What did the caveman eat?
Obviously, there's no one answer to this question. Different
cavemen lived in different parts of the world, and of course
the diet varied throughout the season.
Although most cavemen lived more than 12,000 years ago, we do have
some reasonable idea of what they ate, since in the not too distant
past, anthropologists regularly encountered "stone-age tribes" that
had never come in contact with modern civilization. The records of
what these modern cavemen ate provide a pretty good insight into
what their more ancient cousins ate.
One way to start is to list the foods that were not part
of any caveman's diet. A rough approximation to Tom's diet can
be achieved by avoiding the following foods. Tom's diet includes
some of these, however:
- Potatoes (less than 11,000 years old)
- Cereal grains (rice, wheat, barley, corn)
- Dairy products
- Refined sugar products
- Most alcohol; especially distilled
- Modern fruits bred for high sugar content
- Large amounts of salt (at least for those not living near the sea)
- Foods that require cooking (the caveman did not have any
mechanism for boiling beans for 2 hours, for example)
Probably the main difference between what we eat and what the
cavemen ate is that the cavemen ate a greater variety of foods. This
has a couple of advantages:
- If there's something unhealthy about a
particular food, he would tend to eat less of it.
- Eating a wide variety of foods would make it more
likely that he'd encounter, at least in some of them,
trace vitamins and minerals that his body needed.
So finally, here is a list of some general types of foods that
would have been common components of the diets of the cavemen:
- The diet was probably higher in protein than what we eat, since
carbohydrates are so easy for us to encounter (rice, potatoes, bread,
pasta, sweets, et cetera). The animals he was able to catch had a
higher ratio of protein to fat in their flesh, since they were like
today's "game animals", not corn-fed beef.
- Although the meat was lean, the caveman was able to obtain more
fat than you'd think, since he ate much more of the animal, including
the organs, bone marrow, tongue, eyeballs, which are higher in fat
than muscle, and in addition, a fair amount is available as mesenteric
(gut) fat. The fat from these sources, however, is less saturated
than the marbled fat you find in the high-priced cuts of beef today.
- Cavemen living near the seashore or waterways where fresh-water
fish were available similarly would find themselves eating a high
protein to fat ratio.
- In season, fruits and berries were available. Keep in mind, however,
that breeding of fruit that has produced today's very sweet oranges,
apples, et cetera, had not occurred, so the caveman fruits had considerably
less sugar that what you'd find in today's fruit market.
- Some grass seeds were eaten, many of which were probably the
precursors to today's cereal grains, but the amounts were miniscule
compared to what most people eat today.
- Nuts were a good source of protein and fat.
- Roots, like yams and sweet potatoes were available in some places.
- Root vegetables, like carrots, turnips, parsnips and rutabagas were
- For all the vegetables mentioned above, there was a high percentage
of dietary fiber.
- Sometimes it was easy to obtain eggs.
- Some of the braver cavemen got to eat honey from time to time.
Now that we know roughly what our ancestors ate, we can use that
information to make some reasonable approximations to
what we should eat if we want to
emulate their diet.
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