The Paleo diet revolves around the concept that we should eat the way our more primitive ancestors did, meaning lots of animal protein and very few carbs. But it turns out our ancient ancestors loved themselves some starches, Quartz reports.
In a study published in the Quarterly Review of Biology, researchers from Spain, Australia, and the U.K. write that starch was a key nutrient for humans way back when. That's because our brains were growing like crazy back then and carbs were key to get the brain glucose and boost our metabolisms. Though it's possible to get glucose from other sources, the most efficient way to do so is through good-old carbohydrates.
Starches like tubers, seeds, fruits, and nuts were likely easy to get in the olden days, and humans likely cooked and ate them. They also developed an enzyme in their saliva in the last 1 million years or so that made it easier to digest starch. The Paleo community is divided about starches like potatoes, so this study should end the debate once and for all.
"Eating meat may have kick-started the evolution of bigger brains, but cooked starchy foods together with more salivary amylase genes made us smarter still," the researchers said in a statement. So sure, our ancestors weren't chowing down on white bread, but they didn't shy away from starch entirely. In fact, carbs were key to making us as intelligent as we are today. Talk about brain food.