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Our Ancestors Were Mostly Vegetarian (Not Meat Eaters)

Our Ancestors Were Mostly Vegetarian (Not Meat Eaters)

Paleo diets have become all the rage, but is this way of eating based on fact or fiction..?

With more than half the American population on a diet, people are crying out for a healthier way of eating.

In recent years, we have seen a huge surge in the amount of self help books that recommend we return to diets of our ancestors, but what exactly were our ancestral selves dining on?

Anthropologists have spent years examining the eating habits of the past, and as expected, opinions are divided. Some put forth the argument that we obtained most of our nutrition from gathered fruits and nuts, with animal protein being more of a treat than an everyday reality, whereas others will have us believe that we were big bad hunters who only supplemented our meaty diets with a small serving of berries on the side.

Fortunately, new research holds the answers to what Paleolithic diets actually were, and you might be surprised at the findings.

We get a much better and more rounded view of what our predecessors ate when we stop focusing on one individual set of ancestors and start considering the question in a bigger, broader context.

It all comes down to the gut and the colon. Carnivores have huge, smooth stomachs which turns prey into protein, herbivores have dense stomachs with hair-like villi and bacteria that aids in the breakdown of plants, ruminants like cows have a kind of giant fermenter which produces specific fatty acids that they can use and store, and others scarcely have stomachs at all with fermentation taking place in a greatly enlarged large intestine.

Human guts, on the other hand, are surprisingly boring, yet interestingly remarkably similar to those of orangutans and chimpanzees (with some rare exceptions). So what do other living primates with guts akin to our own eat? The diet of nearly all monkeys and apes are simple. Fruits, nuts, leaves, insects and on occasion the odd snack of a lizard or bird. Primates have the capacity to eat sugary fruits, leaves and meat, but meat is rarely consumed, if at all.

The majority of food eaten by primates is vegetable, not animal, and research suggests that it’s been that way for the last thirty million years. To put it simply, our generalist primate gut is primarily made to eat plants, and in essence that is what the Paleo diet truly is. We might have unique immune systems, brains and even hands, but our guts are nothing special and for tens of millions of years they have been filled with fruits, leaves and on occasion a piece of raw meat.

Maybe our ancestors weren’t 100% vegetarian, but they certainly weren’t the carnivorous caveman that we are led to believe.

When trying to find the perfect model of eating, there are so many factors to take into account and this newest study only brushes up on them. There are the differences in our digestive system, the evolution of our bodies in order to adapt to diets heavier in animal protein, and of course the processing of food, but with that being said, there is no arguing that with all the studies available to us.

It is clear to see that a vegetarian diet is healthful, and that the more fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods you consume, the more benefits you will reap.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Morrell Photography

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8:04AM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

2:15AM PDT on Apr 28, 2014

Well, Mark D. does say he is vegan, and since he only surfaces about every 3 months or so to scream and attack everyone who isn't, my guess is that he has to have 3 months in which to regather his strength. He accuses everyone who isn't vegan of being murderers and that the human race is ALL evil even though apparently, he is amongst the humans on this planet.

As for Elaine, I don't have a clue about her dietary choices. She just screams and calls for death and elimination of whomever is involved in whatever discussion she participates in.

7:55PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Actually, Diane L, I have seen a recent surfacing and a recent sighting in the 'Canada plans to eliminate the humpback whale protections' thread with some very bizarre postulating on his part. Coupled with the comment of Elaine A, they are up for grabs in the Award for the Most Inane post. Elaine A says to 'Eliminate Canada' in that thread while Mark D says that: "The criminal Canadian government is dead set on a holocaust of wiping out ALL life on earth."

How can one not respond to rabid hyperbole such as that? If we feed him with some logic, milk and honey (unless he is vegan) as well as the light of human kindness, perhaps he will relent and not hate humans so much in his misanthropic frenzies, while Elaine "Eliminate' just tends to toss misanthropic inanity at those not sharing her Ann Coutler/fundamentalist worldviews.

