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Chapter 3
How We Eat and Its Consequences 

In this chapter, we will examine the history of the current food supply using the new food groups defined in chapter 2. We will indicate in general terms the consequences of accepting these foods into the diet. There are some surprises: many foods that we think of as being traditional and acceptable are in fact recent and sometimes harmful. Many foods, although newcomers to the human diet, are perfectly acceptable and in conformity with the Savanna Model. To improve our health, we have to confront some incorrect yet ingrained ideas about how we should be feeding ourselves.

 Wherever we look, we find that farming was initially based on the cultivation of grains of some sort. The reason was simple: it was possible to grow, harvest, and store grains. Grains were the first major new food to enter the food supply since the origins of the human species. None of the world’s major civilizations could have gotten started without them. It is not surprising, therefore, that we think of grains as a normal, even essential part of our food supply. We are taught by our parents and teachers at an early age that eating grains helps build our bodies. This accepted belief has led most government authorities to give farmers incentives to grow this crop and to recommend grains as the staple (principle component) of their population’s nutrition. But such advice is mistaken, even for unrefined grains
. Nature has equipped many creatures to eat grains. For example, the chicken has a hard, ridged palate to husk the seed and a powerful, muscular gizzard to grind the grain into flour. It even swallows gravel to help the grinding process. However, nature did not so equip humans. Let us look at the processing required to turn grains into something that will feed us. The hard, outer husk of the grain is inedible and difficult to remove just by chewing, so the first farmers had to think up new mechanical techniques to achieve what nature alone could not provide. First, they had to split the edible part of the grain (“wheat”) from the inedible husk (“chaff”) by a process known as threshing. They did this with a flail (two long rods joined by a leather thong) and beat the

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wheat until the grains were separated from the chaff. It took a man one day to thresh the amount of wheat that grows on about 100 square yards. Second, the wheat is “winnowed” (separated from the chaff) by tossing the mixture of wheat and chaff into the air; the wind then blows away the lighter chaff. Even then, the food processing is not finished: humans do not have teeth designed to chew the grain, so the farmers had to find mechanical ways to break down the seeds into something the body can handle. The solution is grindstones: with a lot of physical effort, they could mill the grain into a coarse or fine powder called flour. Finally, nature did not equip the human body to digest flour in its raw state. Real grain eaters, like chickens, have special enzymes for the digestion of raw flour. Their pancreas, the chief organ for secreting starch-digesting enzymes, has several ducts, (1) while the human pancreas has only one.

The only way the human digestive system can handle flour is by cooking it first. Those first farmers had to take the flour, make it into patties, and roast them in the embers of a fire. In this way, humans were already moving from a natural diet to one based on a rudimentary technology. Rudimentary, yet quite impractical for the average hunter-gatherer. In making these changes, those first farmers were smart enough to grow foods that tasted good and provided a level of nourishment. However, although these new foods filled their stomachs, they were not necessarily helpful to their general health

Those early farmers were eating flour cooked without yeast—in other words, unleavened bread. It took another 5,000 years before someone in the Egyptian civilization discovered the use of yeast to “raise” bread and give it a more agreeable texture. Modern breads still owe their basic recipe to an inventive Egyptian baker who lived around 4500 B.C.

The Problems with Eating Grains
Grains, as a class of food, were never part of our ancestral diet. We are speaking of all types of grains—wheat, rye, rice, barley, oats, quinoa, and so on—and all forms of these grains, including bread, pastry, breakfast cereals, pasta, pizza, oatmeal, and cookies. Consumption of all these grains is linked to a range of 

Hormones are potent chemical messengers. Thousands of them are in continual movement, whizzing around the body, instructing organs to do something or other. Tiny amounts of hormone have powerful effects: for example, they turn caterpillars into butterflies. In humans, they regulate every function of the body, including the immune system, sexual functions, pregnancy, digestion, blood-clotting, fat control, kidney function, bone building, growth, blood pressure, and even mood and behavior

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conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, cancers, osteoporosis, obesity, depressed immune system, premature aging, and diabetes. There is a common thread to some of these conditions: they are, in part, provoked by abnormal surges in blood sugar. These surges in turn disrupt hormones that control other processes, such as bone building, immune function, cell renewal, and cholesterol control.

