Friday, September 11, 2015

Paleo Diet: Plant-Based, Grain-Based 32,000 Years Ago

In The Book of Macrobiotics: The Universal Way of Health, Happiness & Peace, first published in the 1980s, philosopher Michio Kushi wrote this concerning human evolution:

Michio Kushi, courtesy of NYT

 "The species eating cereal grains–the most biologically developed plants, combining the fruit and seed together–gradually evolved into human beings.  The ancestors of homo sapiens, standing upright like the wild grains they consumed, may well have emerged about 20 million years ago." ~ Michio Kushi, The Book of Macrobiotics
In support of the idea that whole grains fueled human evolution,  a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on September 8, 2015 reports that:
"Residue analyses on a grinding tool recovered at Grotta Paglicci sublayer 23A [32,614 ± 429 calibrated (cal) B.P.], Southern Italy, have demonstrated that early modern humans collected and processed various plants....the exploitation of plant resources was very important for hunter–gatherer populations, to the point that the Early Gravettian inhabitants of Paglicci were able to process food plants and already possessed a wealth of knowledge that was to become widespread after the dawn of agriculture." 

As reported on Quartz:
"Researchers from the University of Florence in Italy have found residue of oats on a Paleolithic grinding tool found in southern Italy, at a site known as Grotta Paglicci. The finding not only expands current knowledge about what real Paleos ate, but also how they ate it—our ancestors processed foods more than originally thought.
"The pestle-grinder tool was found in 1989 and identified as being about 32,000 years old. In the course of the researchers’ study, it was sampled twice, in 2010 and 2012, to identify any residues. In one of the samples, researchers identified as many as 250 starch grains per square centimeter.
"The residue properties show that users were heavy plant eaters and also point to a likelihood that the grains were ground into flour. For some of the grains identified, like the oats, heat was probably applied to make the milling process easier." [Emphasis added]
 So much for the hypothesis that humans did not consume whole grains or starch-based diets prior to 10 thousand years ago.  

Since humans were heat-processing and grinding grains of grasses and "heavy plant eaters" 32,000 years ago in southern Italy, and there is evidence for use of grass seed consumption extending back 100,000 years, as well as evidence that African hominins obtained 55% of their diet from grasses and sedges by 1.4 million years ago [and even 3-3.5 million years ago], it seems that humans have eaten a grain-/grass-based diet for millions of years in order to obtain the starch required to fuel their brains.

Human dependence on whole grains for millions of years has resulted in a dietary requirement for phytates present in whole grains and legumes, as supported by the evidence I presented in the following video.


 Many people think we need to eat fruit and vegetables to get antioxidants, and conceive of whole grains as starch empty of nutritional value.  However, there is evidence that whole grains on average supply more antioxidants than fruits:

The importance of whole grains to human health and happiness did not escape the Chinese.  The Chinese character for "peace" is composed of the characters for mouth, cereal grains, and calm.  Chinese sages recognized that consumption of cereal grains brings peace to the body, the mind, and human society.   

Macrobiotic teacher Ed Esko talks a bit about the psychophysiological effects of eating whole grains compared to those of eating dead animal carcasses in this video I made.

Humans are symbiotic with whole grains.  We can reclaim our health, happiness, and heritage by returning to a diet based on whole cereal grains.