I truly believe in the “we are what we eat” philosophy—thanks especially to my grandmother.
Of course, I generally tend to look at this from a more metabolic point of view. But a new study shows there’s quite a bit of historical relevance to this mantra, too.
In fact, new research shows that the Mediterranean diet we tout as healthy now looks quite different for the modern human than it did for people 2,000 years ago. (Perhaps that also helps to explain why we also see disease rates rising.)
Here’s everything you need to know…
A glimpse into history
Let’s start with a little scientific background: Our bodies build new material using amino acids—the building blocks of the protein we take in. (I outline this in more detail in my very own A-List Diet.)
More specifically, our bones are in a constant state of breaking down and building up. So, the proteins they contain are reflections of our recent diet. And that brings me to this latest research…
A team of scientists analyzed ancient bones—discovered from when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in Pompeii in the year 79 AD—to see how diets have changed over the centuries. (I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited this site, and I wish the same opportunity for everyone. It’s truly breathtaking.)
They compared the protein content of ancient human remains to those of fish, animals, and plants to get a clearer idea of what people were eating. And here’s what they found…
What’s changed—and what hasn’t
Ultimately, the analysis revealed that the men were eating more fish, while the women were eating more land animal products and fruits and vegetables. (Fish were harder to obtain and were more expensive—so the study authors suggest that this difference reflects the higher social status of men in this culture.)
Of course, the notion that vegetables and salad are for women, while meat is for men, still plagues modern ideas about “dieting.” And I really wish it didn’t.
As with most things gender-related, we have to start rethinking old constructs. A healthy diet is a healthy diet, whether you’re a man or a woman. Period.
But this wasn’t the only interesting finding behind what the Mediterranean diet used to look like versus the one we peddle as healthy today…
In fact, there was a noticeably lower intake of grains, too.
Grains are vastly overrated in our modern diet, and in our conversations surrounding food. All too often, “whole grains” are cited as a “healthy” staple of the Mediterranean diet, when—as this research suggests—they really shouldn’t be.
As I’ve said time and time again, humans didn’t evolve eating the amount of grains—much less the amount of genetically modified grains—that we eat today. Actually, as I’ve reported here before, high consumption of refined grains is linked to a higher risk of death from any cause or from a major heart disease event.
But the best part is, you don’t just have to take my word for it anymore. Because now, history shines some light on the old “you are what you eat” saying. So—I hope you’ll keep it in mind when adopting healthy eating practices moving forward.
“The Mediterranean Diet Isn’t What It Used to Be.” WebMD Health News, 10/04/2021. (webmd.com/diet/news/20211004/mediterranean-diet-isnt-what-it-used-to-be)