Grain consumption leads to micronutrient deficiency. Even whole grains have poor concentrations of the multitude of these vital substances that are essential to human health: vitamins, minerals, carotenes, flavonoids, and many more. Grains are basically bulk fillers that displace more nutritious foods from the diet. The situation is even worse with refined grains, because with mechanization, the millers strip out the most nutritious part of the grain. Now we know why governments try to compensate for this shortfall by insisting on the “fortification” of breakfast cereals and many other grain products. Of course, these efforts are only a crude and inadequate substitute for the real thing—the marvelous cocktail of thousands of compounds working together as a team, which are provided by plants conforming to the Savanna Model

From anthropological evidence, we know that the earliest farmers suffered a sharply reduced quality of life: reduction of stature, (2) increase in infant deaths, (3) reduction of life span, (4) increase in infectious diseases, (5) increase in anemia, (6) diseased bones, (7) and tooth decay. (8) Today, we can also link grain consumption to many other conditions that cannot be preserved in the archaeological record, including brain disorders, such as autism, (9) schizophrenia, (10) and epilepsy, (11) and immune system disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, (12) rheumatoid arthritis, (13) eczema, (14) and allergies. There is even a common occupational ailment in the baking industry, “baker’s asthma,” a debilitating allergic reaction to cereal flours. We are only recently beginning to discover a host of microscopic substances, known as antinutrients, that are common in grains and are secretly gnawing at the foundations of our health in many unsuspected ways.


Antinutrients are undesirable substances in food that work against the good nutrients and often disrupt the inner workings of the body. They are usually secreted by plants to kill predators such as germs, fungi, and insects. In other words, antinutrients are often naturally occurring germicides, fungicides, and insecticides

Grains are also linked to colon disorders, including irritable bowel, colitis, colon cancer, and celiac disease. Full-blown celiac disease has symptoms of diarrhea, depression, vitamin deficiency, mineral deficiency, epilepsy, stunted  

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growth, and osteoporosis. These conditions had been observed for centuries. It is astounding to think that it was only in the 1960s that a substance in grains known as gluten was found to be the cause.

Gluten is more properly called “the gluten complex,” because it is not a single compound but a cocktail of many similar proteins. The human system is particularly irritated by the cocktail found in wheat, followed by rye, barley, and oats. However, in Asia, sensitivity to the gluten cocktail found in rice is also known. Indeed, all grains contain gluten in some form or another and all of them cause trouble in the human system

 “Plant food” or vegetation has been the major component of the human food supply since our origins. Some creatures, like our cousin the gorilla, are designed to eat tough vegetation like twigs, bark, stringy leaves, and fibrous stalks. However, humans are not able to digest these plant parts. Moreover, our ancestors did not cook their plant food either, so they focused on the young and succulent plant parts. When we think of vegetables, we do not think of them as a botanist does, as distinct parts of a plant with different functions. However, each part has its own nutritional profile and a role to play in our diet. Even today, we eat from a wide variety of plant parts, sometimes raw in salads and sometimes cooked

Above ground, the edible part can be the stem, bud, leafstalk, leaf, bean pod, or the immature flower. In addition, there are some fruits, such as the avocado and tomato, which are included in the vegetable category. Indeed, most people think of them and use them as vegetables, so they are surprised to hear that, botanically, avocado and tomato are fruits. A large percentage of our ancestors’ food supply came from vegetation that was levered out of the ground with a digging stick. Today, we still eat many foods that grow underground— roots, tubers, bulbs, and corms (solid bulbs)

Most of the vegetables we use today have been known since ancient times. Merchants, traders, and empire builders spread them around the Old World. The Romans in particular moved plants around their territories wherever they would flourish. Later, the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and British spread vegetables that they found with the Inca, Aztec, and Maya, to the rest of the world

During all this time, gardeners were hybridizing and “improving” the species, so that it is often uncertain just what the original, wild species was like. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not subdivide its Vegetable Group: they classify french fries and ketchup as vegetables just like lettuce and broccoli. As this example shows, it does indeed make a difference just what kind of vegetable we are eating—not all “vegetables” conform to the type of plant food to which we are naturally adapted. It is also true that our Pleistocene ancestors in East Africa would not be familiar with a single vegetable

