What did people drink before 1000 AD
Diet through the ages
Eat like in the Stone Age?
A nutritional concept that has recently been much discussed is the paleo diet, which was first mentioned in 1975 by Walter Voegtlin. It is based on the assumption that humans have not evolved genetically since the Stone Age. That is why today's diet is not appropriate to the species and is responsible for numerous diseases of civilization such as tooth decay, cancer and cardiovascular problems. It is postulated that before the development of agriculture, human nutrition was healthier because humans cannot adapt to the new foods.
That is an unsustainable thesis. The peoples who breed cattle, drink milk and eat cheese have developed the ability to utilize lactose over the past 10,000 years. In contrast to Asians and Africans, around 90% of Central Europeans produce the enzyme lactase. Incidentally, not the 5300 year old glacier mummy "Ötzi". His DNA revealed that he was lactose intolerant. In addition, dead from the Neolithic Age had cardiovascular problems and hardening of the arteries. Typical "diseases of civilization".
More than 700 genetic changes to the genome of Stone Age people have now been proven.
Basically, the paleo diet is about eating no sugar and few carbohydrates. So it's a low-carb diet that pretends to be original. As is so often the case in recent years, it is mainly grain that is demonized. It contains carbohydrates, which provide far too much energy, and allegedly many substances that destroy the intestines and even make them stupid.
This is unnecessary scaremongering with which diet products and books sell well. Grains are only harmful for people with allergies and gluten intolerance.
Grain and civilization
Gluten intolerance (celiac disease) is a hereditary disease. It occurs very rarely. Symptomatic gluten intolerance affects about 0.01% of the population in the USA, about 0.3% in Denmark, Sweden and Great Britain. Investigations that also include people without symptoms suggest that 0.2% of Germans are gluten intolerant. Celiac disease is more common in people with Down syndrome. In most cases, celiac disease is noticed in childhood. It is less common in people between 40 and 50. Women are affected more often than men. Stress, an infection with the intestinal fungus, is considered to be a stimulating trigger Candida albicans and excessive alcohol consumption. They promote the activity of the enzyme that falsely transports gluten through the intestinal wall. This means that even stressed people become gluten sensitive without suffering from hereditary celiac disease. So we don't get sick from wheat if we don't have a genetic defect or other pre-existing diseases. In other words: 99.8% of the population has adapted to the consumption of larger quantities of grain in the last 10,000 years.
Every third German (33%!) Suffers from more or less pronounced fructose malabsorption. Symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, gas, and diarrhea. The cause is an excess of fructose from fruit (apples, grapes), juices, as well as sweets and yoghurts etc. to which the "healthy sweetness from fruits" is added in large quantities. While most Central Europeans have adapted to the consumption of grain and milk from our agriculture over generations, a good third of the population is overwhelmed by the oversupply of fruit and artificially sweetened foods that global trade and the food industry have given us.
The truth is, those who eat a lot of white bread absorb a lot of energy from easily digestible carbohydrates. White bread doesn't keep you full for long and you quickly get hungry again. If you then eat a white roll, toast, a burger, bagel, donought or a nice, juicy sponge cake, you get a boost of energy again. However, there are relatively few nutrients and vitamins associated with this. Eating only white bread, tarts and cakes is therefore very unhealthy and makes you fat.
But that is no reason to renounce all grain products.
Grain as the engine of civilization
The grain made it possible for people to settle down in the Stone Age. As a result, we were able to develop pottery, metalworking, semiconductor technology, computers and LEDs (see human history). In terms of tendency, therefore, an increase in intelligence can be observed.
As far as our diet is concerned, however, we have been getting more and more stupid for several decades. How else could it be explained that the departments with sweets and snacks in supermarkets are larger than those with fruit and vegetables. It is undisputed that we eat too much sugar and other carbohydrates, but neither did people in the Stone Age live healthier.
