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Humans, the Honey Hunters

from Smithsonian Magazine

Anthropologists have suggested early Homo was a meat-and-potatoes kind of hominid. Starting roughly 2.5 million years ago, early species of Homo were the first hominids to have brains bigger than an ape's. But brains are expensive, metabolically speaking. To fuel their added brain power, these hominids probably introduced new energy-rich foods to their diet.

Researchers have long pointed to meat as the critical food that allowed for this initial brain expansion; after all, stone tools useful for hunting and butchering appear in the archaeological record at this time. More recently, the significance of underground tubers has been highlighted. But another crucial food may have been honey. Alyssa Crittenden, a behavioral ecologist and nutritional anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, makes the case for the sweet liquid's importance in the journal Food and Foodways.

Honey has several qualities that make it a super food, Crittenden points out. It's very energy dense, about 80 to 95 percent sugar, and it's a good source of the glucose needed to nurture brain development. Wild honey also contains traces of bee larvae, adding fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.

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