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species in our present food supply. For reasons that will become clear later, we divided vegetables into two new groups, “starchy” vegetables and non-starchy vegetables

Starchy Vegetables
Certain plants have evolved the ability to store food during times of plenty to see them through times of hardship. Some of them store the food in the form of starch. In most cases, the roots are pressed into service as storage organs. Examples are Old World vegetables such as beets from southern Europe, parsnips from temperate Europe, and carrots from Afghanistan. An aboveground example is the chestnut. This might come as a surprise, for the chestnut is usually lumped in with all the other tree-nuts. However tree-nuts typically are rich in oil (around 50%), rich in protein (up to 25%), and low in starch. The chestnut is very starchy and very low in protein and oils (both around 1.5%). Its nutrient profile is like other starchy vegetables and we therefore class it as such

However, it is a tuber from the New World that has relegated all Old World starchy root vegetables to minor players—the potato. The Spanish conquistadors first brought it back to Europe from Incan Peru in the 16th century. A relative of the tomato plant, it was a small, wrinkled tuber, rather like a walnut

For a long time, Europeans did not know what to do with it; some farmers grew it to fatten their pigs. Then, in the 1800s, the British blockaded France during its war against Napoleon. With their regular foods in short supply, the French developed ways to incorporate potatoes into their daily diet

Potatoes are not even edible in their raw state, as the human digestive system can only cope with them if they are cooked—they require processing. So, it is only in the last 200 years that the potato entered the diet. But its success was immediate, widespread, and rapid. It has relegated every other root vegetable to the sidelines. However, this has not been a beneficial development

We all love the potato: it is the most commonly consumed vegetable, served up in dozens of tasty and imaginative ways. Unfortunately for us, its consumption is linked to readily observed conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and cancers, because of abnormal surges in blood sugar. There are potential difficulties as well with some of the other “starchy” root vegetables, such as the aforementioned parsnip, beets, and carrots

We think of the potato as a safe food to eat—even if it might be fattening— but very few people are aware that the potato is also mildly toxic. Potato consumption is directly linked to allergies, bowel disorders, confusion, and depression. Every year, dozens of people are hospitalized with potato poisoning, and many more cases go undiagnosed. These problems are directly linked to antinutrients in the potato that our bodies can’t cope with. We will deal with the science behind these startling assertions in Chapter 4.


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Non-Starchy Vegetables
Not all underground vegetables are starchy. For example, turnip and radish, which both originated in Asia, are non-starchy, as are bulbs such as onion and garlic from Asia and the leek from the Middle East. Corms such as Chinese water chestnut are also non-starchy. Unlike the starchy roots, they mostly get their bulk from another compound called “inulin.” We will reveal the significance of this in Chapter 4 when we look at the science behind our food supply

The vegetables from above ground cover a huge range of plant parts: stems, such as asparagus from the Mediterranean and kohlrabi from Europe; buds, such as Brussels sprouts from Belgium; leafstalks, such as celery from the Mediterranean and rhubarb from Asia; leaves, such as Europe’s cabbage, lettuce, and spinach; immature flowers, such as cauliflower from Europe, broccoli from Turkey, and artichoke from the western Mediterranean; immature fruits, such as eggplant from southern Asia and cucumber from northern India; mature “vegetable- fruits,” such as tomato from Peru, avocado from Central America, and bell pepper from the Andes; edible bean pods, such as runner beans from tropical America; and edible fungi (mushrooms) from just about everywhere. Of course, today, these plants are grown all over the world, wherever farmers can produce them economically

The tomato is an unusual case. First known to the Incas, 500 years ago the Spanish conquistadors brought samples back to their homeland from Peru. The tomato comes from the same family as deadly nightshade, so for a long time, Europeans, warned off by the bright red color, thought the tomato was drop dead poisonous. Finally, some brave souls tried it and survived the experience without any ill-effects. About 200 years ago, the tomato made it into the food supply. Like the potato, it has now eclipsed all other Old World vegetables and conquered cuisines around the world. It is not without its drawbacks: it does indeed contain low levels of plant poisons (15) and some people react to them, with arthritic symptoms, for example. (16)

