Is raw food really the perfect diet for humans?

There is an article in yesterday’s Guardian, which bangs on, totally uncritically, about the raw food movement. Surely the point of journalism is to examine, impartially, pretty much anything, from the state of the country (abysmal), to, I suppose, raw food. But impartially does not translate to “totally uncritically”.  Assessing the pros and cons is pretty much expected. (There is a very much shorter comment by LePendu (me), upon which this is based.)

Nor is the raw food movement examined in any depth at all, merely peered at through the distorting prism of Michelin-class restaurants which, of course, means that all sense of reality is lost and absolutely nothing of any consequence is learned, though the statement is made, at one point, that “The ‘raw food movement’ has arisen from the belief that the human body is not designed to eat cooked food.”

Which is, of course, the most arrant nonsense. One might as well argue that, since the proto-human organism was once, in the dim and distant past, “designed” to live in trees, we should return to them (an idea I have seen put forward, in all seriousness, by some housing-design numpty on TV, peddling tree-houses as evolutionarily sound!).

However, the human organism, like every other organism on this planet, wasn’t designed in any normal meaning of the word, but shaped over millions of years by forces of nature far beyond its control. Change – evolution – was forced upon the organism. There is no design – it’s simply adapt or die.

The genus Homo (Homo Sapiens being the last surviving iteration), like any other creature, has evolved, sometimes dramatically, throughout its existence (with the exception of footballers), and part of that evolution was an adaptation to cooked food.

The emergence of cooking with fire is hard to tie down.  Some sources say it appeared in Africa some 1.4 million years ago, and about a million years later in Asia, others that if first happened 250,000 years ago.

I suspect one guess is as good as another when working with such timescales – one date might be true for one area, another area might yield a different date. In 10 years time an entirely different set of figures might achieve prominence. It’s not an exact science, more extrapolation from relatively few facts. Or guessing, as it’s called in less elite circles. Hell, people have “guessed” an entire dinosaur from a toe-bone!

However, given that early hominids ate raw food and were primarily vegetarian (fossil dentition is the indicator), and the penchant of wildfire to roast any animal not fast enough to outrun it – including early hominids, almost certainly – then there is little doubt that early man would have occasionally, possibly frequently,** stumbled upon pre-cooked, possibly still hot, meat, and it’s in the nature of all animals not to pass up a free meal. It might even be the origin of cannibalism, if they stumbled across a member of another family group, or tribe, who’d been caught up in the fire.

**It’s almost impossible that early, pre-fire, hominids didn’t get such a bounty on at least a semi-regular basis (wildfires must have been pretty frequent events, as there are even plants that have evolved seeds which can’t germinate without the aid of fire.

So it’s quite possible that the evolutionary forebears of Homo Sapiens, as well as Hom Sap itself, had access to cooked food on a frequent, if unreliable, basis long before they ever figured out how to set wildfires for themselves and, later, how to control fire. The surprise is, perhaps, that it actually took so long.

However, perhaps because  we occasionally stumbled upon inadvertently-roasted animals in our “formative years,” we have, without the slightest doubt, evolved as omnivores. This enables us to thrive on a very wide range of foodstuffs, animal or vegetarian (or vegan), cooked or raw, but to claim either as our natural diet it completely missing the point – they are all, in any combination you like, our natural diet.

That’s what being an omnivore means, and to claim that just one component, raw food, is our natural diet is totally wrong – it’s no more natural to us, now, than a Big Mac, Heston Blumenthal’s molecular nonsense, or a plate of Nordic twiggy moss with berries.

Please note – the comment section will not provide a platform for raw foodists, so keep it short. Otherwise, go write your own blog post.

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4 thoughts on “Is raw food really the perfect diet for humans?

  1. I think they probably drew their conclusions from the fact that the Japanese eat raw fish & other raw produce all the time, & they live to be about 100. What I think they forgot from 4th grade science class, however, is that the human body cannot digest raw red meat well, which probably explains the very short life span of the paleolithic man. Don’t know…but I think the definition of good journalism has changed from the time I studied the subject.

  2. all i can say is that as a child i loved raw carrots and raw chips, and a lot of other raw stuff. my teeth could chew it all my stomach digest it all. but getting older my teeth (or rather my jaws) can no longer chew raw stuff very well without my jaws aching within a short time or getting mouth ulcers and my stomach doesnt digest raw foods any more anything like it once did . so very little raw stuff is eaten by me unless its berries and even their seeds cause a lot of discomfort,so no its not natural to eat raw foods,its a choice.

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