The Evolution of the Human Diet: From Wild Meat, Fruits, and Tubers to Candy, Donuts, and Pizza

How has the human diet changed over the past millennia? What’s so great about the Paleolithic diet (the default hominin diet)? What should you eat to enhance your protection against diet-related disease?

If you’re a regular reader of Darwinian-Medicine.com, you probably know the answers to these questions. However, if you’re not, then chances are you don’t…

What the science says

I frequently come across people – both in real life and on the internet – that don’t really get what the whole Paleo/evolutionary nutrition thing is all about. They don’t understand what makes some diets healthier than others, what separates the original human diet from other diets, and why it’s a good idea to restrict your intake of grains, milk, and processed foods.

These people have never taken the time to dig into the scientific research on evolutionary nutrition. The little knowledge they possess about ancestral diets and evolutionary health promotion they have typically picked up from fitness blogs, YouTube videos, and newspaper articles. This is problematic, because much of the information that these sources deliver is biased, fragmented, and incomplete.

Online, you’ll find some people who love ancestral diets such as the Paleo diet, and others who hate them. Typically, the people who hate these diets focus on just one or two things about the diets that they don’t like. For example, they may focus all of their attention on antinutrients, claiming that there is inadequate evidence to suggest that antinutrients found in cereal grains are harmful to human health. Based on this assessment, they then proceed to say that the idea that it’s unhealthy to eat a lot of cereal grains is bullocks.

This approach to nutrition is extremely fallacious. As I pointed out in a previous article here on the blog, it’s important to see the forest for the trees. We shouldn’t spend all our time staring at just one or two trees. We must remember that the trees we’re looking at are just a small part of a larger forest.

There isn’t just one or two things about the human diet that have changed over the past millenia, but rather, its composition has been completely altered. This is important to acknowledge, because it implies that simply focusing on one or a couple of nutrients or nutritional characteristics won’t get us very far. We need to look at the big picture of things.

Over the years I’ve written numerous articles about nutrition and health, many of which include lengthy answers to one or more of the questions posed in the beginning. I realise that a lot of people may find many of these articles to be too long and complex. For that reason, I’ve now created an infographic that summarizes how the human diet has changed over the past 10.000 years. This infographic was born out of the scientific literature.

I hope you find it useful! Please share it with your friends and family.

the-evolution-of-the-human-diet

Comments

  1. Hi Eirik. I have friends and even family members who really don’t understand the reason for eating. They think you eat something to fill your stomach so you won’t be hungry. The times I’ve pointed out that the main reason for eating is to fuel the body and keep it healthy, and that not all “fuel” is the same, I usually get a blank stare. Once in a while the lightbulb goes on, but more often I get an indifferent shrug and a response along the lines of, “Food is food.” With some people the knowledge gap regarding nutrition is so huge that I don’t even bother. You have my sincere admiration for your ongoing efforts to educate people.

  2. I think that the big picture idea is absolutely the way to go.
    As you pointed out, I’ve seen that among many paleo “experts” there’s a fragmented perspective.
    When we talk about evolution, it takes more than saying:”we are not evolved or we can’t evolve to a new food”…it depends..
    The evolutionary mismatch theory is just the explanation of the phenomena, but many speak like if it was all the other way around.
    Every time there’s a disease state it means that something went wrong, that there is a mismatch between genes and environment.
    It starts from the observation of reality, not from a fancy theoretical whim.
    Of course animals can change, but it depends on time, selective pressure, and chance. It depends on the evolutionary path, because we are the result of a tree, where the likelihood to reach a certain state depends on the state you are now, like a Markovian chain.
    We are not apparently adapted to our environment, because we are sick.
    If we were healthy, we wouldn’t be here to discuss about it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Creator: Eirik Garnas Source: The Evolution of the Human Diet: From Wild Meat, Fruits, and Tubers to Candy, Donuts, and Pizza […]

  2. […] my teachers ever talked about studies on hunter-gatherers and other traditional people or discussed the evolution of the human diet. This is extremely worrying, seeing as it’s virtually impossible to understand what we humans are […]

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