It is hard to believe, but true, that the tomato was unknown to Italian cuisine just 200 years ago. The chili pepper, which gives Asian cooking and curries their fiery properties, was unknown before the Spanish introduced it (from Mexico) to India and Malaya 400 years ago

We have seen just how many new non-starchy vegetable foods have been introduced into the human diet all around the world relatively recently. Remarkably, with the exception of chili pepper, they are all beneficial entries to the diet—none of them seems to have a major adverse effect on human health. The chili pepper, however, irritates the lining of every part of the digestive tract: it causes the colon to become more porous, allowing germs, fungi, and food particles to enter the bloodstream. This can lead to a whole range of conditions from allergies to migraines to a depressed immune system


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Imagine that you are one of our ancient ancestors rummaging for food on the African savanna 60,000 years ago. You see a familiar ripe fruit and pounce on it— you know it is going to taste good! Fruit and humans have evolved together over eons to help each other. The fruit wants its seeds dispersed, while humans want nutritional gratification. The fruit immediately rewards you with its gratifying, jazzy, sweetish taste, which is known as the “sugar reward.” Moreover, since fruit was a rare commodity on the African savanna, our brains are programmed to continue eating that sweetish thing until the supply runs out

Our early ancestors of the African savannas would not recognize the fruits available in our modern supermarkets. First, our fruit selections are vastly different: apples, cherries, and plums originated in the Middle East, pears in Europe, grapes in the Caucasus, strawberries in America, oranges in China, and bananas in Malaya. Second, gardeners, through selective planting techniques, have heavily modified these different species from their original state since the farming revolution. One has to admire the persistence and foresight of those early New Stone Age farmers. They took the sour-sweet, woody crab apple of the region and patiently bred it over many generations so that it became a tasty apple. They did the same with many other fruits that are familiar to us today, such as the plum, pear, and cherry. However, in the last century, the process has accelerated: agro-industrialists have selectively bred modern fruits to have an attractive appearance, long shelf life, few seeds, less fiber and a powerfully sweet taste

Ancient farmers developed most of these fruits in temperate regions. More recently, with the immense growth in global shipping during the age of European exploration, many tropical fruits became popular. The most common is the banana, originally from the jungles of Malaya, along with the pineapple from the Caribbean, the mango from India, and the papaya from Central America

The watermelon is from tropical Africa and it is just about the only plant food that our Pleistocene ancestors would have recognized. The one we eat today is a sweet-tasting descendant of the bitter-juiced tsama melon, still used by the San as a water source. Just in the 1970s, enterprising New Zealanders provided the most recent addition to mass-market fruits, the kiwi fruit. They bred it from the Chinese gooseberry, whose origins lie in subtropical parts of China

So, today’s common fruits are, in many respects, not like the fruits in our Savanna Model. There are potential snags related to the massive increase in sweetness from various kinds of natural sugars, some of which are relatively harmless and others may pose problems. Fruits rich in the wrong sugars can aggravate pre-existing ailments such as diabetes, allergies, high cholesterol, and cancers. There is a massive rise in indigestion in the U.S. and one major reason is eating fruits at the wrong point in a meal: our bodies were not built to handle the mixing up of unfamiliar foods. Different fruits have different proportions of

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each kind of sugar. Later in the book, we will discuss what fruits to choose and how much and when to eat them

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), meat is the term applied to the flesh of domesticated mammals, such as cattle, pig, and sheep. More conventionally, this is known as “red meat,” which is the designation used here. Similarly, “game” refers to the flesh of any wild land animal, such as wild boar or pheasant. “White meat” refers to flesh taken from domesticated birds, such as chickens, and “seafood” refers to fish and shellfish. We will look at both wild and domesticated sources of animal products. The USDA does not include certain classes of animal foods that were common in our ancestors’ diet—the “exotic” categories of reptiles, worms, insects, and gastropods (snails and slugs). This is fair enough as these foods are not commonly eaten in developed countries, although there are many societies around the world that still make use of them.

Red Meat and Game Mammals
We saw with the San how mammals such as springhare (a kind of rodent), porcupine, and warthog were part of our ancestral diet. Less commonly, there would be big game such as antelope and, occasionally, giraffe and even leopard. We now look in detail at sources of meat in our food supply, starting first with farmed meat and then wild meat.

