The human diet is a controversial subject. By and large, the popular attitude about what is healthy, has been crafted by commercialism, advertising dollars, and by doctors and scientists endorsing industries from lucrative back door deals. Unfortunately, many suffer years later from these extremely unhealthy recommendations but are never told to change their diet or lifestyles, and instead, are prescribed any number of pharmaceutical aids to help address the symptoms of their underlying diseases and not address the root cause of their problems. This article will be of benefit to readers who have an open mind and/or perhaps are suffering from a SAD, or “Standard American Diet” and want to explore diet and nutrition as a method for healing themselves and consequently, the world at large. For a fundamental shift in diet will subsequently have an impact upon many systems in place from the health and pharmaceutical industry to agriculture, and how we treat other species and the planet. To make this shift however, requires that you “unlearn” what you’ve been programmed to believe. You have to be open to learning that you’ve been duped to believe lies handed down through generations of people who had it all wrong and be willing to change lifestyle habits. For some, this might be easy, but for others, there will be a lot of cognitive dissonance before making the transition. First, we have to understand what the myths are and why it’s important to learn the truth.
What Are Human's Meant to Eat?
The answer tends to be the same tired, old, worn out response – “humans are omnivores.” But that statement is an assumption that is stated like a fact, but as I’ve posted in a previous article, “Are Humans Non-Vegetarian Evolutionarily“, this premise is false because people’s behaviors when it comes to diet are not aligned with our actual physiology. Thus, human beings are habitually engaging in a dietary lifestyle which they use to define themselves, rather than acknowledge humans in relation to hominids in general.
The Paleolithic Diet
The first premise that most tend to argue in relation to meat-eating is that our Paleolithic ancestors ate meat. This is a logical fallacy, called the appeal to history. Thousands of years of behaviors do not justify the behavior, nor does it prove it’s correct. The evidence which contradicts this line of thinking can be explained through chemistry, micro-biology, and physiology.
A number of scientists have verified through observation, a number of proofs which posit where we stand as hominids in relation to diet that are antithetical to the generally accepted narrative that individuals leading a carnist or necrovore lifestyle adhere to in order to justify continuing practices that do not serve in the best interest of humans and the animal species we exploit.
Time to Change the Narrative about Diet
These myths which many been been conditioned to believe are true, but are in fact, not will be hard to shake from the social narrative because the enculturation is so ingrained, it will be hard for people to see beyond the confines of their programming. Even if it is incorrect to rely on the appeal to history fallacy, it’s important to prove the case that the view of our paleolithic ancestors being meat eaters is actually false. In fact, this blog on Scientific American states that our Paleolithic ancestors were vegetarian.
When we understand our ancestral heritage, we understand that a TRUE “Paleo Diet” would be a whole foods plant based diet, not a diet focused on consuming meat. From the Atkins diet to the low carb craze, Keto diets, and the false paleo narrative assuming our Paleolithic ancestors were cavemen with billy clubs taking down antelopes left and right, these dangerous diet fads are misleading millions of individuals to consume unhealthy amounts of animal products to the detriment of their bodies. For even if our ancestors ate a little animal here and there to subsist when plants were scarce, it doesn’t mean our bodies adapted to eat meat like modern humans do everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with slim jim’s or jerky as a light meat snack in between meals. If we were truly to want to adapt to a diet that is more closely aligned with our prehistoric ancestors, we would have to understand our evolutionary path.
"Man's structure, external and internal, compared with that of other animals shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food."
Father of modern taxonomy
The evolutionary branch we belong to is anthropoid (monkeys, apes, and humans) of the primate order. Looking further back on our branch of the evolutionary tree, we are Hominoidea which includes apes and humans.
Every species along the graph line shown share a similar physiological system because our Australopithecus ancestors at the base of the Homindae branch were not adapted to eating meat, were plant-based, and are classified as frugivorous. Our primate cousins with the closest match to our DNA are frugivorous. In fact, our digestive tract has not changed from the common ancestor of apes and humans.
