FROM THE MAILBAG
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“Since we’re using our fellow frugivores (primates) as models to follow in determining which foods we should eat, isn’t it true that all primates and even some human tribes consume some insects and/or animal protein in small amounts? Wouldn’t we be doing this unconsciously, at least, if we were eating our fruits as they are presented to us in nature? We are just conditioned to think insects are not human food as many cultures do eat them.”
It may seem like it’s impossible to know if our repulsion at the idea of eating insects is innate or is a product of cultural programming, but this is because we’ve gotten so far away from trusting our bodies to give us accurate information. Of course we can know with certainty whether or not insects are food, although it may require getting back to our whole natural selves first. Our culture teaches us that determining what to eat is an intellectual process that requires research, studies, so-called scientific ‘proof’, etc., but in reality all of this is borne of confusion and ignorance of nature’s ways. And, in fact this is why we feel we have to justify our food choices by citing the dietary behaviors of other primates. None of this is necessary, because once we begin to reject all the brainwashing that our society puts on us with regard to food selection, we become invulnerable to those ideas and we gain the confidence and security of knowing whether our choices are correct. Like energy versus stimulation, hunger versus appetite, real joy versus fake joy, however, we can’t really understand what this confidence feels like until we experience it.
In the meantime, it’s certainly feasible for anyone who wonders if insect eating is proper for human beings to experiment with it. Take some ripe fruit of your choice with you on a hike in the woods and when you’re hungry, collect a few insects. The bigger ones would be best since these would give you more return for your investment. Compare the way your body reacts to the prospect of eating the fruit versus eating the insects. Most people would have to overcome some very strong feelings of revulsion in order to eat the insects, and I don’t think we can assume this is all cultural conditioning. The ‘tribes’ you refer to who do eat insects use cultural conditioning to override these feelings of repulsion the same way our culture conditions people to ingest very harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco. It would be hard to imagine, but if you happen to be very adventurous and extremely open-minded and decide that eating insects is something you want to experience, you should closely observe your bodily sensations as you eat them. I don’t know what would happen because I’ve never eaten insects and certainly have no desire to do so, but it would be these sensations that would allow you to dispel any doubts you might have had about whether insects are human food. For most people, this is not necessary.
It is the feelings in our bodies that should drive our food choices, not the ideas in our heads. Once you learn to trust those feelings, you can be as confident in them as you are that it’s not a good idea to jump off a cliff or stand in front of a moving bus. In the same way that we can be sure via our bodily feelings that NOT ingesting cooked foods, alcohol, etc., is correct (because we FEEL better and we don’t have ‘hangovers’), we can know with as much certainty that the foods we DO choose are correct.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is often the case that people experiencing symptoms think of nutrient deficiency before addressing the myriad mistakes they’re making that are causing the problems. When they hear that primates have been observed eating insects, they reckon that insect-eating represents the ‘missing link’ in their diets. Naturally nobody wants to eat insects, so they allow themselves to be convinced that supplementing or eating animal products is the answer. Since the ingestion of these ‘foods’ often does cause their symptoms to either change or go away, people assume that eating them was the right thing to do. Meanwhile, the real causes of the problems go unaddressed. This is just one of the ideas that can send new raw fooders veering off track.
Thanks for your question.
Primal Diet Question:
During the past 6 months I have been practicing the “Primal Diet” and my health has improved. The thing is though I eat a lot of raw steak, raw chicken, raw dairy and very little vegetables (occasional salads) and no fruits. I feel great and for the first time in my life I have experienced NO food cravings. I have access to fresh, unheated milk and I love raw cheese and raw meat. Intuitively, I feel there should be something more… Raw vegans are very adamant about meat and dairy being bad. Raw meat eaters are very adamant about it being good. The problem with the raw vegan dieters that I see is they are talking about cooked or pasteurized meat and dairy products.
Have you come across any information about nutrition aspects of raw meat or dairy? I am not talking about the bacteria and parasite risks because I know there are not any. I am looking for someone who can tell me why raw, organic meat and unpasteurized milk is unhealthy. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Thanks for writing to me. I appreciate your sincere desire to learn, and your open-minded approach.
