Seafood and pine nuts, a healthy diet


I needed cheering up this week. So, a chuckle came from a strange place. New Scientist magazine published an article by Alison George, about Neanderthals and their diets. Excavation of a coastal site in Portugal has revealed Neanderthals dined on a menu of seafood with a side of meat and pine nuts, a mixed diet but dominated by seafood. Marvellous. What a healthy diet for these big boys and girls.

This research appears to be critical in possibly overturning our understanding of how the modern human species, Homo sapiens, developed. The researchers are proposing that a diet rich in seafood could have been crucial for the development of modern human cognition. The initial evidence for this idea comes from the caves at Pinnacle Point in South Africa, which shows that early modern humans ate marine foods as far back as 160,000 years ago. The brain-boosting fatty acids contained in seafood are now thought to have led to a flourishing of cultural and technological innovations, such as the creation of shell bead ornaments and graphic drawings. Ultimately, these skills enabled the expansion of modern humans out of Africa, and the demise of the Neanderthal and Denisovan populations living in Eurasia – or so the theory goes

So, there you have it. Approximately 100,000 years ago, Neanderthals were very active and had a crazy healthy diet.  As I read more into this, I got further dragged down links into energy expenditure comparisons and how efficient their bodies were. It seems maybe we have gone backwords. We now need food and fitness gurus to tell us this, whereas for them it appears to have been an innate education. Bottom line, seafood is very good for you so make sure you eat more. And don’t forget the pine nuts.

The sad news in all this is that the seafood-eating habits of Neanderthals haven’t been observed until now, because many of the coastal areas that existed at that time have disappeared. The Figueira Brava region of Portugal, where the latest research was conducted, is one of the few places in Europe where such sites can be found, because almost all are now underwater due to sea level rise, or were destroyed by glaciation. Slight aside there. Now go get your seafood.



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