Seeking Energy With the Least Effort?
“I have to have something to eat. I’m starving.” The natural human (and in fact any animal’s) response to that signal is to find that energy with the least effort. This is an instinct carried over from millions of years of evolution. Let’s follow the long trail and see how it got us in trouble today.
Where does energy come from?
Everything comes from the earth. Bacteria and other un-seeable stuff live in the soil. All the minerals are in the soil, water, and air. Plants grow in the soil, getting or making everything they need to grow from the soil, water, and air. Got it?
Animals depend on those plants. Some animals (herbivores) just eat plants. Some eat other animals (carnivores). Others eat both. Back in the very beginning those animals still living and eating plants were in a bit of a battle with a strategy employed by plants to protect themselves.
Maybe you think that all those animals and plants are here just so we can fix dinner. But they don’t see it that way. The animals (including us) and plants have one goal in life – self preservation. In other words, eat but don’t be eaten. Reproduce and continue the species. This is, in fact, true of every living thing down to and including insects, bacteria, viruses. It’s a delicate balancing act.
Everything needs protection
The lucky animals can move around. They can run and hide; wield their strength, teeth, claws, flexibility, and brains to protect themselves and get food. Plants, on the other hand, are stuck in the ground. They get their food right out of soil and then create chemical toxins inside themselves to discourage animals (and insects, and some bacteria) from gnawing on them.
What gets eaten?
People showed up on earth just like all other animals, dependent on their size, strength, hands, teeth, flexibility – the only tools we had. We ate what we could catch/find. Sometimes meat, sometimes plants depending on the season and climate. As we got smarter and smarter we figured out how to construct tools that made it easier and easier to catch and butcher animals. Learning to use fire was a real game changer.
Plants were all wild, not grown in gardens. Eventually the toxins in plants proved to be a problem. As people got smarter some figured out which plants would be deadly (as in people died) and ways to prepare the plants (hurrah for fire) to reduce the toxins to a tolerable level.
As an example there are actually thousands of different wild and extremely toxic potatoes across the world. Smart people figured out how to treat and cook those potatoes to make them safe to consume. All those methods are very time consuming and still employed today in some parts of the world..
People then (just as now) had varying tolerances for toxins. The human body is designed to rid itself of toxins. Back then if you had a low tolerance, you just died. Those who had high tolerance survived and reproduced themselves. The gene pool thus improved over time.
Depending on the climate and seasons, naturally available food resources are very widely. For example, the options at the North Pole are truly different from the equator. Not many plants growing at the North Pole. People adjusted their diet to what they could get. People were always seeking energy with the least effort.
Catching and killing an animal, while hard work, made lots of food available for a good amount of time. Humans didn’t waste any of the food, eating the whole animal, nose to tail. It turns out the most nutritional value is in the organs, not the muscles. They figured out how to preserve the meat so it would last. Dig up wild plants and you may have one meal; you have to keep foraging and digging for the next meal.
Overtime some people in the right climates began to purposely grow their plants (the inception of agriculture), thus freeing themselves from wandering around looking for animals to kill. Of course this had the potential to create toxin issues. But they were apparently smart enough to be selective about their plants and knew how to treat/cook them appropriately – at least eventually. And the poor folks who just couldn’t deal with the toxins just died off.
None of these people knew squat about protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Neither did the elephants, cougars, dinosaurs, nor the spinach etc. They just did their thing, seeking energy with the least effort.
Seeking energy with the least effort
Many thousands of years pass. People have now evolved to have big brains and be, at least potentially, really smart. Hundreds of years of research showed some smart people that the value in food lies in the inherent nutrients. The plant absorbs and creates the nutrients from the soil, water, and air. Animals absorb and create the nutrients by eating other animals and/or plants. This hunger thing is just a signal that nutrients are required.
As a species some really smart people know a lot about nutrition. As individuals we still don’t know squat. But true to form, as individuals we are still seeking energy with the least effort.
Some of the smarter people figure out how to package energy at the least possible cost, unfortunately without the essential nutrients. Thus the commercial food industry blossoms, built on this natural human instinct – seek energy with the least effort. And health deteriorates.
The good news is really smart people hybridized and changed the genetics in many, many plants. Today’s vegetables look/act nothing like their wild ancestors and toxin levels are much, much lower. That does not mean, however, that there are no longer toxins because there are. They just aren’t usually killing us outright.
Mal-adapted genetics once just resulted in death, only adapted genetics were reproduced. Today really smart people have figured out how to ward off death. Mal-adaptation is frequently reproduced. In these genetics, even lower toxin levels and nutrient deficiencies can create illness.
Instead of treating and cooking vegetables to minimize those toxins, we use the drugs created by really smart people to assuage the symptoms. Overtime the toxin buildup becomes chronic illness. There are mal-adapted people today who eat only animal products (carnivores) because vegetables of any kind create illness for them.
Most of us think of “meat” as muscle. Chicken, for some, is just breast. Nose to tail disappeared long ago. The additional nutritional value in organ meat like liver and kidney or even the dark meat in chicken is lost.
It is what it is!
Unlike a million years ago, we don’t have to hunt for our food. Energy is easy to get these days. Consequently we consume too much and tend to be overweight. Overweight can have a health price of its own.
We are all likely mal-adapted in some way and still don’t know squat about protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. But we can know that all of those nutrients, whatever they are, are in the whole food, some combination of animal products and plants.
- Pay attention to any symptoms you develop, not because you need a drug but because something is going “wrong” in your environment. That “wrong” is likely connected to your diet in some way.
- Type and level of toxins vary in plants. The more limited your diet, the easier it becomes to overwhelm your toxin levels. As an example, even today’s potatoes have toxins and if you eat potatoes every day, maybe at every meal, you may be creating illness. Eat a diverse plant diet.
- The nutrients in your food are first priority. Don’t waste your energy calories on commercially processed, nutrient deficient foods just because they are easy to get.
As to food treatment, my central emphasis in It’s All About the Food was on grain and legumes. The anti-nutrient phytic acid in these blocks absorption of important minerals. There is an entire chapter, “What the Heck is Phytic Acid?” in the book. Give it a look to learn how to treat these foods to minimize the impact on your health.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and president of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org; phone number is 870-490-1836; visit her website at allaboutthefood.org