Comparing the guts of beings that have adapted to a diet for meat eating are different than what humans have. Guts of both carnivore and omnivore are 3 – 6 x’s the length of their bodies and are smooth. People will often argue that humans can’t be herbivores, because we don’t match with them either. Herbivore guts are 30 x’s the length of their bodies and are sacculated. Frugivore guts are 12 x’s the length and are sacculated. In comparing the gut to these three types, human intestines match that of frugivores.
From a chemistry perspective, carnivorous animals have concentrations of the flesh-digesting enzyme pepsinogen at 1100% greater levels than do humans.
Considering our chemistry, our digestive enzymes are amylase in our saliva which breaks down starches, proteases and hydraulic acid in our stomachs to break down essential amino acids, our pancreas helps with 3 enzymes including lipase, and the small intestine with 4 enzymes, and the liver with bile, all of which maintain optimal health when breaking down plant-based sources. Our bodies convert complex carbohydrates into glucose. But why does our body focus on converting starch to Glucose? Because our brains require it to function optimally.
Diet & Brain Size
“What is right is not always popular
and what is popular is not always right.”
Another argument often regurgitated from people who repeat what they’ve heard is that humans grew their great sized brains once they began to incorporate meat into their diets. This myth has been perpetually passed on from generation to generation after the findings from some scientific journal way back when and has been the popular belief ever since. But is that belief actually right?
There's an Enculturation Bias about Diet
With article after article supporting the claim that meat eating is the reason for increased brain mass, from prestigious institutions even, it is no wonder why the popular opinion remains to this day. Writing a plethora of articles that keep this perpetual myth making machine going, is based on a popular bias of carnism. Although a plethora of authors can be cited who support the claim that our brain growth was due to changing from gathering to gathering and hunting, should we believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that human behavior with meat eating is appropriate? Although public opinion has been swayed to believe this myth is reality, thereis a recent scientific finding that can prove otherwise.
"The rapid growth in hominin brain size during the Middle Pleistocene will have required an increased supply of preformed glucose."
The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution
Research Department of Genetics, Environment and Evolution, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, School of Molecular Bioscience and Charles Perkins Centre, & ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies)
Food For Thought
When it comes to brain size: brains feed predominately upon glucose – not protein, not meat, not fat, but glucose. Glucose is not bio-available from flesh postmortem but is primarily obtained from recently eaten low glycemic complex carbohydrates. Yes, you can find articles that list glucose as being available in meat products, but your liver stores that and doesn’t make it bio available. The BEST sources for glucose are: fruits, vegetables, starches, and grains and the best food sources to help regulate glucose are found in seeds and nuts – all the foods listed as a part of a healthy frugivorous diet.
The Quarterly Review of Biology: The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution went on to say, “The regular consumption of starchy plant foods offers a coherent explanation for the provision of energy to the developing brain during the Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene while the development of cooking, and a concomitant increases in salivary amylase expression, explains how the rapid increases in brain size from the Middle Pleistocene onward were energetically affordable.”
Brain Size & Diet
There is a correlation with brain size and diet. For example, we can observe this fact in our closest cousins that belong in the anthropoid branches of our common biology tree – fruit-eating species (a.k.a. frugivores) have larger brains than leaf-eating species (a.k.a. folivores).
According to the article, “Scientific American: Diet & Primate Evolution“, It has been observed that monkeys with larger brains (spider) eat more fruit than the monkeys that predominantly eat leaves (howler), so the contributing factor in this difference is easily correlated with the glucose provided by fruit. A very telling fact most people tend to completely ignore.
Diet and Human Health
If humans evolved from eating meat, why are our bodies so unhealthy, and why is the size of the brain shrinking? Hint: your diets are wrong! Sorry to burst your bubble, but we weren’t meant to eat hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes, processed meat, candy, and all the other junk food out there.
We evolved on the planet to eat natural whole foods derived from plants. From roots, shoots, tubers, leaves, seeds, nuts. You know, what you can gather with your hands out in nature, like nature intended! Once we deviate from our physiological adaptation, the more diseases we endure. People have figured this out slightly with the paleo diet recommendation to avoid processed and unnatural “foods” in packaging, but they’ve yet to figure out that meat eating in and of itself is unnatural.
