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Humans Did Not Always Eat Meat

Do you ever think about how far we’ve diverted from the path of our pre-historic ancestors and they’re eating patterns? Consider how the earliest humans evolved, and what they ate. They were hunter-gatherers and did not evolve with the characteristics of carnivores. Humans aren’t made to tear animals apart and eat their flesh. When you look at carnivorous animals, such as wild cats, you can see their teeth are designed to rip and tear, not chew.

Humans evolved from vegetarian creatures. Even our digestive systems are not particularly suited to eating meat. Eating meat is a relatively recent development in human history, most likely born of opportunity and necessity. Perhaps earliest man observed carnivores eating meat, and if they couldn’t find any of the natural foods they were used to eating, such as vegetables, berries, nuts and grains, then they might have assumed that eating meat would at least sustain life.

But initially we emulated the creatures we evolved from, herbivores like apes. Even to a prehistoric mind, apes would have looked similar to man, walking primarily upright, with arms and hands. We naturally would have foraged for our food, eating roots and berries, fruits and nuts. We would have watched the apes peeling bananas, or crushing nuts on stones to get at the meat of the nut.

We would have been living more moment-to-moment, constantly foraging for food. Hunting, after all, requires thought and planning. Eating meat requires preparation and most importantly, fire. Until man discovered fire, he was primarily vegetarian, living in what was the natural order of things. Vegetarian eating is a more natural way of eating, in addition to being healthier. It’s a way that’s in balance with the planet, and doesn’t seek to dominate it and conquer it.


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Nutrition, Evolution, and Having a Healthy Diet

Nutrition, Evolution, and Having a Healthy Diet
Judith Schwader

Nutrition has everything to do with health. This isnt news, exactly, but looking around at the crazy information on the market, one wonders if anyone actually makes the connection: what you eat affects how you feel. Its that simple. Your health depends on the food choices you make in both the short and long term.

Take a pill, and all youve done is treat a symptom. Change your eating habits, and create a lasting change in your well-being. There are so many approaches to eating, however, and so much conflicting information that its come down to this simple question: does whatever youre eating right now make sense?

Well, sense isnt common, and it does depend on some good information. So here is something to consider: what kind of foods are humans evolved to eat? Cheetos? Dont think so. Thats a no-brainer, but what about some others that we counted as healthy staples until recently, like bread and pasta. Go way back in your imagination, to hunter gatherer days before agriculture and the obesity which followed for the first time among humans and consider what would be part of our ancestors normal diet. If youre about to pop something into your mouth that wasnt around before agriculture, (a relatively recent development in human history), then eat it knowing its not considered a normal food by your body. Foods your body considers normal contribute to your health, other foods are either neutral or harmful. How simple is that?

A well-known exploration of this concept that certain foods help our bodies thrive is Dr. Peter DAdamos book, Eat Right 4 Your Type, in which he bases his lists of what to eat and avoid on blood type. DAdamo asserts that type O is the oldest type, and the newer A type didnt show up on the scene until agriculture. So, Os should eat lots of meat and veg because that blood type doesnt know how to handle too much grain. Type As can eat grain, but not dairy. Dairy is a category reserved as a normal food only for the yet more recent human blood type, AB. (Maybe well evolve a new type that can handle Cheetos and red licorice, my personal favorite abnormal foods).

DAdamo supports his blood-type theory with all kinds of careful research, and so what? Does it make sense that humans should rely primarily on foods that occur naturally? Absolutely. If youre going to eat a grain like wheat then, eat it whole, or dont eat it at all, and dont eat much of it anyway because humans pretty much made wheat up! Im not going to take the, Does it occur naturally? debate too far, because its time to look at another researchers take on the food and evolution connection.

Dr. Phillip Lipetz wrote The Good Calorie Diet, a book for the weight loss market, but he also has supported his theories with all kinds of careful research. His describes how the human response to starvation that was developed during the ice age carries on today. Ironic, isnt it, that the food available to us today – rich and sweet and abundant – causes our bodies to behave as though starvation is at hand.

The short story for how this works is that up until the ice age, humans ate whatever was readily available, like roots, plants, fruit, and a little tasty carrion now and then. Along came the ice ages, and those foods became scarce. Now humans were forced to hunt, but it was dicey and the weapons were primitive, so spans of time occured between kills. The result: our ancestors evolved ways to make the most of the conversion of excess blood sugar into stored nutrition in the form of body fat. When they starved, they lived off stored fat.

Todays diet mimics the ice age diet: high fat and high protein, and our genetic programming says, Uh oh, were facing starvation again. Better store up some fat. Lipetz goes into convincing detail about food combinations in his book. He describes some that cause the creation of excess fat, such as butter on bread. More useful are his combinations that actually inhibit fat formation, like lean meat with most vegetables. In a society where obesity and its attendant health issues are rampant, these food combinations are helpful places to focus our attention. Yet the single most useful bit to remember from his research is that foods which cause our bodies to create excess fat all have one thing in common: they werent part of our ancestors normal diet.

Armed with this overview, next time youre about to pop something in your mouth – whether your focus is health or weight you dont need to have a bunch of rules and whacky information in mind. Just use common sense. Ask whether its a food that was around before the advent of agriculture. If it was, go for it. If it wasnt, then consider that your body wont consider the food normal, and in both the long and short run, thats got health consequences.

© 2004 Judith Schwader

Judith Schwader holds a Master’s degree in Education, and has written extensively on health. She has a background in social science and addressing chronic health conditions through nutrition and life style. Judith’s articles appear in: http://QandAHealth.com, and http://masteringyourtime.com.

This article may be reprinted in its entirety so long as this paragraph and the authors credits remain intact.


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