Paleo dieters, take note: carbs may not be the evil demon they’ve been made out to be. In fact, carbohydrates may be responsible for the growth of the human brain over the past million years.
The Paleo Diet, a much touted diet trend that promises health and weight loss by adhering to the so-called diet of our prehistoric ancestors, is made up of mostly meats, nuts and non-starchy fruits, vegetables. It excludes carbs in the form of cereal grains and potatoes based on the premise that the human body is best adapted to the hunter-gatherer diets of humans in Paleolithic times. Paleo proponents tend to vilify carbohydrates’a post on paleodiet.com compares wheat to home invaders launching a covert attack on your body’s immune system.
But a new study published in Chicago University’s Quarterly Review of Biology challenges that idea by suggesting early humans did consume carbs as part of their diet, and that cooked starchy foods were important to brain evolution. Study researchers argue that because the brain uses up to 25 percent of the body’s energy stores, and up to 60 percent of its blood glucose, a low carb diet wouldn’t have provided early humans with enough glucose to meet those needs.
The researchers also maintain that, contrary to the Paleo Diet theory, starchy carbs in the form of potatoes would have been readily available to our ancestors, and that the introduction of cooking made the starches easier to digest. They suggest that the evolution of cooking techniques, along with the development of a gene that helps us digest starches, allowed humans to eat more carbs to get the glucose they needed for the brain to increase in size.
Paleo Diet advocates refute the idea that starchy carbs can be a part of a healthy diet. In a blog post, Paleo Diet guru and professor at Colorado State University Loren Cordain writes ”in effect, eating potatoes is a lot like eating pure sugars, but even worse, in terms of the harm these starchy tubers do to our blood sugar levels.’
No matter which diet you chose to follow, it’s worth looking at the research and recommendations. Canada’s Food Guide recommends 45-65 percent of an adult’s total calorie intake come from carbohydrates.