Diet Fads Do More Harm than Good
Evolutionary biologists have found that human brain size has been shrinking since the Stone Age! Yet, most scientists still view this change in size as a mystery and have a lot of different theories. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the connection that brain mass correlates with the change in dietary habits from primarily plant based to meat based. People have literally been starving their brains of glucose in their blood thirst for meat and this is being compounded by the food craze to eat more meat and less carbs with fads like Paleo, Keto, and Atkins! People are quite literally doing the opposite of what they should be doing to be healthy!
Taking Health More Seriously
When it comes to disease, look no further that the great work presented by one of the worlds leading doctors on plant based nutrition. In the New York Times best selling book “How Not To Die” by Dr. Michael Greger of nutritionfacts.org, there are a myriad of scientific findings to explain all the ways plant based diets can prevent, arrest, or cure the leading causes of death people are suffering from today. Greger’s since published follow up books such as the How Not to Die cookbook, and the follow up title, “How Not to Diet“.
The more you study the reports from doctors like Greger, and the Physicians Comittee for Responsibile Medicine, the more you’ll learn. Yet, most aren’t taking the time to learn something new. It’s far easier to do what popular culture does without thinking about how bad it really is. How many have been taught that servings of fish, and poultry are a part of a healthy diet? How many make social media posts showing “clean” eating with pictures of plates including seafood and animal products?
Stop Perpetuating Diet Myths!
Another myth people like to perpetuate as a reason not to eat a frugivorous based, whole-food, plant based diet has to do with B12. So many people think because people can get deficient in B12, that this is the main reason why not eating animals is unhealthy. But many miss a few very important details.
B12 is not from animals! B12 is produced from bacteria in soil containing cobalt which is turned into cobalamin.
The advent of industrialized agricultural methods which lay waste to healthy soil microbiomes and denature the soil of cobalt.
Hyper cleanliness with extremely sanitized and washed produce remove all the soil from the root vegetable.
Once you know how human beings have altered the form of the foods we eat to this degree, we can arrive at the conclusion that the lack of this nutrient is not because of the vegan diet, it is due to the fact that we’ve severely limited it’s bio-availability in our food. In fact, almost half the meat eating population are also deficient in B12.
Humans eating meat have become deficient in B12 because:
animals themselves are also not getting enough B12 (that is why most are given B12 supplements or shots before they are slaughtered
humans have damaged their cells in their gut with animal proteins that elicit an inflammatory response, thereby making people unable to absorb the nutrient (ie: pernicious anemia).
Regardless of dietary choices, in this day and age, we have produced B12 as a supplement, so deficiencies of this nutrient are easily remedied. People who eat fortified cereals, and fortified nutritional yeast, get enough, so there’s no shortage of B12 to go around. Isn’t that a better way to get B12 than killing animals for it and becoming deficient in B12 anyways with no way to get it except to get injections? Regardless, just because we supplement this, doesn’t mean that veganism is unhealthy. What we should be looking at, is all the ways which makes eating meat so unhealthy.
Why is Meat Unhealthy?
This section provides a limited number of studies that illustrate why the modern standard diet with animal products in general, including fried meats, deli meats, and processed foods burden the human system considerably. This is like going down a rabbit hole that leads to many different tunnels of exploration.
Disease Causing Elements Found in Meat Diets
Health considerations in relation to a meat-centric diet include the following toxic pathogens and compounds:
PUFA oxidation and secondary lipid peroxidation products (produced from frying foods in oil, like fried chicken, and fish) – all toxic to humans and contribute to Atherogenicity, Mutagenicity and carcinogenicity, Congenital malformations (causal), Gastropathic actions (ie: peptic ulcer formation), Pro-inflammatory effects, Teratogenicity, & Hypertensivity
The oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids in meat causes a significant production of dietary advanced lipid oxidation endproducts (ALEs). ALEs are cytotoxic and highly mutagenic compounds that heighten inflammatory response and harm many organs such as the liver, kidney, lung, gut, and the circulatory system. Malondialdehyde (MDA), found in ground beef, smoked fish, chicken and sausages, is a primary ALE and is both mutagenic and carcinogenic and cause oxidative stress to mammalian cells.