Your biological life expectancy will not have been any lower then than it is today. The likelihood of dying as a result of an accident, fighting, illness or giving birth to a child (or one's own) was much higher. Until modern times, malnutrition and famine dominated people's everyday lives. Many skeletons that have been archaeologically examined show signs of malnutrition. A lack of protein can be seen, for example, in transverse grooves on the teeth. Fine perforations in the bones and the top of the skull indicate an iron and vitamin C deficiency (scurvy). Especially in winter, people suffered from it again and again because they lacked fresh fruit and vegetables. Vitamin D deficiency during growth leads to deformation of bones (rickets). Deformations of the bones of the fingers and legs interfere with normal movement. In women, deformation of the pelvic bone is particularly problematic because it can make natural birth impossible. Wear and tear on the joints (arthritis) can also be found on bones that are thousands of years old.
Chronic inflammations of the paranasal sinuses and the middle ear, which can be detected by changes in the bones, were very painful. Deposits on the bones suggest that there have even been cases of diabetes or kidney disease. People had tooth decay even before they started farming. 14,000 year old finds from the pigeon grotto in Morocco prove it. Traces of brain tumors, bone cancer, back problems, tooth decay and even teeth grinding can be found on the skeletons of people from the Paleolithic and Neolithic. Scientists found the earliest evidence of bone cancer on the 120,000-year-old rib of a Neanderthal man. Such illnesses were not rare. Of the dead in the cemetery at Viesenhäuser Hof near Stuttgart-Mühlhausen, every fifth person buried there about 7,000 years ago suffered from a malignant tumor.
In the Paleolithic and Neolithic Age, people were neither more robust nor did they live more healthily. They got sick and suffered from cancer just as we do today. Fewer people were morbidly obese, but malnutrition also did nothing to prolong their lives. I would rather live today than in the Stone Age. Even if that means that I have to limit and regulate myself when eating. But then I can still draw on the entire range. We have only had cucumbers, kohlrabi and lettuce since ancient times. Tomatoes and potatoes only since modern times. A real paleo diet would be pretty boring and one-sided.
There are still peoples who eat like their ancestors in the Stone Age. These include, for example, the Inuit, who almost exclusively (96%) eat meat (seals, whales, caribou, game). The Maasai only feed on their cattle and goats. They drink their blood and milk and eat their meat. As hunters and gatherers, the! Kung in Botswana cover around 67% of their energy needs from plant-based food. The Kitava live in Papua New Guinea. Apart from fish, they do not consume any animal food. None of these peoples knows the typical civilization diseases such as high blood pressure, scarf attacks, heart attacks or diabetes. So it is neither the very meat-rich diet with a lot of animal fat, nor the carbohydrate-rich diet based on root vegetables.
The difference to the industrialized nations is not made by the food itself, but by the relationship between diet and lifestyle. We don't eat too much meat or too much fat. We move too little in relation to our calorie intake!
Old Stone Age
The Paleolithic people lived as hunters and gatherers on hunted game, found carrion, insects, fish, berries, nuts, leaves, grass seeds, roots and tubers. What was available when and in what quantity depended on the seasons and also on the region in which the people lived. After learning to use fire, they cooked meat, fish and possibly other foods on hot stones or on a skewer. People didn't know pots for cooking back then. They may have cooked food in pouches made from skins or animal bladders.
As nomads, they followed the animal herds. In Africa and the Mediterranean region and in the warm temperate latitudes of Asia there was enough food all year round. Supplies were not created. People lived from hand to mouth.
During the Neolithic Age, people gradually settled down and farmed and kept animals. The composition of their menu largely corresponded to that of the Paleolithic. In addition to field crops and meat from their own animals, it included fish and game, wild vegetables and wild fruit. How rich the offer was, depended on the region in which the people had settled. People made the first vessels from unfired clay and were able to cook in them and also store food.