 Within about 1,000 years of learning to farm plants, the first cultivators turned their attention to farming animals. They were fortunate that, still in the same location of the Fertile Crescent, there were several species of animal that were
capable of being tamed and raised in captivity (a process known as “domestication”)

This is an important point: as biologist and historian Jared Diamond shows, the absence of farmable plants and suitable animals in their locality held back many other societies around the world in the development of farming

These early farmers, about 8000
B.C., found three creatures that lent themselves to taming and breeding in captivity: the “mouflon,” the “pasang,” and the wild boar. In 6000 B.C., this same ingenious people domesticated the massive aurochs, an ox-like creature that stood six feet high at the shoulder. All four species of animal had body compositions very similar to the wild game eaten by our ancestors of the Savanna Model. So far, so good

Ever inventive, these New Stone Age farmers bred these animals to improve their value and usefulness. However, in doing so over the past 10,000 years they, and all farmers since, changed the breed. The mouflon has been transformed into the sheep, the wild boar’s descendant is the pig, the aurochs became the smaller cow, and the pasang became today’s goat. As we shall see, with the exception of the goat, the changes were not beneficial

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In discussing meat, we tend to think of the muscle flesh—beef steaks, lamb chops, and pork spareribs. However, our ancestors would eat just about every part of the animal, from the brains, heart, and liver to the guts and the trotters

A few regional cuisines still make use of these so-called variety meats or offal. However, most of us get to eat them in another form. Ever since antiquity, these animal parts have been processed into sausages, pâtés, hamburgers, luncheon meats, and meat pies. The manufacturers of these products mostly have free license to mix-and-match all the animal parts as they see fit and add fat to “extend” them, bulk them up with low-cost ingredients. In no way can these products be compared favorably to the offal eaten by our ancient ancestors: they are from the wrong kind of creature and they are adulterated in many unknown ways. Worse, unlike our ancestral diet, we eat these processed meats in vast quantities on a daily basis rather than when there is the occasional kill. In addition, many meats, both generic and manufactured, are preserved by drying, salting, or smoking, such as bacon, salami, and bologna

These processes certainly avoid sudden death from some nasty disease contracted from decaying meat. However, they do some necessary things in order to preserve the meat. For example, some (like bacon and salami) are soaked in salt. That keeps harmful bacteria under control, but the salt is detrimental to the human body. Most are fatty (which is not good in itself) and the fats and oils have to be converted into more stable varieties that do not go rancid—saturated fats. These are heart harmful and disrupt many other workings of the body. The amount of wild meat that the average person in the developed world consumes in a year is close to zero. However, both in North America and in parts of Europe, the hunting of wild animals is still possible on a controlled, recreational basis. In this way, the meat of bear, moose, caribou, deer, wild boar, elk, and similar creatures enters the diets of some hunters’ families and the diners at specialist restaurants. This meat corresponds quite closely to the hunted big game of the Savanna Model. The same applies to small game such as the squirrel, hare, and rabbit

We are beginning to see the introduction of some “managed” wild animals on the market, such as venison (from deer), kangaroo, antelope, and bison (Plains buffalo). These creatures are not strictly speaking domesticated—they breed according to their own inclinations and are allowed to roam relatively freely on a range that closely resembles their natural habitat. Their numbers are culled in a sustainable way and their meat is introduced into the food chain. The American researcher Loren Cordain considers that the meat from these animals is similar to the Savanna Model, with the proviso that they browse the naturally occurring vegetation and are not given commercial feed. (

White Meat and Game Birds (Fowl)
We saw how the San would catch various wild birds in traps and snares and

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even hunt the ostrich. Our lakeshore-inhabiting ancestors would have caught waterfowl too. Not surprisingly, fowl (by definition any wild bird) are relatively hard to catch and so they did not form a huge part of our ancestral diet. On the other hand, the USDA applies the term poultry to birds that are farmed.

Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Goose (Farmed)
It took quite a while before any farming community discovered how to tame and raise birds in captivity. The first was the chicken, which was domesticated from the red jungle fowl by the civilization in India around 4,000 years ago. Since then, chickens have become a familiar sight, ranging freely in farmyards all over the Old World

Chicken. After the World War I, intense efforts were made to industrialize the process of raising chickens. It was found that the chicken could survive being cooped up in batteries of tiny cages under controlled conditions of nutrition, light, heat, and humidity. Britain developed the first “battery farms” in the 1920s. In the United States, mass production of chicken meat took off after World War II. American consumption quadrupled from 14 pounds (boneless) per person annually in 1946 to 59 pounds annually in 2004.(18) Today, the vast proportion of chicken eaten in the developed world is from intensively reared, caged birds; only a tiny proportion comes from a “free range” farmyard lifestyle

Turkey. Turkeys are native to large parts of North America. The Aztec of Mexico and the Zuni Indians of the American Southwest were the first to domesticate them. In 1519, the Spanish brought the Mexican species back to Europe. In 1621, the Pilgrims were able to put hunted wild turkey on the Thanksgiving table in New England. It was not until after World War II that turkeys were raised for meat on a wide scale. They, like chickens, are raised intensively in large covered sheds where they are crammed in so closely that they hardly have room to fall over. Their meat is now almost as cheap as chicken and American turkey consumption has quadrupled too, going from 3.5 pounds (boneless) per person annually in 1946 to 14 pounds annually in 2004. (19)

Duck and Goose. Duck and goose consumption is minimal compared to chicken and turkey. Domestic ducks are descended from a hybrid of the Muscovy duck domesticated by Incas in Peru and the mallard duck domesticated by the Chinese some 2,000 years ago. Duck raising is practiced on a limited scale in most countries, usually as a small-farm enterprise, although large flocks of duck are bred in some areas of England, The Netherlands, and the United States. Geese are described as domesticated in the Egyptian and biblical writings of 3,000 years ago, but modern breeds are descended from the greylag, a wild goose of northern Eurasia. Geese have not attracted the attention of intensive farmers on the same scale as chickens and turkeys. Goose raising is a minor farm enterprise in practically all countries, but in central Europe and parts of France


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there is important commercial goose production. Notably in France, these birds are raised specially to make the fatty delicacy “pâté de foie gras,” made from the diseased livers of force-fed geese

Game Fowl (Wild)
The early civilizations carried on the old traditions of hunting, trapping, and snaring fowl. The ancient Egyptians caught and ate ostrich, bustard, crane, dove, pigeon, duck, quail, partridge, pheasant, and goose. Birds associated with the gods were taboo, notably the falcon, the ibis (a kind of heron), and the vulture

The Greeks and Romans did not eat much fowl, although at feasts peacock, thrushes, and ring-dove might be served. However, we must remember that the food of the ordinary citizen was extremely frugal; banquets and feasts were for the few, the wealthy gentry

Managed Game Birds. Wild bird flesh corresponds closely to the Savanna Model. In addition, there is a large production of “managed” game to provide sport for shooting parties. These are predominantly pheasant, grouse, pigeon, partridge, and quail. (The partridge is related to the francolin hunted by the San.) However, often the managing techniques involve intensive feeding and the production of slow-flying birds. Their meat might well be closer to battery chicken quality than their wild counterparts

Ostrich and Emu. We are beginning to see some ranching of large flightless birds, notably ostrich and emu. The ostrich is the same species as the ostrich of our African homeland and hunted by the San; it can stand up to 8 feet high. The emu, from the savannas of Australia, is a slightly smaller bird, but still stands up to 6 feet high; it has flesh similar to the ostrich. Provided the farming of these creatures does not intensify (like it has for the chicken), their meat is in conformity with the Savanna Model

Eggs formed a regular part of our ancestors diet whenever they could find them. Of course, they were not restricted in the species of bird—anything from guinea fowl eggs to ostrich eggs would do just fine. Being in the tropics, the seasons did not vary much throughout the year, so there was usually the egg of some bird or another available most of the time for the San

Farmed. The first farmers had to go looking for wild eggs. The Fertile Crescent is outside the tropics (it is about the same latitude as Washington, D.C.) and mostly eggs only came along in spring. It was not until chickens were domesticated that eggs were “farmed”: wherever the chicken arrived, the hen’s egg arrived too. In due course, as duck, goose, and turkey were domesticated, these creatures were bred for their eggs as well. Today, with the enormous advantage of price and the massive volume of battery-hen production, it is the hen’s egg that totally dominates the food supply. Does this matter? Are there


