Reflections on the Art of Nutrition
DIET: A Prescribed way of life
presents a transformed perspective on food and nutrition, giving you the knowlegde you need to make well-informed choices about your diet. It shows how everyting is the result of a consciously selected and consistently practiced lifestyle – the best way to keep your body working as it should.
Where do we come from?
We have a pretty good idea of the role eating meat has played in human evolution. In 1999, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, revealed that early humans were eating animal meat 2.5 million years ago, confirming a lot of the research conducted over the past century about the relationship between human evolution and animal protein.
A meat-based diet was the norm rather than the exception when you look back to the dawn of man. It was nutrient-dense animal protein that helped early humans find enough nutrition and energy to evolve from being instinctual and living in the moment to being sociable, intelligent beings, capable of recognizing patterns, planning outcomes, and better controlling their environment.
In fact, the theory is, without an animal-protein-rich diet, we probably wouldn’t have evolved into what we are today. A plant-based diet simply didn’t have the complexity and density of nutrition that our bodies needed during that critical transformation period to develop our brains and to help the human body itself evolve.
In the last two centuries, scholars across the board—in evolutionary biology, paleontology, and epigenetics—have taken great pains to perfect their research methods. Thanks to their work, today, we know a lot of the details of how the natural environment, dietary habits, and behavioral factors led to the development of our species. It is through this knowledge that we can gain a profound appreciation for the power of food and our relationship to our environment to help each of us make wise choices about our individual approach to food.
Scientists from the fields mentioned have studied and continue to study life and the cultures of past generations, from the moment human beings first appeared on earth and began to produce simple tools to the present day.
The scope of their work covers an unusually broad range of time (millions of years) and space (the entire planet, both on land and in the watery depths) and is, at times, general (former societies and human groups) and anonymous (without the identity and concrete nature of names and languages).
As a result of this approach to the origins and development of our species, an enormous amount of in-depth knowledge has been gained on the subject, along with a detailed picture of the conditions under which we came into being as people: Homo sapiens.
For us, the most interesting age is the Quaternary Period, as the history of the birth and development of humankind is tied to this period. This is the period of anthropogenesis, or the formation of our species. Humans did not come into existence on earth as fully formed, perfected beings with all the psychological and physical characteristics we know today.
It was over the course of seven million years of evolution that humans laboriously and persistently made their way from imperfect forms that threatened their survival toward more perfect ones guaranteeing us safety, health, and further development.
The research irrefutably demonstrates humankind’s evolution from animals and our genetic ties to primates, which first appeared on earth seventy million years ago. To this day, scientists disagree over the classification, taxonomy, and chronology of the genesis and evolution of humankind.
However, they do agree that ten to fourteen million and six to seven million years ago, the beings known as hominids—all anthropoid apes and our precursors (large, tailless primates)—branched out into several species.
There is thus a close genetic relationship between large apes and humans (98 percent of our DNA is shared with large apes). The first beings to clearly differentiate themselves by their characteristic upright posture are members of the genus Australopithecus.
Australopithecines first appeared in East and South Africa in the Rift Valley lake region. An expedition by French and American paleoanthropologists discovered fifty-two bones of a young female skeleton there. Finding them at the height of Beatlemania, they gave her remains the name Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis)—the heroine of one of the rock group’s songs. Her anatomy indicates that she is closer to chimpanzees than to contemporary humans.
This prehistoric beauty is a bipedal being who walked nearly upright on two legs and had strong neck muscles, long arms, and short, massive legs. Lucy is about twenty years old, weighing 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and standing 120 centimeters tall (slightly under 4 feet). Her small head sits practically on her shoulders, and her brain takes up 400 to 550 cubic centimeters (about 24.4 the 33.6 cubic inches) of the capacity of her skull, which is only about 20 percent of that of Homo sapiens. Lucy had mainly a plant-based diet, including leaves, fruit, seeds, roots, nuts, insects, and some small vertebrates, like lizards.
Our genus Homo split off from Australopithecus something like two million years ago, and a group of three Homo species (ergaster, rudolfensis, and habilis), along with another hominid (Paranthropus aethiopicus) appeared. Paranthropus was a vegetarian, our immediate ancestor H. ergaster, known as H. erectus, clearly ate meat.
Homo erectus stands up straighter and has a larger cerebral cortex. Its head is supported by its spine, and neck muscles that it no longer needs to support its cranium disappear. Its upper limbs become freer due to its vertical position, and it skillfully uses them to make tools. Encephalization allows the size of its brain to reach 1,000 cubic centimeters (about 61 cubic inches) of the capacity of its skull, and H. erectus was able to use this development to create a higher level of cultural progress.
H. erectus used universal flint tools—hand axes—to dig up edible roots from the soil, clean pelts, crush bones, process wood, and create other tools shaped like elongated spindles or slender ovals. This same H. erectus from 1.5 million years ago was not only able to use natural fire (volcanic lava, forest fires) but also to kindle it independently using two self-invented means: percussion and friction.
This primitive human form lived in groups, which sat together by the fire and planned and delegated work and activities. They also had excellent hunting and gathering skills, which allowed them to easily transition to a new food chain. Scientists have shown that these prehistoric humans, in order to maintain an appropriate balance of energy, had to eat a varied diet.
The growth of hunter-gatherer culture greatly enriched this diet. The hunting community guaranteed a relatively systematic supply of animal protein to the body through the consumption of meat, bone marrow, animal organs, and stock from the scraps of successfully hunted animals. They ate deer, bison, some elephant and rhino, wild boar, and ibex, along with seafood and fish.
Researchers have linked this diet with the growth of the human brain, whose structure and condition was undoubtedly influenced by the omega-3 fatty acids found in animals.