Decrease Toxins in your Diet, Decrease Disease
Eating an organic whole food plant-based diet decreases the likelihood of many diseases, due to less exposure to the aforementioned list. If you want to avoid cancers, you are going to have to rethink the past-time of destroying food on a barbeque, unless you don’t mind being told by your doctor that you have stomach, duodenal, or colon cancers.
It should be plain common sense that you are going to be far better off if you eat fresh fruit, instead of artificially flavored candy with refined white sugar, preservatives, and all that junk. But common sense will be lost on most if the common held belief is that humans can eat whatever they want. That’s what believing we’re omnivores is doing – making people feel confident that their food choices are good for them, when they actually aren’t. Because, hey, we can eat a varied diet of anything!
The Path Less Travelled is Still a Good Path
While it’s probably true that most people will not want to read all the articles I’ve linked to in this article, there will be some who do. For those that do, some will look for ways to refute the findings, rather than digest the information in a meaningful way. Yet, there will be others who are open to exploring beyond the years of programming that lead them down the path toward unhealthiness.
For those who want to take the path toward healthiness. Look no further than the miracle of the plant kingdom! The science is in. Plants are the way to go, because they decrease the chances of getting coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death.
[Plant based diets produce] lower arachidonic, eicosapentaenoic, and docosahexaenoic acid levels and higher linoleate and antioxidant levels in platelet phospholipids; such a biochemical profile [is related to] decreased atherogenesis and thrombogenesis
When viewing the origin of our species, our commonality with all extant apes on our shared branch of biology (phylogeny), that all clades upon the branch are physiologically adapted to be frugivore (ie: seeds, nuts, roots, shoots, leaves, and fruits), combined with the fact that large brains require a lot of glucose (primarily provided by fruits and starches) to function properly, as well as understanding the deleterious health consequences from deviating from a frugivorous diet (ie: decreased brain size/intelligence, cancers, diseases of major organs, etc.), the picture becomes very clear as to what human beings should be eating for optimal health.
When it Comes to Diet, The Blind Should No Longer Continue Leading the Blind
Until the populace is properly educated about the important key areas of physiology, proper nutrition for the brain, and the health consequences from deviating from our natural evolutionary adaptations, the blind will continue leading the blind, misinforming people to join diet fads that are completely wrong. Armed with this knowledge, you can now confidently steer clear of fads that recommend eating meat but no carbs (which starves the brain), or believe the claims that eggs are healthy (they aren’t), or that meat products are part of a balanced healthy diet (they aren’t).
The Power in Knowledge
Once you know that your physiology is adapted as a non-specialized frugivore, and that eating more closely aligned with your physiology means less disease, you are well on your way to taking back your health if you’ve been suffering from disease. Once we are armed with the facts, and begin to see how much disease everyone is suffering from is actually due to humans believing we are omnivores, we will understand how dangerous it is to perpetuate myths and endeavor to correct where we collectively err. The lies we tell ourselves aren’t doing humankind justice. In fact, it has contributed to countless horrors for many species in the animal kingdom, as well as suffering for families all over the world due to the diseases they are getting from their misinformed dietary choices without realizing that a lot of their woes could have been entirely avoided, or can be remedied from simply changing what they eat.
Dispelling the myth that humans are meant to eat animal products, therefore, becomes extremely important to help future generations thrive. We have to root out the myth that humans are omnivores. The more people begin to incorporate a 100% plant based diet into their lifestyles, the better for our brains, for our bodies, and for the animals.
Next up, we need to understand also, healthier ways of producing plant based foods, which will in turn, improve the nutrition, and the environment. Stay tuned for a future article that will explore healthier ways of relating with our environment and the plant kingdom.