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Sorry Paleo Dieters, This Cave Discovery Shows That Early Man Ate Oats

The re-examining of a 32,000-year-old oat substance found in a Middle-Upper Palaeolithic cave in Italy is another blow to the paleo diet’s controversial no-grain rule.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Foto von paige_eliz via Flickr

Where my paleo brethren at?

There must be a few of you still out there, surreptitiously sipping bone broth and mashing raw meat into your babies' sippy cups, blithely ignoring the nutritional advice and archeological research that show a diet omitting kidney beans probably isn't that great for you, and early man's diet ranged beyond offal and Primal Pantry bars.

First, it was the discovery of the oldest human turd and all the prehistoric barley and wheat-chomping it revealed. Last month, a study published in the Quarterly Review of Biology found that the evolution of the human brain may have actually been dependent on carbohydrates.

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READ MORE: The Original Paleo Diet Was Full of Carbs

This week, it's another archaeological find that destabilises the paleo diet's controversial no-grain rule.

Prompted by the current craze for eating like a caveman, researchers from the University of Florence took another look at grain residue first discovered in the Grotta Paglicci cave in Southern Italy during an evacuation in the 1980s.

After re-examining the samples scraped from rocks, the team found that they were a mix of oats treated with water and ground into a gruel. Not that dissimilar to the organic muesli bowl you paid £7 for at brunch last weekend, then.

The 32,000-year-old grains hark from the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic era, when man had not yet mastered farming—thought to have begun 10,000 years ago—but survived on root vegetables and fruit from trees. However the Grotta Paglicci cave's porridge-like substance shows that human beings may have been making "recipes" earlier than previously thought.

The team's findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, with research leader Marta Mariotti Lippi adding that the ground-up oats could have been baked into flatbread, as well as being used for porridge.

READ MORE: Should You Feed Your Paleo Baby Raw Liver?

The paleo diet forbids grains and cereals, seeing human digestive systems as ill-equipped to deal with such "nutritionally unnecessary" substances. Oats are high on this list of no-no grains, with paleo advice site Ultimate Paleo Guide listing "oats," "oat bread," "oat cereal," and "oatmeal" as contraband foods. No word yet on oat milk, though.

To be fair to paleo advocates, there's nothing wrong with following a diet heavy on fresh fruit, grass-fed meats, and vegetables (maybe loosen up on the legume hate though, guys.) Like any lifestyle choice, it gets out of hand when things are taken too far—see Australian chef Pete Evans' paleo baby cookbook or that time your housemate forced you to eat Sprialized mac and cashew "cheese."

Let's break things down for paleo dieters in a language their beloved early man might understand: oats, whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and organic meats: GOOD. Following a nutritionally flawed diet to try and lose a few pounds: BAD.