They also believe that this diet significantly shortened the time necessary to acquire food, thus allowing our ancestors time to contemplate their surroundings, become familiar with the natural environment, and make items such as clothes and ceramics—that is, to develop the typical foundations for human culture and civilization.
Fire played a great role in this process. The hearths of H. erectus were specialized: certain ones served to prepare meals, others for heating, others to frighten away predators, and the rest to light caves or shelters and, later on, to create simple tools and drive away enemies.
After a certain time, H. erectus began to migrate freely and camp in various regions of the world, evolving into new species and subspecies (Homo neanderthalensis, Homo habilis, Homo sapiens, and others). Among those mentioned, Neanderthals as an anthropological type and their culture and life are the best understood, since they left numerous and often rich traces of their existence in the form of camps in caves or buried remains. Scientists from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP) in Tübingen have studied the Neanderthals’ diet. Based on the isotope composition in the collagen from the prehistoric humans’ bones, they were able to show that 80 percent of the Neanderthals’ diet consisted of meat (mammoths and rhinoceroses) and 20 percent vegetarian food.
Scientists believe that the time when Homo neanderthalensis’s control of the European continent after the glaciers receded also saw the birth of modern Homo sapiens, who came from Africa about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. The mass appearance of H. sapiens is dated to around 60,000 years BCE. The latest archeological finds confirm this fact.
This incoming group was not large (2,000 to 5,000 individuals) but was able to ensure its necessary living conditions to gain the best hunting grounds and to drive the Neanderthals out. Even more impressive is the fact that only 150 members of the species left the African continent behind to start a great migration over the entire planet and reach Europe.
This is the true Homo sapiens, now the only living species of the genus Homo, which, for 12,000 years, has been the undisputed king of all creatures—a rational being. A philosopher living at the turn of the sixth century and also known as St. Severin of Pavia, Boethius recognized reason as humankind’s fundamental attribute. He characterized humans by the following phrase: rationalis naturac indyvidua substantia, an individual substance of a rational nature.
Scientists studying the individual stages of humanity’s origins were interested in various aspects of the lives of our predecessors. Numerous test samples have been taken at Jonas Cave in France’s Auvergne region, which contains the remains of both Neanderthals and contemporary humans. These samples allowed multifaceted specialized studies to be carried out at the molecular anthropology lab at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. The researchers have made several important discoveries.
It turns out that our ancestors were much taller than we were and had surprisingly healthy teeth and extremely strong bones. Their diet was dominated by animal-based foods, which is shown by the numerous discoveries of bones buried near their settlements. Archeologists have found the bones of large animals, such as bison, elk, reindeer, horse, and ibex, suggesting skilled communal hunting.
Studies of the human skeleton from that distant time demonstrate that our predecessors were primarily meat-eaters, while no bone evidence has been found to suggest vegetarianism among our ancestors.
Their migrations, lifestyle, daily activities, and, above all, the quality and structure of their skeletons all point to their fantastic physical condition.
The damaging and life-threatening diseases and ailments that afflict people today were completely unknown to them. Their awareness, imagination, and ability to make connections also show that our ancestors were rational beings.
Already 45,000 years ago, they were creating musical instruments and using them for artistic purposes. They created a system of communication—language—in order to logically and clearly convey important information. They were also able to imagine life after death: they were the only beings to bury their dead, equipping them for their eternal journey with useful objects, clothes, weapons, and ornaments.
A significant number of anthropologists suggest that the human species reached the evolutionary peak of its biological development around 10,000 years ago. This hypothesis is supported by the musculature, skeletal structure, and size of the cerebral cortex of our ancestors. We existed in a form and condition perfectly shaped by nature!
It’s not possible to present a short overview of the complex, lengthy, and fascinating process of evolution without skipping over a fair amount of interesting information and detailed research. However, they are beyond the scope of this book and are not necessary for our purposes.
Despite the fascinating and unbelievably effective way we’ve survived as the solitary human species for thousands of years, thanks to the logic of evolution, we should still remember that “The border separating life from death is a narrow one. The unbelievable delicacy of our body brings to mind a vision: a sort of fog condenses into human form, lingers a moment and then dissipates” (Czesław Miłosz, A Year of the Hunter).
- Our bodies were shaped by over seven million years of evolution, consistently moving toward more and more perfect forms.
- The research irrefutably demonstrates humans’ evolution from animals and our genetic similarity to primates: 98.4%.
- Our ancestors overcame a variety of obstacles over their long course of development to keep our species strong and healthy—contemporary humans should respect and care for this unique identity.
- The human species has been omnivorous for millions of years—our varied diet has included animal organs, animal meat, fish, and eggs, supplemented with root vegetables, grains, leafy greens, fruits, and berries.
- Researchers have linked an animal-protein-rich diet with the growth of the human brain, whose structure and condition was undoubtedly influenced by the omega-3 fatty acids found in animals.
OVERVIEW & PREVIEW
Based on solid science and research, Diet: A Prescribed Way of Life, by author Barbara Rubin, builds a cohesive, tested concept for healthy eating that will keep you looking great and give you true vitality and a real appetite for life.
Through Rubin’s personal experiences and observations, examples, humorous anecdotes, and practical advice, you’ll discover the power of food as a tool for healing and learn how to translate this power to your plate. She offers clear explanations and full analyses of the issues, which not only focus on educating, but also on ensuring you enjoy the best life possible. She discusses that food isn’t just medicine. It’s the life source, and it’s important to understand every part of the process – from the soil your food is grown in, to the way it’s cared for, and how it is processed.
DIET: A PRESCRIBED WAY OF LIFE
Reflections on the Art of Nutrition