I’m glad you realize that the bacteria/germ connection to disease is largely an invention. This is a step in the right direction. The information you’re seeking has to do with whether the human body has need of animal products, whether they can be properly utilized (digested) by the human body, and if their consumption is a good practice for long-term health.
We don’t have to speculate about what our natural foods are. There is plenty of clear evidence to guide us. I wouldn’t be a raw vegan if I hadn’t been convinced by this evidence and my own experience that humans have no need of animal products. Certain facts about human physiology provide the strongest basis for this conclusion. Animals are scientifically classified according to their diets and their corresponding physiological adaptations. Granivores eat primarily grains, insectivores eat mostly insects, and so on. When we compare human digestive faculties to those of other species, we find that we are distinctly different from granivores, carnivores, insectivores, herbivores and even omnivores (such as pigs and bears). We find, though, that we are remarkably similar to our primate cousins, who are all frugivores. When we get down to comparing which of the other primates we most resemble, we find that our physiology is nearly identical to that of the Bonobo monkey. We’ve learned from observing the Bonobo that they eat mostly fruit, and when they can’t get fruit they’ll eat tender young shoots of plants. Occasionally, they’ll eat concentrated protein in the form of nuts, seeds, and insects. These concentrated protein foods comprise 1-2% of their diets.
There are other facts of human anatomy that serve to contradict the idea that we are supposed to eat meat. Our bodies are not suitably equipped to chase down and dispatch other animals, and by the time our species invented artificial weapons, we had already adapted our biological requirements over millions of years. This being the inarguable case, raw meat advocates sometimes posit that early humans ate the rotting leftover prey of carnivorous animals. With this theory, we are asked to believe that early humans (with their hands and other eating faculties being perfectly suited to the gathering and eating of fruit), chose to pass up the sweet, fragrant, ripe fruit hanging from the trees in favor of rotting carrion. This seems a highly unlikely scenario in all but cases of extreme food scarcity. There is no doubt that ancient humans were forced to eat meat during certain phases of history when food was unavailable, due to migration or climate change, etc. Humans might have even survived on meat for extended periods; however, this did not change our basic physiology, which is still intactly frugivorous, as evidenced by the similarities between us and other frugivorous animals. Additionally, it makes no sense to allow what humans might have done in times of food scarcity to influence our dietary decisions now when our food choices are virtually unlimited.
We should also consider the vast differences between our senses and those of animals that eat meat. Carnivores don’t see in color, for example. They don’t need to because they basically just eat anything that moves. So, they are much more attuned to movement, and are much quicker to respond to movement than we are. Do you salivate when a bug runs past your foot? Can you catch, kill and eat a mouse in a dark room? These are the natural skills and adaptations of true carnivores and omnivores. We humans, on the other hand, see in color because our food is colorful. We appreciate the contrast of a red berry against a background of green. We can smell the fragrance of ripe fruit. We crave the sweet taste of fruit. We have the delicate touch needed to pick fruit without damaging it. Indeed, all of our senses seem geared toward finding, gathering and eating fruit.
A look at our digestive chemistry provides even more evidence that fruit is our primary natural food. We have enzymes that easily break down simple carbohydrates, but we lack those needed to fully break down complex sugars like grains and tubers. We also have very little of the enzyme necessary to break down meat (uricase). We can break it down, of course, but doing so is extremely costly in terms of body energy. That’s why people lose weight on high protein diets — the energy “cost” of meat is more than it returns to our bodies. Meat digests very slowly and is not entirely utilized by the body, whether eaten cooked or raw, which means it creates a great deal of waste for our bodies to eliminate. One particularly harmful waste product of meat consumption is uric acid, which deteriorates joints and causes arthritis. These waste products over-burden the elimination processes of our bodies. Meat moves so slowly through us, because of the convoluted and alkaline nature of our digestive systems, that there is no way to prevent putrefaction from occurring in our guts. Putrefaction produces waste products that are toxic to us. Since it is the overburdening of waste in the body that creates ALL disease, it is easy to see how meat-eating is especially destructive of health.
