100,000 years ago mankind roamed the planet in a much the same away as most wild animals roam the planet today. His number one priority was to survive. In order to do this nature gave him the skills to hunt and gather food.
In the last 20,000 years, it is considered that mankind has not physically evolved at all. So if you believe that nature rarely makes mistakes, we can derive many potential truths about what a human being is designed to eat, by considering the kind of lifestyle primitive man would have lived, and that perhaps some of the few primitive cultures left on the planet still live.
So let’s consider some factors relating to this.
Firstly, Millennia ago, mankind was not surrounded by food. Most data suggests man did not start farming until around 10,000 years ago. Before then he had to hunt or gather his food.
Gulp it down!
Considering this, it’s feasible to think that if man came across food, he would eat it, and eat all of it. Wouldn’t nature in fact have programmed him to eat everything he could? Would nature, knowing that food was more likely to be scarce than abundant, design man to store as fat what ever he over-ate, so that in times of scarcity he could live off the high energy fat reserves stored in his body?
Secondly, man was, 100,000 years ago, in all likelihood, a primitive being, functioning on instinct more than reasoning, his strongest instincts being to survive, to live, and therefore to find food. Once that was satisfied then he indulged his instincts to have shelter and to reproduce. (See Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)
Considering points one and two, it seems unreasonable to suppose that upon finding food, primitive man would have sat down and reasoned that if he wanted to get all his nutrients from food, he really ought to chew each mouthful 49 times before swallowing. I suspect the chances are good that when he found food he chewed it into swallow-able pieces as quickly as possible and gulped it down.
Thirdly, man has the digestive system and teeth of an omnivore, a creature designed to eat meat and vegetables fruits and nuts etc, in fact just about anything he came across. This would include grubs and insects of course, much like a modern day chimpanzee or ape. However man also had the intelligence and ability to hunt meat.
Food combining... Not!
Considering points one two and three, would primitive man have sat down and considered that it was important not to mix his proteins with his carbohydrates in order to aid digestion. Or in fact after using up all his reserves from several days hunting, and being ravenous to the point of savagery, would he decide that he ought not to use those semi carnivorous teeth to eat meat, for any reason?
Sweet foods, such as honey and fruits were rare or seasonal treats quickly used up by the local population. In fact the most abundant foods were likely to have been vegetable in nature which had to be found and gathered, along with berries, and possibly nuts. But there would have been for sure, lots of animal life, most likely hunted and eaten raw, as every other carnivore on the planet eats their kill.
Complex carbohydrates such as wheat, barley, rice and oats etc simply did not exist as a viable food source for mankind until the advent of farming 10,000 years ago.
Considering all the above points, it seems reasonable to believe that nature never intended us to be constantly surrounded by all the food we could eat. Nor that we should eat the 250 bags of sugar hidden in our processed pre-packaged food every year. Nor that we should make staple foods of complex carbohydrates, (grains) and consume enormous amounts of them every year?
It is likely that we were never designed to eat literally pounds of deadly chemicals every year in the form of pesticides, preservatives, additives and flavour enhancers that are part of the processed food we eat on a daily basis.
Another nutritional factor to consider is that no other creature on this planet drinks another mammals milk. (Yes I know cats drink milk, but have you ever seen one suckling on a cows udder?! We're talking naturally here.) Again it’s unlikely that nature ever intended young or adult humans to drink the mothers milk of a bovine creature designed to gain 250 pounds per year. Interestingly the calcium contained in dairy is less bio-chemically available to our digestive systems than the calcium contained in vegetables. Dairy products are a potential source of much ill health in modern day humans
So it seems fairly clear that what a primitive human was designed to eat, and what he was not designed to eat are likely the same as for modern humans.
Are you an athlete? Do you find yourself wondering what and when you should eat?Anthropological studies suggest that primitive man would often spend hours, sometimes days chasing down animal prey. To have the energy to sustain this event it’s unlikely he would have spent several days stuffing spaghetti down his throat attempting to ‘carbo load’ before the chase.
It seems likely that he would have used nature’s most efficient source of energy, his own fat reserves. Remember that in the absence of abundant sugar or complex carbohydrates, primitive man’s primary source of fuel would have been fat. (one pound of fat burned as fuel could enable a human to run 200 miles, but whilst fat is the most efficient fuel, it is not the most easily accessible, it is much easier for the body to burn glucose, which is the end product of digested sugar or carbs)
For generations we have been eating complex carbohydrates, and more recently, tons of sugar (simple carbohydrates), and as such our bodies have simply never had to burn fat as a source of fuel. The moment we feel a bit tired or run down we reach for food, and that food is almost always carbohydrate in the form of biscuits or crisps or bread etc, in fact we are much more likely to get to the point of feeling faint and complain of ‘low blood sugar’ than to go into fat burning mode. Yet it is likely that we are primarily designed as fat burning machines. So if you want to run long distance, or perform any kind of long distance event you need to retrain your body to burn fat as it’s primary fuel.