Here in Central Europe, emmer and einkorn, millet, field beans, peas and lentils were cultivated as food plants in the Neolithic. With emmer and einkorn, humans used two types of wheat as early as the Neolithic. They ate cereal porridge and also ingested gluten with it.There were also fruits of wild apples, sloes, hawthorn, raspberries, elderberries, blackberries, rose hips and hazelnut bushes. The leaves of wild beetroot, melde and sorrel plants were also eaten. Hunting and fishing complemented the menu. Flax was grown as a fiber plant for textiles and for ropes. Pigs, sheep and cattle were kept. It is known that as early as 5500 BC In Eastern Europe and 5000 BC BC the production of cheese was also possible in the Middle East and Egypt. Flatbread, cereal porridge dried on a hot stone, probably served as provisions back then. In winter people only had grain, dried meat and dried fish, possibly some dried fruit, as food.
In the Bronze Age and even more so in antiquity, brisk trade and migrations of peoples ensured that animals and useful plants were spread over long distances. The food supply became more diverse overall, as species were added that were previously unknown. Broad beans, spelled (another type of wheat) and millet came to Central Europe in the Bronze Age. Mainly emmer and einkorn were cultivated in the area of today's Federal Republic. Barley in northern Germany and spelled in southern Germany. Occasionally there was oats and rye. In the Bronze Age, people were already familiar with bread baked with yeast or sourdough. In Egypt there were in the 3rd millennium BC Already 30 different types of bread. In Europe north of the Alps, bread has been known around the 8th century BC. Grain harvesting became much easier with the development of bronze sickles. Before that, cutters made of flint stone were used.
The production of cheese from cow's milk has been known in Central Europe since the Bronze Age. In this way, excess milk from the summer could be stored for autumn and winter. Fish and meat could now be preserved by curing and smoking.
We have only had haricot beans since ancient times.
The Romans were very influential. They conquered large parts of Europe and brought many of their achievements with them. Along their fortified border (Limes) they set up camps from which some cities emerged (Aachen, Bonn, Mains, Augsburg). To supply these bases, they planted fields in the river floodplains and cleared the deciduous forests in a targeted manner in order to use the fertile soil. They had a great need for building materials and wood for stoves and metal huts. They traded with the Teutons on both sides of the Limes. The Romans knew barley and also grew a lot of rye. They brought cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, chard, spinach, lamb's lettuce, lettuce, chicory, garlic, onions, leeks, mustard, celery and asparagus to us. Chickpeas, kidney beans (originally from Africa) and parsnips also came to us with the Romans. Since the parsnips are hardy, the beets can be left in the ground and harvested in winter if necessary. Fruit trees such as apricots, peaches, plums, almonds, sour cherries, chestnuts, walnuts and of course wine were also brought by the Romans. There are also many herbs such as parsley, chives, anise, mugwort, dill, fennel, caraway, chamomile, coriander, lovage, marjoram, sage and rosemary. The Romans also planted garden log, dock and foxtail (amaranth).
All these new types of vegetables gradually spread in the German settlement area. The climate and soil were not everywhere suitable for the cultivation of all species and the distribution was also not systematic. That is why the entire range was not known everywhere and was not used equally everywhere. The further away from the Limes people lived, the later the new vegetable or grain would reach them.
Little changed in this food supply in the Middle Ages. Buckwheat came to Germany in the 15th century. It also grows on poor soils in warm regions and is used to make flour. Depending on the time of year, people also had some types of vegetables available to them. They ate wild herbs like sorrel, nettle and watercress. Head cabbage has been grown in Central Europe since around 1000 AD. Kale, lager cabbage and sauerkraut provided the population with vitamins in autumn and winter.
Only the leaves of the common beet and chard were eaten until the 16th century. Only then did one begin to breed varieties with thickened beets (beetroot, beetroot), which could also be stored over the winter. The use of the cultivated carrot in Central Europe can be proven from around the 16th century.
