Scientists have upgraded their opinion of Neanderthal cuisine after spotting traces of cooked food on the fossilised teeth of our long-extinct cousins. The researchers found remnants of date palms, seeds and legumes – which include peas and beans – on the teeth of three Neanderthals uncovered in caves in Iraq and Belgium. Among the scraps of food embedded in the plaque on the Neanderthals' teeth were particles of starch from barley and water lilies that showed tell-tale signs of having been cooked. The Ice Age leftovers are believed to be the first direct evidence that the Neanderthal diet included cooked plants as well as meat obtained by hunting wild animals.
Dolores Piperno, who led the study at the archaeobiology laboratory at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, said the work showed Neanderthals were more sophisticated diners than many academics gave them credit for. Piperno said the discoveries even raised the possibility that male and female Neanderthals had different roles in acquiring and preparing food. “The plants we found are all foods associated with early modern human diets, but we now know Neanderthals were exploiting those plants and cooking them, too. When you cook grains it increases their digestibility and nutritional value,” she added.
The findings bring fresh evidence to the long debate over why Neanderthals and not our direct ancestors, the early modern humans, went extinct. The last of the Neanderthals are thought to have died out around 28,000 years ago, but it is unclear what role – if any – modern humans played in their demise. “The whole question of why Neanderthals went extinct has been controversial for a long time and dietary issues play a significant part in that,” Piperno said. “Some scholars claim the Neanderthals were specialised carnivores hunting large game and weren't able to exploit a diversity of plant foods. “As far as we know, there has been until now no direct evidence that Neanderthals cooked their foods and very little evidence they were consuming plants routinely.”
Piperno's team was given permission to study the remains of three Neanderthal skeletons. One was unearthed at the Shanidar cave in Iraq and lived 46,000 years ago. The other two were recovered from the Cave of Spy in Belgium, and date to around 36,000 years ago. The scientists examined three teeth from the Iraqi Neanderthal and two from each of the Belgium specimens. To look for traces of food on them, they scraped fossilised plaque from each tooth and looked at it under a microscope. Grains from plants are tiny, but have distinct shapes that the scientists identified by comparing them with a collection at the Smithsonian's herbarium. The researchers also cooked a range of plants to see how their appearance changed.
They collected 73 starch grains from the Iraqi Neanderthal's teeth. Some of these belonged to barley or a close relative, and appeared to have been boiled in water. “The evidence for cooking is strong. The starch grains are gelatinised, and that can only come from heat associated with cooking,” Piperno said. Similar tests on the Belgian Neanderthals' teeth revealed traces of cooked starch that probably came from parts of water lilies that store carbohydrates. Other cooked starch grains were traced back to sorghum, a kind of grass.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
In Piperno's opinion, the research undermines one theory that suggests early modern humans drove the Neanderthals to extinction by having a more sophisticated and robust diet. The work also raises questions about whether Neanderthals organised themselves in a similar way to early hunter-gatherer groups, she said. “When you start routinely to exploit plants in your diet, you can arrange your settlements according to the season. In two months' time you want to be where the cereals are maturing, and later where the date palms are ready to pick. It sounds simplistic, but this is important in terms of your overall cognitive abilities. “In early human groups, women typically collected plants and turned them into food while men hunted. To us, and it is just a suggestion, this brings up the possibility that there was some sexual division of labour in the Neanderthals and that is something most people did not think existed.”
Let’s look at some examples:
You eat 2 waffles for breakfast
- One serving from the Food Guide Pyramid is equal to 1 waffle.
- So that means if you ate 2 waffles, you also ate 2 servings from the grains group.
Here are some other common portions and their respective Food Guide Pyramid serving sizes:
|Common portions that people eat
||Food Guide Pyramid Serving Size
||Total servings per Food Guide Pyramid
||= 2 servings
|1 English Muffin
||½ English muffin
||= 2 servings
|1 Hamburger bun
||= 2 servings
|1 cup cooked rice
||½ cup cooked rice
||= 2 servings
|1 cups cooked pasta
||½ cup cooked pasta
||= 2 servings
In each food group, look at these different Food Guide Pyramid examples indicating 1 serving each. How do these compare with what your portions look like?