7:54PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

I can't say that I pay much attention to the frequency of the sighting of this mysterious misanthropic species...three months, eh? Underground, so he has a lair? Just how deep and dark is this underground lair? Is it as deep as the caves in Ecuador?

Does he pay the resident bats rent at least? He is, after all, human, so the bats just might demand it. They are far more used to lighthearted humans.

Please don't feed him? Awww, Diane L, it is like tossing out a French Fry and watching the hungry seagulls launch into a frenzy when he makes those misanthropic comments...a fascinating study of the misanthropic mind. One does have to wonder what makes him so grumpy when it comes to humankind as a whole? No real butter on his popcorn? No cheddar cheese? No free range eggs? Too many Monsanto-ized veggies sneaking into his salad from the nefarious work of a Monsanto double agent? Your guess is as good as mine.

7:54PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Doomsday comments, yes, I would say that he specializes in those.

It appears that he sees only the most negative aspects of humanity, our darkest sides such as in the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror," forgetting that we have good sides to us as well, such as in the episode "The Enemy Within."

7:54PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Perhaps, Diane L, he just needs to sit in front of a Star Trek episode called "The Doomsday Machine' which, in the end has a good ending. As well as the 'Corbomite Manoeuver.'

Maybe it would lighten him up and stop him from making ridiculous comments filled with endless hyperbole, such as Canadians being potentially worse than Hitler's Germany...(perhaps he has weird nightmares about the 'mighty Canadian naval armada' plotting to deliver Canadian Lynx across the ocean to wipe out flightless birds such as the Kiwi in New Zealand with Captain Harper on the bridge.) Who knows? Maybe there's something in the water that he is drinking? I would say that he needs some good old fashioned Gene Roddenberry Star Trek optimism for a renewed philosophy on life and stop reading all those depressing dystopian novels.

7:53PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Here, Mark D, feast on this and try to lighten up, eh? Diane L, please pass the French Fries and kindly sprinkle on a bit of Canadian maple syrup to counteract the usual vinegar, it might sweeten him up just a wee bit. If he thinks that humans are all bad nasty beasties, he really needs to encounter...the Borg and see that we really are not totally all that bad as a species. We do have some redeeming qualities, not just the bad ones.

12:24AM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Dale, I'd ask, and please don't misunderstand, why you are responding to Mark D. after 3 months when he's gone "underground" again? He tends to surface every 3 - 6 months, sometimes less often (my personal guess is that it takes him that long to regain strength from his poor diet to type his negative DOOMSDAY comments again). If we don't "feed him", he tends to go away after calling us all miserable humans, trolls and murderers. Please don't "feed" him :)

11:52PM PDT on Apr 26, 2014

Interesting, Frank H, considering that so many people in the world are omnivores and there are some who simply cannot accept that. Instead, they fling about hyperbole and gratuitous insults such as when Mark D intones deeply:

"Frank H. don't dare imagine yourself as a member of "the rest of us".

The rest of who, Mark D? Fellow zealots? People eat meat, you are simply going to have to get over that fact, this exists and as Suba G states: "Kindness/cruelty is not determined by WHAT you eat, but rather by how you TREAT what you eat."

11:52PM PDT on Apr 26, 2014

Certainly, being a Misanthrope may give you the idea that all humans are a 'cancer' and for all those humans not adhering to what your worldview should be, labelled by you as a so-called cancer. People that you seem to want to face the end of their existence because none of us 'contribute' in the ways that you seem fit to approve of. It must be somewhat of an empty existence when one hates 99.9 percent of the entire world.

You say that: "Humans in general are a grotesque perversion of life, they contribute nothing to the biosphere. All life shares and gives a mutual exchange back to the biosphere.. except humans. Stop trying to make overpopulated humans part of the natural order of things.. they are decidedly not. There are a few exceptions to that rule but humans as a species? are destined for extinction. Hopefully they want to take the more evolved animal and plant with them."

It is possible there will be extinction, but then again, perhaps not. I know that you meant hopefully we won't take the plants and animals with human extinction in your predicted future.

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