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100 Million Years Of Food

What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today

By Stephen Le
13-minute read
Audio available
100 Million Years Of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today by Stephen Le

100 Million Years of Food (2016) is about the foods our ancestors ate and how that diet relates to our eating habits today. These blinks will take you way back in time to explore the evolution of eating. They’ll explain that, while there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, there are a few general rules to abide by.

  • Anyone who is dissatisfied with their weight or health
  • Readers who are on the lookout for reliable dietary recommendations
  • History and food lovers

Stephen Le is a visiting professor of Biology at the University of Ottawa. He holds a PhD in biological anthropology from UCLA. This is his first best seller.

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100 Million Years Of Food

What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today

By Stephen Le
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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100 Million Years Of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today by Stephen Le
Synopsis

100 Million Years of Food (2016) is about the foods our ancestors ate and how that diet relates to our eating habits today. These blinks will take you way back in time to explore the evolution of eating. They’ll explain that, while there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, there are a few general rules to abide by.

Key idea 1 of 8

The insect- and fruit-based diets of our early ancestors wouldn’t work for us today.

If one of our first ancestors walked into one of today’s supermarkets, he’d be stunned by the options. After all, the difference between the overflowing shelves of contemporary grocery stores and the dinnertime options available to our ancient ancestors could hardly be greater.

Our earliest ancestors, who emerged around 100 million years ago, lived in the trees of tropical forests and primarily ate insects. That might sound gross to us now, but insects are actually a calorie-rich source of vitamins and iron.

In fact, insects would still make a great addition to the modern human diet. But for us to attempt to live only on bugs wouldn’t be so smart. Our ancestors had enzymes that allowed them to break down the exoskeletons of insects, which are made of chitin, a substance that we can no longer digest. Another problem with eating bugs is that they can trigger allergies and produce harmful toxins.

But in moderation, the consumption of insects would be a great boon to modern food production. For instance, crickets produce about 50 percent less carbon dioxide than cows per pound and convert feed into calories 12 times more efficiently.

Nonetheless, our ancestors transitioned away from creepy crawlies around 60 million years ago. Around this time, the climate began cooling and, as the air grew more humid, the first fruit-bearing trees emerged.

During the same period, our ancestors lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C, which is essential to preventing cell damage. They only survived this change because they could get plenty of vitamin C from fruit.

So around 30 million years ago our ancestors became full-time fruit eaters. However, eating too much fruit can also be bad since fruit contains fructose, something our body can only metabolize so much of; overconsumption can lead to insulin resistance and pancreatic cancer.

The actor Ashton Kutcher learned this the hard way. When preparing to portray Steve Jobs, Kutcher followed the tech CEO’s fruitarian diet for a month. After just 30 days, Kutcher was hospitalized with pancreatic issues.

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