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Why protein is not enough: the roles of plants and plant processing in delivering the dietary requirements of modern and early Homo.

Butterworth, PJ; Ellis, PR; Wollstonecroft, MM; (2016) Why protein is not enough: the roles of plants and plant processing in delivering the dietary requirements of modern and early Homo. In: Hardy, K and Kubiak-Martens, L, (eds.) Wild Harvest: Plants in the hominin and pre-agrarian human worlds. (pp. 31-54). Oxbow Books: Oxford.

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Abstract

Until recently, serious archaeological discussion about the role of plant foods in the human diet, evolution, and health, and the essential roles of plant harvesting and processing systems in prehistoric economies have been overlooked in favour of meat and hunting. Yet, it is well known that a diet consisting of protein alone has biochemical and physiological consequences that cause ill-health and ultimately death; among the consequences are poisoning of the central nervous system proficiency and impaired renal function, bone de-mineralisation, impaired gut function, and disturbed hormonal production, altogether creating a perfect storm that brings about nausea, discomfort of the digestive system, weight loss, and deterioration in health. This chapter examines these problems, demonstrating that, as well as with the production of potentially toxic ammonia, the most likely health risk in a proteinonly diet is what it fails to provide, i.e., adequate production of glucose to satisfy the requirements of glucose-dependent tissues such as the human brain and red blood cells, as well as a range of critical micronutrients, which are readily available from plants. Plants are good sources of carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin C, minerals, phytochemicals (e.g., polyphenols, stanols/sterols), and nonstarch polysaccharides (dietary fibre), all of which may contribute to alleviating the adverse consequences listed above. We then examine factors that influence peoples’plant food choices, and conclude that there is interdependence between culinary knowledge, technical choice, and dietary decisions pertaining to edible plants. It is argued that, on a global scale, this interdependence explains much about the different regional historical processes that gave rise to local culinary and husbandry traditions.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Why protein is not enough: the roles of plants and plant processing in delivering the dietary requirements of modern and early Homo.
ISBN-13: 9781785701238
Publisher version: http://www.oxbowbooks.com/
Keywords: Hominin dietary requirements, protein, potentially toxic ammonia, plants, plant processing
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1493136
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