The paleolithic diet attempts to mimic the eating habits of our paleolithic ancestors, and most interpretations of that means lots of meat, zero grains. But new research has found that people from the paleolithic period might have been eating a grain after all…in the form of oats.
The recent research on this topic was lead by Professor Marta Mariotti Lippi at the University of Florence in Italy, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. There was a stone pestle found in the Paglicci Cave in southern Italy that dated to 32, 600 years old, and the team set about figuring out what it was used for.
What they found on the pestle, was starch from wild oat plants, leading them to believe that the pestle was used to grind up oats to eat or even use as oat flour. There were also traces of grasses similar to millet and what be acorn dust on the pestle. If the people were grinding up flour, then they were most likely cooking it up and chowing down on it. Grinding up the oats of course makes them easier to cook…that’s why we have “quick” oats that are ground up in smaller pieces that whole rolled oats.
The pestle dates back tens of thousands of years before modern agriculture was a thing, and it is currently the oldest evidence we have of humans processing oats. Now it’s not completely possible to say what the people back then were actually doing with the oats, but the researchers suggest that they were eating them, as opposed to grinding them up for whatever other reasons you might imagine.
Other researchers, including Huw Barton who is a professor of bioarchaeology at Britain’s University of Leicester, have also been outspoken about the grain debate. He is one who thinks there was a lot more grain eating going on in the stone ages then we’ve previously thought.
He says the concept that our ancestors avoided grains ““is just wrong. It’s misinformed. People ate what they could get their hands on. Eating is surviving.”
Now it’s true that 100,000 years ago people didn’t have easy access to making fires so cooking grains might not have been on the table. But it’s important to keep in mind that no matter which side you’re on, that there was no single paleolithic diet. Our ancestors lived in a lot of different climates, in a lot of different areas, over a lot of different years that can be considered of the paleolithic era, so who knows what was happening.
Not to mention, nothing we have in our current grocery stores closely resembles what people were eating back then anyway. While we’re getting protein from grilled chicken, they were likely grubbing on grubs, snails, and worms to get in that energy. Overall the idea of any diet is to make you healthier, so keeping an open mind about healthy food options out there is generally a good idea until the definitive facts are in place. Plus, oatmeal is delicious.