- 1 slice bread, waffle or pancake
- ½ bagel, hamburger bun, or English muffin
- ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
- 1 cup ready to eat cereal
- ¾ cup (6 fluid ounces) 100% vegetable juice
- 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables or salad
- ½ cup cooked or canned vegetables
- 1 medium apple, orange or banana
- ½ cup fruit (canned, cooked or raw)
- ½ cup (4 fluid ounces) 100% fruit juice
- ¼ cup dried fruit (raisins, apricots or prunes)
- 1 cup milk or yogurt
- 2 ounces processed cheese (American)
- 1 ½ ounces natural cheese (cheddar)
- Meat and Beans
- 1 tablespoons of peanut butter counts as 1 ounce
- ¼ cup nuts or 20-24 almonds
- 1 medium size egg
- 2-3 ounces of poultry, meat or fish (2-3 servings)
- ¼ cup of beans
Tips on how to visually estimate 1 serving size
|1 oz. bread or 1 slice of bread
|10 French fries
||Deck of cards
|½ cup cooked rice or pasta
|1 cup raw leafy vegetables
|½ cup vegetables
|1 medium fruit such as an apple or an orange
||Tennis ball or the size of your fist
|¾ cup juice
||6 ounce juice can (1 ½ servings)
|½ cup chopped or canned fruit
|Milk and Milk Products Group
|1 ounce cheese
||Pair of dice or the size of your thumb
|1 ½ ounces cheddar cheese
||2 (9-volt) batteries
|1 cup of milk
||8 ounce carton of milk
|8 ounces yogurt
||Baseball or tennis ball
|Meat & Beans Group
|3 ounces of meat, fish or poultry
||Deck of cards (3 servings)
|2 tablespoons of peanut butter
||Ping–pong ball (2 servings)
|½ cup cooked beans
||Baseball (2 servings)
Try these ideas to help control portions at home:
- When your child is hungry and looking for a snack take the amount of food that is equal to one serving (refer to the Nutrition Facts label) and have your child eat it off a plate instead of eating it out of the box or bag.
- Don’t be tempted to finish off leftover dinner the next day. Freeze leftovers as single servings so that you can pull it out of the freezer when you need a quick, healthy meal for your family.
- Be prepared and have emergency snacks on hand if your family is running late and needs a quick snack. Make your own snack bags for traveling by reading the Nutrition Facts label and placing a single serving size into plastic bags.
- Have your child measure out a single serving of food before sitting in front of the television or doing other activities that can distract him/her from realizing how much food is being consumed. This way your child will know exactly how much he or she is eating!
Serving sizes on food labels are sometimes different from the Food Guide Pyramid servings. For example, the serving size for beverages is measured in cups or fluid ounces. Whether it is milk, juice, or soda the nutrition facts labeling guidelines is 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces, which equals 1 serving size. However, the Food Guide Pyramid serving size for milk is 1 cup, but for juice it is ¾ cup.
So, even though the amount of 1 serving on nutrition facts labels and the Food Guide Pyramid may be slightly different it is still a great tool to help you and your child decide if you are getting enough or too much food each day. Encourage your child to get familiar with the serving sizes because smart eating is an essential part of growing and staying healthy!
Source: Nourish Interactive.
Home-cooked meals are at the heart of a healthy diet. Keep the food you prepare at home both delicious and safe by taking control of home food safety. If you handle food properly, you can significantly reduce your risk for foodborne illness.
Applying spices to beef not just enhances its taste but can also cut down your risk of cancer, suggests a new study. J. Scott Smith, a Kansas State University food chemistry professor, has pursued different projects in recent years seeking ways to reduce heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
HCAs are the carcinogenic compounds that are produced when muscle foods, such as ground beef patties, are barbecued, grilled, boiled or fried. Consuming HCAs through meat increases risk factors for colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, mammary and prostate cancers.
In a research, Smith found that certain spices containing natural antioxidants would reduce HCA levels by 40 percent when applied to beef patties during cooking.
“Cooked beef tends to develop more HCAs than other kinds of cooked meats such as pork and chicken. Cooked beef patties appear to be the cooked meat with the highest mutagenic activity and may be the most important source of HCAs in the human diet,” Smith said.
Previous studies have shown that meat products cooked below 352 degrees Fahrenheit for less than four minutes had low or undetectable levels of HCAs, with HCAs increasing with higher temperatures and added cooking time. It's not a good idea to lower cooking temperatures too much, so antioxidant spices with phenolic compounds can block HCAs before they form during heating and still allow high temperatures to be maintained.
Smith's research team investigated six spices – cumin, coriander seeds, galangal, fingerroot, rosemary and tumeric – and found that the latter three had the highest levels of antioxidant activity toward inhibiting the formation of HCAs, with rosemary as the most effective.
Consumers can take advantage of the spices by integrating them into their cooking regimen. Previous research in his laboratory has demonstrated that some commercial rosemary extracts, available for purchase on the Internet, can inhibit HCA formation by 61 to 79 percent. Smith's earlier work also showed that Thai spices can inhibit HCA formation by 40 to 43 percent.
Smith said future research in this area will investigate what some marinades or powders can do to inhibit HCAs when applied to a cooked patties. His earlier project showed that marinating steaks with certain herbs, rosemary and other antioxidant spices also reduces HCAs.