Two points are often made by raw meat advocates in their attempts to provide support for the practice of eating meat. One is that there are certain native peoples who eat raw meat and have done so for centuries and who exhibit superior health. What citers of these studies fail to note is that the natives follow other lifestyle practices that lend themselves to good health. They work and live outside in the sunshine and fresh air, they have the emotional support and psychological security of their close-knit communities, they don’t eat processed food, they rest when they are tired, they are physically active throughout their lives, they don’t take medications or vaccines, etc. There are, in fact, so many other factors that contribute to their level of health that it might be said that they are healthy in spite of their raw meat diets, not because of them. In addition, it should be remembered that the level of health that we in civilized society enjoy is the standard by which these natives are judged. It would be difficult to find a more disease-ridden culture than ours to compare them to. Considering this, can it be said that their level of health is ideal? They may enjoy better health than we do, but this does not mean that they couldn’t do better if they were following ALL of nature’s directives, including eating foods that are biologically appropriate. The other study that is often cited as proof that raw meat is healthy food is the Pottenger cat study. This is simply a study of cooked versus raw, and the food in question (meat) is known to be the primary natural food of the subject species (cats). It does not provide any logical argument for the human consumption of meat, cooked or raw.
Although some people feel that it may be possible to construct a cogent argument for the eating of eggs, what we know about their chemical make-up offers good reasons not to. Even if eaten raw, eggs are very high in sulfur and are hard on the liver and kidneys. Additionally, whether ancient humans had regular and frequent opportunities to consume eggs may be open to debate, but if they did they most certainly did not have the devices necessary, nor the inclination, to cook them or to combine them with other foods. There can certainly be no reasonable argument made for either of these two practices. It has to be a source of curiosity, as well, what would motivate a human being to eat eggs if other foods that are more appealing to the senses were available. One is moved to theorize that eggs would only be eaten in times when more appealing foods were unavailable. Naturally, this would not bear upon our food choices during times of abundance. If eggs were only eaten as a secondary source of nourishment, our bodies would not have adapted a need for their regular consumption. Further evidence comes from our lack of ability to reliably obtain eggs – we can’t smell them, they are most often hidden, and even when found they have no external indication that they are a consumable food. When an animal has a true nutritional requirement for a particular food, the physiological adaptations that facilitate acquisition of that food are present in the animal’s physiology. Nuts, for example, are a challenging source of nourishment for us, but are an effortless staple for squirrels. It can be logically assumed, then, that squirrels have a nutritional requirement for nuts and we do not (although they make a fine transitional food for new raw fooders).
Eggs are also very high in protein. It is often assumed that more is better where protein is concerned, which is not true. Any protein that we consume in excess of our bodies’ true need must be eliminated, which taxes and overburdens our organs of elimination. The relative protein content of mother’s milk provides us with the closest we can come to a universal guideline regarding protein. At no stage of a human being’s life is there a greater need for protein than infancy, and this is amply provided by mother’s milk. Yet this perfect, natural food for proper human growth has a relatively small percentage of protein – only 1-4%, depending on the growth stage of the infant. It is no coincidence that the protein content of mother’s milk is similar to fruit, which ranges from 1-6% on average. What we find when we look at the evidence objectively is that human beings actually have very low protein requirements. Beliefs to the contrary are due largely to advertising claims made by the industries which directly benefit from the idea that we can never get enough protein.
