Monday, December 28, 2009
A very interesting book that answers the question of what makes humans different than animals... cooking! Most of it is an anthropology study determining when in the evolutionary chain humans starting cooking their food, and the implications to society. What makes it good is that it brings together several branches of science to support the theory, and although a bit technical, is well written. It pulls together several things that once put together seem obvious (like much of our food, like most grains, are not digestible if not cooked). The other is that it takes much more energy to digest raw foods (vegetable or animal), and that as humans, our digestive systems are not designed to eat large quantities of raw foods (it also supports this with some not so flattering studies done on current raw-foodists, especially if their goal was to propagate the species). The key take-away for me was that no one has a good understanding of the net energy value of foods (calories in the food minus calories needed to digest minus what is not digested). Small studies show that both cooking foods and making food finer in texture (like grinding) increases the energy and nutrient value of food, and reduces the amount of energy needed to digest the food. Which supports one of my key beliefs on nutrition: there is still a lot we don't know.