In Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked, he makes the case that Homo sapiens (that’s us) are here because we learned how to cook. Via Dr. John Douillard’s LifeSpa post
About 2 million years ago, with the emergence of our predecessor Homo erectus, there was a change in the size of the brains and guts in the Homo genus. Homo erectus had a smaller jaw and gut and a bigger brain compared to their mostly plant-eating ancestors.
To survive, our plant-eating ancestors—much like today’s gorillas—had to eat about half their body weight in plants each day, leaving little time for anything other than chewing.
According to Pollan, Homo erectus with their bigger brain and smaller gut figured out how to use fire to cook, allowing them to digest more nutrient-dense cooked foods quicker, leaving more time to use that bigger brain. Food was now being cooked over a fire rather than in the digestive tract, making a more moderate-sized gut plausible.
Cooking hearths dating back 1 million years BC have recently been found in Africa.
Raw foodists, Pollan claims, have difficulty keeping weight on. He goes on to cite one study that recorded menstruation cycles of women on a raw food diet, and found that half of them had stopped menstruating.
The main premise here is that we have evolved away from eating a solely raw food diet, and without blenders and juicers we would have a difficult time getting the nutrients we need.
Ayurveda, which is perhaps the oldest system of medicine still practiced today, also suggests a diet of mostly cooked foods. The cooked foods recommended are always fresh, unprocessed, and slowly cooked over a low flame.
It should be noted that in the warmer climates south of India, more raw foods and fruits are consumed as the warm sun ripens the fresh, growing food “on the vine,” making it much easier to digest. At the same time, the traditional diets of the north almost always include more cooked foods.
To be clear, neither Pollan’s book nor I suggest a diet of just cooked foods. As I discussed in my book, The 3-Season Diet, I find it hard to ignore nature’s harvest cycles and the natural shift from more cooked foods in the winter to less cooked foods in the spring and summer, when more fresh, “cooked on the vine” produce is available.
Cooked. Michael Pollan. Penguin Group. New York. 2013