Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about healthy eating. I just finished a three day water fast, and I am introducing bone broth, green veggies, and some chicken soup in my body on the fourth day. I felt myself get weak and extremely hungry on the second day of the fast. Ideas and cravings of food were so lucid for me; I could imagine eating the food I was craving in detail. The flavors and textures of the food in my mind seemed very realistic. And as I introduce foods gently back into my body on the fourth day, I am thinking about the healthiest, most nourishing food I can put into it.
I am considering a perspective based on eating and evolution. Before I started cooking for a living, I worked in vision science as a researcher. This work required thinking about how evolution shaped our visual system. Visual systems have been evolving a long time (i.e. at least half a billion years) here on planet earth in natural environments. Evolution molded visual systems to increase the survival and reproduction of organisms in these environments. In other words, a visual system of an organism that evolved on a different planet in different environments would likely be quite different from ours.
Lately I am thinking about this idea as it relates to the food we are putting in our bodies. Our bodies and digestive systems have evolved for millions of years in response to what they were being fed, i.e. local food. A friend mentioned to me the other day that he hasn’t gotten sick since he started eating all his produce from the farmers market. He believed the locality, as well as the freshness, of the farmer’s market produce was the reason for this. Of course, eating local usually means fresher, and therefore more nutritious. But there can be additional health benefits to eating locally. For example, doctors recommend eating local honey to treat allergies; the pollen in the local honey helps prepare the body to prevent future allergic outbreaks.
During our entire evolution, our ancestors were eating local foods. Our bodies and digestive systems evolved in response to eating local foods.
For example, when the strawberries disappear from the farmers market at the end of summer, they will still be in the grocery stores throughout fall and winter. But these strawberries won’t be local, they will likely come from South America, which is in a different hemisphere (I’m in Los Angeles). But our ancestors didn’t evolve eating foods from a different hemisphere; our ancestors evolved eating local foods, and our bodies and digestive systems were built to process this local input.
Another example is making shakes and smoothies in a blender. Eating fruit in its whole form is healthier than eating fruit that is blended or liquefied. For example, fruits are healthier eaten whole. The reason is that sugar in the fruit is wrapped up in the structure of the fruit. So as you eat an apple, for example, the sugar in the apple is not all immediately available to be absorbed into your body. As the apple passes through your digestive system, it is gradually broken down, and the sugars are gradually made available for absorption into the body. Therefore there is a slower, steadier, and more gradual release of sugar in the body. This is not the case if the apple is put into the blender and liquefied. Drinking the liquefied apple will result in a larger and more sudden intake of sugar in the body. The sugar is much more readily available in liquefied form. Again, our bodies didn’t evolve eating liquefied apples; it evolved eating whole fruits.
When thinking about what is best to put in my body, I am asking the question of whether I’m feeding my body consistenly with what it evolved eating for hundreds of million of years. Did it evolve eating local foods? Yes. Did it evolve eating food from another hemisphere? No. Did it evolve eating whole fruits and vegetables? Yes. Did it evolve eating liquefied fruits and vegetable in a blender? No. At a basic intuitive level, it makes sense to feed our bodies the food that it evolved eating. In a way that is consistent with how it was designed over millions of years.