to wonder about all the deadly things people have learned NOT to eat, and how they learned was through deaths. There were people just eating new things and dying from it, and also people talking constantly about the same things, then eating them, THEN dying… but for that group, the rest of the tribe had the option of discovering what was killing them.

  10. blf says

    davidnangle@13, Apropos of nothing much, find a copy of Roy Lewis’s The Evolution Man (it is also known by other titles), apparently long out-of-print. It’s a witty tale (pure fiction!) on cave people during the Pleistocene — Terry Pratchett liked it — and, among other things, says (paraphrasing) “…in memory of all the prehistoric researchers who died to discover what not to eat”.

  11. jrkrideau says

    @ 14 blf
    Thanks for the Roy Lewis reference. I owned a copy many years ago, it disappeared and I could remember neither the author nor title, just how much fun it was. I still chuckle when I think of it. Good old Ernest.

    I will have to track down a copy.