With all the scientific talk about the heavy-protein diet of Neanderthals, it might be surprising to find that prehistoric humans actually ate more vegetables than once imagined.

That’s what research out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says, at any rate: the Neanderthal ate a more varied diet than just meat. Researchers discovered the very first direct evidence that shows that Neanderthals were omnivores after identifying human fecal remains from El Salt in Spain, dating back 50,000 years. They found animal-derived cholesterol in the fecal remains, along with phytosterol, found in plants.

“It’s important to understand all aspects of why humanity has come to dominate the planet the way it does,” Roger Summons, co-author and a professor of geobiology in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, said in a press release. “A lot of that has to do with improved nutrition over time.”

Previously, though they had identified pieces of plant in Neanderthal teeth, researchers argued that it might have been from consuming the plant remnants inside the herbivores they hunted, like deer. Since the bones of prehistoric humans revealed that they consumed more protein than cave bears from the same areas, researchers assumed that they simply weren't veggie eaters.

Ainara Sistiaga, a graduate student at the University of La Laguna who worked on the study, searched for fecal remains in El Salt in order to find a more direct link and stronger evidence. By examining the lipids and organic matter in fecal matter, Sistiaga discovered that Neanderthals may very well have consumed plant matter like berries, nuts, and tubers. “We believe Neanderthals probably ate what was available in different situations, seasons, and climates,” Sistiaga said in the press release. "We're working in a micro context. Until now, people have carried out residue analysis on pots, tools, and other objects, but 90 percent of archaeology is sediment. We're opening a new window to the information that is enclosed in Paleolithic soil and sediment."

Interestingly, the infamous Paleo diet, sometimes referred to as the caveman diet, already includes fruits and vegetables along with high amounts of protein and fats. So perhaps the Paleo diet isn’t too far from what prehistoric humans ate, after all.