Despite the abundant evidence presented by the human body itself, some animal rights activists maintain that homo sapiens evolved as a primarily |vegetarian| species and that meat did not make up a large proportion of the human diet until the development of settled agriculture. Unfortunately for this view, research into the diet of the earliest human beings is revealing just the opposite — the first humans ate far more meat than even present day Americans do.
A number of anthropologists, paleontologists and others around the world are beginning to synthesize what they’ve learned about the “evolutionary diet” that human beings ate in the Paleolithic era that extends back several hundred thousand years and ends with the rise of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.
Although there are still some unanswered questions, it is clear that meat formed the single largest source of food for paleolithic human beings. Professor Loren Cordain, among the world leading experts on the this topic, believes the paleolithic diet was likely close to the diet of the few remaining groups of hunters and gatherers. Whereas the average American receives about 38 percent of daily calories from animal products, the typical hunter and gather obtains 65 percent of his calories from animal products.
Ironically, although the typical American eats less than half the amount of meat their paleolithic ancestors did, they consume 50 percent more fat — much of it coming from sources that were unavailable to Paleolithic humans such as diary products and oils. Similarly, the paleolithic diet was much higher in carbohydrates than contemporary Western diets, paleolithic humans obtained carbohydrates from low-sugar and high fiber foods. People in Western countries get most of their carbohydrates from high sugar, low fiber foods.
As John Macgregor sums up the implications of the paleolithic diet for today’s nutrition and diet debates,
The ancestral record does not support the SAD (standard Australian diet) — but neither does it add credence to diets seen as “natural” by vegetarians, fruitarians, natural hygienists, macrobiotic followers and their countless splinter groups.
Just what mainstream dietary experts have long been recommending — people should eat a balanced diet that is low in fat and combine that with regular exercise rather than try to emphasize one food or food group to excess over any other.
First, catch your cow. John MacGregor, SMH.Com.Au, February 20, 2001.