The case for the consumption of milk products is shakier still. Apart from what we know about the problems they create in our bodies when we consume them, it is difficult to imagine a credible scenario where early humans would have availed themselves of the milk of another species, at least to the extent that would have been necessary for our bodies to have adapted a need for it. The milk of each species is distinctly composed of nutrients that are needed by the young of that particular species and is suitable for consumption by that species only. Cow’s milk contains a growth factor which helps calves mature as they should but causes the following problems in humans: excessive height, excess secretion of mucus and urine, constipation, diarrhea, bowel impaction, nausea, gas, increased blood pressure, edema and numerous digestive and respiratory problems. These problems are created whether the milk products eaten are raw or cooked, although pasteurized dairy products are even more destructive of health than the raw versions. Every nutrient that is contained in dairy foods is amply supplied by foods to which our bodies have a biological adaptation, like fruit and green leafy vegetables. The criteria that any food must pass in order to be deemed appropriate for our consumption go far beyond the specific nutrients it contains. Tree bark is high in some nutrients, as are daffodil petals and hemlock leaves. Unfortunately, there are also chemical compounds in these “foods” that make them unsuitable or even poisonous to us. The same is true of dairy foods. Everything that is believed to be beneficial about them originates not from the fact that they are suitable foods, but, once again, from the fine job of advertising which has been done by the dairy industry over the last 5 or 6 decades.
To summarize, whether animal products are raw or cooked, the human body is constitutionally unsuited to their consumption. The health improvements that people experience when they go from SAD (Standard American Diet) eating to RAF (Raw Animal Food) eating speaks to the improvement that even eating a diet of raw animal products represents over the SAD way of eating. That is to say, it is impossible to find a way of eating that creates worse health problems than SAD. This does not provide a good argument, however, for adopting a diet which can be shown to be inferior to a raw food diet based on fruit, greens, and modest amounts of nuts and seeds.
With regard to cravings, these are often produced when we adopt a “cleansing” diet of fruits and vegetables as the stored residues of our previous unhealthful food choices re-enter our bloodstreams on their way out of the body. Naturally, then, cravings would not be present if you are eating a diet which requires your body to expend all its energy on digestion rather than cleansing and purification. Cravings are an unpleasant reality of dietary transition but they can be managed in any number of healthful ways, rather than resorting to the eating of foods which are known to cause disease.
There seems to be little question that human beings are best suited to a diet of plant foods – primarily, fruits, greens and small amounts of nuts and/or seeds. The main problem with adopting a 100% raw vegan diet is that people tend to do it haphazardly, without having a full understanding of the healing process. This is the equivalent of adopting an all animal product diet and mistaking the stimulative effects of those foods for increased energy or vitality. Meat produces chemicals in our bodies that are similar in composition to caffeine. So in addition to weight loss, people experience effects that they erroneously perceive to be positive or health-building when actually the opposite is happening. Conversely, living in accord with our biological adaptations by adopting a raw vegan diet can produce symptoms that are mistakenly thought to be signs of “deterioration” or “deficiency”. We’ve all been taught that when symptoms are absent, we are healthy. When they are present, we are sick. In truth, however, when a transition to a healthy lifestyle is undertaken, the body produces symptoms temporarily as it conducts its internal restorative work. Intermittent symptoms might persist for months or even years depending on many factors specific to the individual in question. It is reasonable to expect that a body which has been abused for decades might take a year or even 3 or 4 years to fully recover. In cases of degenerative disease where tissues and organs have irreversibly lost function (a relatively rare occurrence), symptoms may never completely go away. They will not get worse, however, if the individual follows health-building practices including eating only biologically appropriate raw foods. What all this means is that patience, trust, cooperation and understanding, not to mention emotional resolve and fortitude, are as vital to the healing process as healthy practices are. Unfortunately, most of us enter the healing process with expectations that are built upon our experiences with remedies. Remedies work very quickly because they cause the body to stop its symptomatic expression and instead go into a mode of emergency elimination. Suppression of symptoms should not be confused with healing, however. Real healing, like disease formation, is SLOW.
You are clearly on to something with your intuitive questioning of eating only animal products, and you are asking some good questions. You will find that the best books and articles, which impart the most self-evidently truthful understanding of human health requirements, are written by Natural Hygiene authors like Art Baker, Herbert Shelton, TC Fry, David Klein and Vivian Vetrano, among many others. Thanks again for writing and best of luck in your quest for health.