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Scientists serve up new morsels from Paleo diet menu: Elephants and insects

Get ready to roar for a new item on the Paleo diet.
Photo by Rich Polk

Paralleling the growing popularity of Paleo plans, scientists and researchers have become hungry to discover what our hunter-gatherer ancestors actually ate. Now new studies are revealing that their diets included elephants, reported Live Science on July 14.

Archaeologists made the discovery on a ranch in northwestern Sonora, Mexico. Based on the 13,400-year-old weapons and bones, they described the elephants as mega-mammals. The timeline for those creatures includes the prehistoric group of Paleo-Indians called the Clovis culture.

The discovery is significant because it's the first time the elephant fossils have been mingled with the weapons of the Clovis culture. Those weapons feature carefully sculpted points, which are credited for slashing the throats of enormous Ice Age mammals.

In addition, the archeological site enhances the knowledge of which cultures and mammals co-existed. Although it is one of the most anciest Clovis sites found, the bones are the youngest.

And here's a word to add to your Paleo low carb diet vocabulary: Gomphothere. This extinct mammal, related to elephants, used its sharp tusks for defense, making it challenging for cavemen to tackle for food, reported the Huffington Post on July 14.

"The implications are pretty simple, although certainly not trivial — early human explorers of interior North America opportunistically targeted the largest Pleistocene animals as part of their cultural pattern, and this pattern probably started almost as soon as people had made their way south into the lower 48 states," said Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. The Pleistocene era ranges from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

"The Clovis stereotypically went out and hunted mammoth, and now there's another elephant on the menu," said Vance Holliday, a co-author on the study. The discovery beefs up the Paleo diet theory that animal protein played a key role in prehistorical meals.

Although a twist on the traditional omnivore Paleo diet called "Paleo vegan" has attempted to carve out a niche, most Paleo diet experts emphasize animal protein. For those hungry for variety, however, insects have become viewed as a possible option.

"People have been eating insects for eons," said Paleo diet book author and ancestral health expert John Durant, in a recent interview with Outside magazine. He views insects such as crickets as a good source of protein.

"It checks all the boxes," he declared. And while no one has come up with a nutritional analysis of ancient elephant meat, cricket flesh contains more calcium than meet and more iron than beef. Chirp.

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