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significant differences between battery-farmed hen’s eggs and wild eggs from a variety of birds? We will see later that there are differences, but not necessarily the ones we think

Wild. The gathering of wild eggs today is greatly restricted by government regulation in most developed countries. However, the eggs of many species are available in small quantities as a by-product of the management of game birds

In this way, eggs from quail, pigeons, gulls, lapwings, plovers, pheasants, and ostriches are available to culinary enthusiasts. We must also mention eggs from reptiles: eggs from crocodiles and turtles would have been quite common in the diet of our African Pleistocene ancestors. Turtles lay eggs in prodigious numbers in sandy shorelines, and collecting and commercializing them has become a major industry in Malaysia. Wild eggs in general form a tiny part of consumption in the developed world and, with the possible exception of quail eggs, most people have never even seen one

Seafood (Fish and Shellfish)
Our ancient ancestors certainly consumed fish and shellfish on a modest scale—up to 12% of calories according to Michael Crawford, professor of nutrition at London Metropolitan University. (20) As we saw in chapter 1, fish were speared and trapped as the occasion presented itself. Pleistocene man (or more likely women) easily collected shellfish along the shoreline of African lakes and rivers

Farmed. Early civilizations took a long time to learn to farm fish. Carp originated in China and have been raised in ponds and rice paddies there for 3,000 years. From about 500 B.C., the ancient Egyptians raised fish in specially built ponds. The main species was Nile perch, a variety of tilapia, which is still commonly available today. Carp cultivation has spread all over the world, notably central Europe, but it was always on the scale of the village pond or its equivalent

It was not until the 1960s that fish farming or “aquaculture” came of age. Since then, salmon, trout, catfish, and tilapia have been farmed on an industrial scale. They have almost completely displaced their wild counterparts from our tables. Less commonly farmed are carp, mullet, redfish, and sea bass. Efforts are already under way to farm tuna, cod, sea bream, and turbot in vast enclosed offshore pens

The farming of shellfish, mainly mussels, oysters, shrimps, and prawns, has been carried out on a minor scale for centuries in Europe and Japan. Again, since the 1970s, rapid advances in technology have allowed the farm production of shrimp and prawns to explode. They have elbowed out the wild variety. The farming of clams, crayfish, oysters, and mussels is also growing fast

The fish and shellfish consumed in our ancestral diet were entirely of freshwater varieties. On the other hand, modern fish farming is concentrated mostly on seafood. It appears that this is not an important distinction—if there is a


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problem with aquaculture, it is with the way the creatures are often fed and the pollutants that get into their bodies

Wild. Up until the 1970s, virtually the only fish on our plates were ones caught in the wild. Now, we have seen the huge volume of fish, notably salmon and trout, that are produced by fish farms. Even so, most other species that we find in our supermarkets (fresh, frozen, or canned) are still wild. Cod, halibut, tuna, sardine, plaice, mackerel, pollock, herring, and many others, for the time being at least, are all caught in the wild. We can say that many of them conform to the Savanna Model while the others, if not conforming, are certainly not harmful

Exotic Animal Foods
Reptile foods, including crocodile, alligator, and turtle, although uncommon in the Western diet, are still readily available to the enthusiast. In addition, many societies make use of snakes, such as python and boa constrictor, and the French have made a delicacy of frog’s legs. All of these foods, as they are currently available, readily fit the Savanna Model

There are many gatherer societies around the world, such as the Yanomamo Indians of the Amazon and the Cahuilla Indians of California, that eat (or used to eat) worms of all kinds. Curiously, there is little evidence that the San ate worms and we can only surmise if they were a common component of the Pleistocene diet. It is likely that they were—worms are easy to unearth at certain times of the year by wetting the ground and drumming to bring them to the surface

Italian biologist Dr. Maurizio Paoletti, from Padua University, has made a study of “mini-livestock” eaten by forager tribes today and finds that earthworms are an excellent food source, (
21) which we authenticate as conforming to the Savanna Model

