Human beings have been in existence in homo sapiens form for over 2 million years. For 250,000 of those years we evolved into our current homo sapiens form. During this very long era, human beings were hunter-gatherers, hunting animals and gathering roots and vegetables.
Around 10,000 years ago, grains were discovered and the era of agriculture, the Neolithic era, started. Grains were a source of cheap energy and could last a long time enabling storage and transportation (and hence the spread of civilization) and they could be grown in mass quantities enabling the proliferation of populations.
Think about it…as human being, we have only begun eating grains for about 4% of our existence. We didn’t evolve on that stuff but we did evolve on meat and plants.
Anthropologists can tell at a glance if the remains of a skeletal bones are from the Neolithic (agricultural) or Paleolithic (hunter-gatherer) era. The Neolithic remains tend to be shorter, with less bone density and cavity-filled teeth.
Grains are filled with anti-nutrients (like lectin, phytates and gluten) which prevent the absorption of nutrients to the body. For more information, click on this great explanation from Mark.
With the advent of mass industrialization of food (specifically the processing of grains and sugar canes into flour and sugar) in the last 150 years plus the subsidies the agricultural industries receive in the past 50 years plus the misguided government nutritional policies that push the idea of processed carbs as the bedrock of a healthy diet in the last 30 years, and you have populations that suffer every sort of ailment unseen in the past…Allergies, dental decay, acne and bad skin, neurological disorders, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s, every kind of chronic illness, etc…
Weston A Price’s “Nutrition And Physical Degeneration” (freely available for reading via Project Gutenberg) had a central hypothesis that Western diseases from dental decay to cancer were rarely present in developing societies. His research of isolated and hunter-gatherer tribes across the world (it took him 10 years to complete his very comprehensive study) led him to extrapolate that abandoning traditional diets and adopting the Western diet (flour and sugar based) introduced diseases of the West into societies that never had experienced them before.
The evidence presented in the book is compelling indeed. Even the societies that did incorporate grains into their diets, such as the Scots and their fondness for porridge, knew to prepare the grains in such a way that anti-nutrients in the grains were removed. This was mainly done through the fermentation process.
Even people who make their own breads these days would look at you askance if you ask about fermentation process. However, at least they are trying to control the ingredients that goes into their breads. They deserve full credit for that.
Mostly everyone else buys their bread, and most of their processed carb foods, produced by big food production firms.
The big food production companies pump up a grain staple bread with ingredients that require a biochemistry degree to decipher. Most of these ingredients are preservatives included to “preserve” or keep the bread or other food items while being transported across long distances and to extend their shelf-life. A traditional food preparation step like fermentation does not help with Big Food’s bottom line, which is driven by short cycles and transportation considerations. Hence this crucial step in the minimization of poisons found in grains, that was common wisdom in traditional societies, is lost in the modern era of processed food production.
But unlike grains, you know what cannot be processed?. Foods like meats, animal and tropical fats, vegetables and fruits. The basis of the paleo diet.