The late Prof. Doris Calloway is quoted as noting, during the process of revising the Recommended Dietary Allowances of the United States, that: “People eat foods, not nutrients.”1 Nevertheless, the product of the effort was a refined tabulation of the daily recommended intakes of the essential macro- and micronutrients. When planning or evaluating the adequacy of diets, the focus has remained on these two-dimensional tables of recommendations, whether they be from the Dietary Reference Intakes,2 United Nations agencies,3 or European Food Safety Authority4 processes; these are limited to matching a quantity of a specific nutrient to an average or protective level of daily intake. If we return to first principles, the fundamental origins of essential nutrients are the foods and beverages in the diet. To meet the intakes that satisfy the needs of individuals, an assortment of nutrient-rich foods or of less-nutritious foods needs to be consumed in enormous quantities. A combination of these two dietary patterns was operative in the hunter-gatherers of Paleolithic prehistory. The clan would subsist on the energy from roots, tubers and herbs during their quest for the animal of the hunt, and then gorge themselves with the abundant nutrients of the muscle and viscera of their prey. With the advent of primitive agriculture, farmers expended large quantities of energy toiling in their potato or cassava fields, or their maize and millet plots, extracting sufficient vitamins and minerals from the bulk of the tubers and grain staples ingested.
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