Most of the population in medieval Germany lived on porridge, peas, lentils, beans and sauerkraut all year round. The yields were low and often insufficient to survive for farmers with little land. In the Middle Ages, farmers no longer had the right to hunt and fish. Only those who owned a cow had milk. Even eggs were precious. Those who were in good shape could buy a pig or even an ox in the spring and fatten it up until winter. Everyday food, however, was a porridge made from flour or crushed oats, boiled with milk or water, sometimes sweetened with honey. There was seldom bread. Dark bread could be baked by the women in the villages in communal ovens or bakeries. Until well into the 19th century, the stoves were heated up once a week for this purpose. White bread made from fine flour was rare and was reserved for the rich in the Middle Ages and also in modern times.
Unlike today, the people only had what grew seasonally on their fields or on the fields of the farmers in the vicinity. In good years people could stock up. Not in bad ones.
The only way to preserve meat and fish was curing and drying. Milk was made into cheese and the whey was drunk. Root vegetables and cabbage could be sold in rents. In addition, there were only a few apples in winter that lasted until around Christmas, cheese and sauerkraut.
America was discovered in modern times and many colonies were established in Africa and Asia. Now new crops came to Europe from the "discovered" countries. The most important are the tomatoes, corn and potatoes from Central America. But it took centuries for them to turn from botanical rarities to everyday food.
Food was still scarce, and it wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries that there were significant improvements in agriculture and stockpiling.
Tin cans have been around since 1810. The first refrigerators appeared in 1834, but it took 100 years for them to become common. In 1937 only every second American household had such a device. Preserving in glasses was only developed after 1880 and patented in 1892.
Around 1900 people could not store any more or any other food than in the Middle Ages. Their situation had only improved because more could be produced and losses were no longer as significant.
There have been many advances in plant breeding since the middle of the 20th century. Systematic selection of plants with certain characteristics and targeted crossing meant that the yield could be increased in all areas.
At the same time, artificial fertilizers and chemical plant protection were introduced. Their consumption continued to rise between 1950 and 1980. Water pollution and the decline in species meant that new ordinances had to regulate the use of fertilizers, liquid manure and pesticides. Organic farming was born.
Today we live in abundance in Central Europe. We have more calories available every day than we can use. Among other things, this means that we select our food in a more targeted manner. For example, around 1900 in Germany a good 285 kg of potatoes were eaten per year and person. In 1950 it was still a good 200 kg. Today it is only 65 kg, of which only 25 kg are eaten fresh. The rest is made up of potato starch, chips, french fries and other ready-made products. The processed foods contain a lot of salt and additives that deceive our bodies. The proportion of flavor enhancers, artificial flavors, fillers, emulsifiers, thickeners and preservatives in our food is very high today. We ingest many substances with our food that our body does not need. Natural foods are turned into chemically converted, artificial substances that our digestive enzymes and intestinal bacteria cannot always use. These include, for example, artificial sweeteners. Some of these artificially added substances (e.g. thickeners such as guar gum) add more calories.
Freshly prepared products should make up the majority of our food. Every now and then a ready meal or fast food are ok. But for a healthy diet, fresh ingredients that are freshly prepared are the most valuable.
Whether it is vegetables or meat is nutritionally irrelevant. Neither grain nor meat make people sick, stupid or fat. The relationship between the nutrients and between the calories consumed and the energy consumed must be right.
W. R. Leonard (2004): Incarnation through power nutrition - Spectrum of Science Dossier 1/2004, 44 - 53
Wheat allergy (German Allergy and Asthma Association)
Fit for Fun: Can you live better without gluten?
Wikipedia: Celiac Disease
Fructose intolerance (German Allergy and Asthma Association)
Wikipedia: Stone Age Nutrition
Pitting corrosion in the stone age teeth
Bone cancer in the Paleolithic
Diseases of primitive man
Ötzi suffered from lactose intolerance
The diet of the Maasai and Kitava
© Wilstermann-Hildebrand 2000 - 2017
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