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Thread: Cooking: it makes us human? page

  1. #1
    buffalo's Avatar
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    Primal Fuel


    Jon Udell's recent blog post turned me onto a very interesting talk by

    Richard Wrangham, author of "Catching fire: how cooking made us human".


    http://blog.jonudell.net/2010/01/19/we-what-we-eat-what-they-eat/


    Wrangham talks about how cooking can greatly increase the capability for humans to be able to digest food. For example, eating a raw egg or a raw banana, you may only absorb about 50% of the nutrients. But cook that egg or banana and absorption can go up to 99%. For tests with meat done with pythons, cooked meat increased absorption by 12%, mashed meat increased absorption by 12%, and cooked and mashed meat by 23%.


    I've heard of the expensive tissue hypothesis before (as has Wrangham obviously), where the theory is that by eating meat humans were able to shorten their digestive tracts and have more energy available to increase their brain sizes. But while meat is more nutrient dense than plants, the fact that you can absorb 20-50% more nutrients from cooked/processed food over raw food could well have been the main driving factor in the increase in the humans brain size.


    He also makes the point that this would greatly influence culture, as humans would have more time for other things. You'd think that cooked food wouldn't save too much time on the eating side, but Wrangham makes the point that a chimpanzee will spend 6 hours a day chewing. That's a lot of chewing!


    This would also explains why it's so damn satisfying to just lay around at night an tend a fire when camping!


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    Katt's Avatar
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    I think Wrangham has some excellent points. We made two jumps large in brain size. One when they posit we began eating meat, the second when we began cooking it. One other aspect of the campfire is that it engenders communal time and cooperation.

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    Danimal's Avatar
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    Finished this book a few weeks ago.. good read. Casts good light from an evolutionary perspective how cooking increases the bio availability of food, nutrient absorption etc.. Very easy short reading.

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    Fascinating stuff--I gotta read that book!

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    Molecular Grokologist's Avatar
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    http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/l...rians-part-ii/ is an excellent post of Dr. Mike Eades' which deals with how animal foods were also a large part of what made us human that you might find interesting.

  6. #6
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    Oh that post on Dr. Mike's blog is so good. I read it wen he posted it 6 months ago and it stuck in my brain. I am now reading The Vegetarian Myth (which is AWESOME!) and Lierre also talks about the same idea, that cooked meat made our brains larger because the metabolic energy that the brain uses was made available with the efficient gut.

    I don't get all the raw food and raw paleo groups. Raw meat is for sushi only , sorry. There is a reason why the charred bits on barbecued food tastes so darn good!

  7. #7
    lcme's Avatar
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    Do you think my raw vegan friend would appreciate if I told her that cooked meat would make her more human? lol.

    I've really started to cook more vegetables since becoming primal. For the most part if I crave it raw I'll eat it raw, otherwise it probably needs to get a little bit of processing before I feel like eating it.

  8. #8
    NoSaladWithoutMeat's Avatar
    NoSaladWithoutMeat is offline Senior Member
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    I'm not convinced! Maybe I should read the book...
    I always thought a raw salad is more nutritious than cooked vegetables! My experience with eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables versus cooked vegetables has convinced me that the former makes skin clearer and healthier.

  9. #9
    Molecular Grokologist's Avatar
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    Cooking does destroy some nutrients, but it also makes most of them far more bioavailable because it breaks down the indigestible cellulose matrix that contains them. Most foods receive a net benefit from light cooking (or a blending, for that matter, which is great for making raw fruits and veggies better for you).

    Additionally, there are frequently other factors at work with raw diets. When you were eating lots of raw fruits and veggies, did you eat less gluten and vegetable oil? Did you more carefully watch what you ate? Just a couple of examples.

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    The meat eating/cooking theories are ones I've read/heard many times and it makes sense to me. I've always wondered why folks eat a totally raw (including meat) diet when it seems that cooking, esp meat, is what lead to our brain development. I'm sure they have arguments for their side, but I've never run across them. I'll keep cooking my meat...
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