My understanding is that there are three ways to do this…
1. Simply eat less calories than you expend through activity and sustaining life.
2. Eat a diet with little to no refined carbs at all, (removing the most easily available fuel source)
3. Have long periods of not eating, with a relatively good balance of vegetable and fruits carbohydrates, protein and fat when you do eat.
It is a reasonable theory that it was quite likely primitive man would eat all his food in one sitting, as nature intended (eat while its available) and that he would have been inspired to hunt by an empty stomach and using his fat reserves as his primary energy source.
Where's the fridge?
It seems unlikely that primitive man would have had a hearty breakfast and then gone out hunting on a full stomach. Wouldn’t he have eaten all his food the night before as his stomach and nature intended? Could he have popped spare food in the fridge ready for breakfast?
Think about a lion, what does he do once he’s eaten his fill? Does he go out and hunt, knowing that he’s going to have plenty of energy from his food for the hunt? No, he goes to sleep! He’s motivated to eat by an empty stomach. In fact, does any predator hunt on a full stomach? Unlikely.
Tarzan eat meat!
It seems reasonable to believe man is a predator. We are not dumb grazing herbivores. We may say that apes and elephants grow massive and strong on vegetable food, but they literally have to eat tons of the stuff every day, theirs is not a life filled with varied activity, imagination and action, or the adrenaline rush of the hunt.They simply graze, all day. This is not mankind. We are simply not herbivores. To this end it doesn’t really make sense that we should graze on six meals per day unless you consider us to be primarily glucose burning machines.
Lies, Damned lies, and 'studies'.
The human being is so amazingly adaptable, that it’s possible to make just about any nutritional protocol make sense. ‘Studies' show that we should eat meat. ‘Studies' show that we shouldn’t eat meat! ‘Studies' show that we should combine certain foods and other ‘studies’ show that we should not. They show we should eat low carbs, and others show we should eat high carbs! Should we eat high protein, or should we limit our protein? Pick your study!
On top of that it is fairly widely agreed that there are at least three different body types with multiple shades in between, each body type with slightly different nutritional requirements, some will thrive on higher protein diets, others will thrive on high carbohydrate diets, each doing poorly when forced to eat the opposite of their type.
Trust me, I'm a Nutritionist!
The subject of nutrition is as contentious as the subjects of politics or religion. I’m always wary of anyone who considers themselves to be an ‘expert’ in nutrition and hands out uncompromising advice. They may well be experts on aspects of nutrition, or certain nutritional protocols, but they can be proved wrong by some legitimate ‘studies’ and they can be proved right by others. Essentially the nutritional protocol that’s right for you is one that ensures you feel well and energetic, healthy, disease free and clear of mind.
Based on the above it would seem likely that the perfect diet for you would be one that contains no processed foods, chemicals, or sugar. (This is the ONE commonality of all the various nutritional protocols) It seems reasonable to surmise that grains and dairy are not foods optimally designed by nature for human consumption, although undeniably they will sustain us.
A little of nothing...
It also seems likely, to me at least, that going for longer periods without food is in line with the life that nature designed us to deal with, and that this encourages the body to naturally burn fat as a fuel. As individuals it’s worth considering this and possibly training on an empty stomach, eating breakfast later, evening dinner a bit sooner and nothing in between dinner and breakfast. (Creating a longer ‘fasting’ period.) It seems that we should eat both meat proteins and un-refined carbohydrates, and that some people will thrive on more or less of one than the other. Eating this way we should have no fear of natural fats (including saturated fats) and include them liberally in our diet.
Once you start eating refined, processed or ‘junk’ food, including sugar and alcohol, you re-enter the world of poor health and degenerative illness experienced by so many in our ‘civilised’ world.
I’ve studied nutrition and experimented with my own health, weight and fitness for the last twenty years, I’ve read countless books, papers and studies on the subject and ultimately arrived at the relatively simple conclusions above. I’ve learned to remain open to change or revision of these opinions because the sad reality is that we just don’t know what we are supposed to eat! It’s ironic that the most intelligent creature on this world is the only one that doesn’t know how to properly feed itself.
Following is a list of books by authors that I feel represent an applied intelligence to the subject of nutrition and that will enable you to expand on the intentionally brief presentation above.
The Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott
Diet 101: the truth about low carb diets by Jenny Ruhl
The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
Natural Hormonal Enhancement by Rob Faigin
Why we get fat and what to do about it by Gary Taubes
Trick and Treat by Barry Groves