COLUMBUS, Ohio From the paleolithic diet to the raw food diet, many health-conscious Americans now want to eat the way they believe our ancient ancestors ate.
But some of these dietary prescriptions make little sense for modern humans, according to a new book on the evolution of the use of food and eating habits among prehistoric people.
While there is much we can learn from what our ancestors ate, many of our more modern foods and diets were developed for very good reasons, said Kristen Gremillion, associate professor of anthropology at Ohio State University.
Gremillion is author of the new book Ancestral Appetites: Food in Prehistory (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which explores how humans have adjusted the food they eat and the way they prepare it in response to new knowledge and new environments.
"Humans are omnivores and we can eat a wide range of things," Gremillion said.
"Rather than try to base a healthy diet on what we think people used to eat thousands of years ago, it would probably make more sense to look at our nutritional requirements today and find the best way to meet them."
One issue that Gremillion has with many new diet fads is the claim that they are somehow more "natural" because they focus on a time before modern culture spoiled our eating habits.
"That time never existed," Gremillion said.
"Human dietary behavior can't be reduced just to our biology. Culture has always played a part in what we eat and how we eat it. And people have always been innovating, finding new foods to eat and new ways to prepare them. There's no way to say that there's only one way we are supposed to eat."
One popular diet today is the so-called "paleo" or "paleolithic" diet, sometimes also called the caveman diet. This diet is based on what people ate before the introduction of agriculture. There is an emphasis on lean meats and fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed fo
|Contact: Kristen Gremillion|
Ohio State University