DuckDodgers in comments, the one who “dug up” all the great info on Chufas, or Tiger Nuts, a starchy highly nutritious tuber that I find tastes great and is very satiating.
He’s been digging up a lot more on other starchy stuff as well, dispelling lots of Paleomyths.
I think (true) Paleo is rather low net carb.
There were certainly low starch cultures — as evidenced by low copies of AMY1a genes in those cultures. But the perception that the majority of our evolution was rather low net carb seems to be mostly based on outdated and obsolete evidence. The more I dig into this, the more I’m finding evidence of energy positive tubers, corms, bulbs and rhizomes (and now “forbs”) being available in virtually every environment that our species evolved in including the ice age.
From the PaleoResearch Institute: Many plants produce several different types of starches in a single organ, meaning that one must learn to identify populations of starches, rather than relying on single starches. At PaleoResearch Institute, we have documented starches in human tooth calculus, groundstone washes, ceramic washes, washes of Poverty Point objects, floor samples, other sediment samples, and in nearly every type of provenience that we have examined for evidence of food processing.
Almost every month, more and more advanced research is being published that shows the potential for greater starch consumption that what was previously believed.
I think the “low carb” paleo notion might have come from the fact that our ancestors experienced long ice-ages, forcing people to rely on animal foods a lot of the time.
It’s a myth that there were no plants available during glacial advances. If that were true, then the plant and grass-eating herbivores that all the carnivores were eating would have all gone extinct during the first few months of any glacial advance — and then every animal would have starved. But, that’s not what happened. In fact, grass-eating horses and camels migrated over the ice bridge from North America to Eurasia.
It’s actually well known that grasses and sedges were available to those herbivores on the ice bridges. And guess what grows under grasses and sedges? starchy and Nutrient-dense roots and tubers. But, up until last year, researchers had no idea how even early hominids in Africa were able to survive off of all the grasses that left the C4 isotopes found in their fossilized bones. It was a mystery and they literally assumed that these hominids were munching on reeds of grass that were void of nutrition, up until last month. But, a new theory hypothesizes that early hominids were likely eating the extremely nutrient-dense tubers that grew these grasses and sedges. So, with one paper, the energy positive starchy tubers were back on the map as a nutrient-dense C4 staple.
And literally, just the other day, a new DNA-based study was published in Nature that shows that nearly 50,000 years ago during the ice age, the landscape was not a barren landscape as once thought. Researchers already knew that the grasses and sedges existed — which means starchy tubers and roots existed too.
From: Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafaunal diet Although it is generally agreed that the Arctic flora is among the youngest and least diverse on Earth, the processes that shaped it are poorly understood. Here we present 50 thousand years (kyr) of Arctic vegetation history, derived from the first large-scale ancient DNA metabarcoding study of circumpolar plant diversity. For this interval we also explore nematode diversity as a proxy for modelling vegetation cover and soil quality, and diets of herbivorous megafaunal mammals, many of which became extinct around 10 kyr BP (before present). For much of the period investigated, Arctic vegetation consisted of dry steppe-tundra dominated by forbs (non-graminoid herbaceous vascular plants). During the Last Glacial Maximum (25–15 kyr BP), diversity declined markedly, although forbs remained dominant. Much changed after 10 kyr BP, with the appearance of moist tundra dominated by woody plants and graminoids. Our analyses indicate that both graminoids and forbs would have featured in megafaunal diets. As such, our findings question the predominance of a Late Quaternary graminoid-dominated Arctic mammoth steppe.
“Forbs” include Typhaceae, which includes Cattails that have a starchy root and and starchy pollen that happen to be rich in Resistant Starch.
In other words, families of plants known to be rich in starches and Resistant Starch dominated the landscape even during the “ice age.”
So, the wooly mammoths, woolly rhinos, reindeers, bison megafauna were living off of these plants and there is no reason why Paleo ancestors wouldn’t have eaten them as well. Why wouldn’t they? The plants had “energy positive” properties.
In fact, last year it was confirmed that shortly after the glaciers retreated there were Paleo-Indians who were harvesting starchy and nutrient-dense cattails and tiger nuts in North America 9,000 years ago. Based on the recent evidence published in Nature, my guess is that those Paleo-Indians had been eating those plants all along.
A Paleomyth falls. Now spread the word.