Hunter-gatherers around the world still eat insects of all kinds and anything is fair game. They collect the immature and adult forms of grasshoppers and crickets; the caterpillars of silk moths; and the larvae and pupae of beetles, bees, ants, flies and hornets. Dr. Paoletti has found that the larvae of palm weevils, as raised by certain Amazonian tribes, have an excellent nutritional profile and no drawbacks.(
22) The Australian Aborigines prize the witchety grub, a kind of large caterpillar up to 3” long and 1/2” in diameter. It is relatively fatty (19%) and, when toasted in the embers of a fire, tastes a bit like roasted sweet-corn

Many primitive societies eat snails and their shell-less cousins, the slug. The idea to some minds seems grotesque, yet they are a valuable, easily collected source of food. In fact snails have been commonly raised and eaten in the Middle East and Europe for thousands of years. The French, of course, have made a national dish out of snails: “escargots” cooked in garlic and butter are even considered a delicacy. Snail and slug flesh conforms to the Savanna Model, although the French recipe is not ideal nutritionally.


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The Consequences of Eating Animal Foods
We have seen how the New Stone Age farmers “improved” the breed of the pig, cow, and sheep. Quite inadvertently, these improvements changed the nutritional qualities. The flesh became much fatter, increasing from just 4% fat to 25% fat. Also, the type of fat changed from certain kinds of polyunsaturated fat to various types of saturated fat. We now associate the consumption of beef, pork, and lamb with cancers, heart disease, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases

In the next chapter we will examine this link. The goat, which has remained popular with many simpler farming cultures, has not been subjected to the same processes of intensive breeding and has largely escaped this unhealthy transformation. Its meat is low in fat (just 2%), half of which is harmless monounsaturated fat. Most meats of wild origin have a similar fatty acid composition, in conformity with the Savanna Model

Similarly, wildfowl and wild fish are just fine. Poultry, particularly chicken and turkey, tend to be fattier and contain more of the unhealthy fats. The breast (white meat) of the bird is the best, when it has the skin and fat removed, and free-range chickens tend to be leaner and healthier. Duck and goose are also fatty birds, but their fats are semi-liquid at room temperature, indicating a low saturated fat content. Eggs have more “good” fats if they come from chickens who have ranged freely and eaten a diet natural to their species. Fish have more “good” oils if they are wild or have at least been fed correctly on the fish farms

PROTEIN-RICH FOODS OF PLANT ORIGIN Protein-rich plant foods fall into two broad classes, nuts and legumes. Their protein content is comparable to that of lean beef steak—20% to 25% and sometimes more. In contrast, an egg is only around 13% protein. Nuts are often called “tree-nuts” to distinguish them from the peanut, which grows underground and is a legume


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In Chapter 1, we saw how the mongongo nut was a great standby for the San. There were many other nuts too, including those of the baobab tree, the ochna, and the soapberry tree. However, the nuts that we know today have come from all over the world. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and chestnuts are all native to the Fertile Crescent and were domesticated early during the farming revolution

The Brazil nut and the cashew nut are native to South America, the pecan to North America, and the macadamia to Queensland in Australia, and all of these nuts have become familiar to us in the West. They are often processed in various ways, notably by roasting and salting, which improves shelf life and taste, but it is not a nutritional improvement

The Coconut
The coconut is native to Malaya, but the first European to see one was the Venetian adventurer, Marco Polo, in his travels to China in the 13th century. Conventionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies the coconut as a tree-nut. However the nutritional profile of coconut meat is nothing like other nuts: its predominant constituent is in fact water, around 45%; the rest is oil (35%) and a high percentage of dietary fiber (9%). There is some sugar (5%) and very little protein (3%). The oil content is the determining nutritional characteristic of coconut meat and for this reason we group coconuts with fats and oils.

We saw too that the San consumed foods called “beans,” notably the tsin bean. These are podded seeds that belong to the pea family, similar to the legumes. However, the class of legumes known as “dry beans” first entered the food supply of humans only 11,000 years ago with the Farming Revolution. Lentils and chickpeas are indigenous to the Kurdistan area and their cultivation spread rapidly to other civilizations in Egypt, India, and China. Those peoples then developed local varieties—for example, the soybean in China, the fava (or broad) bean in Egypt, and mung bean in India. Across the Pacific, the new civilizations in Central and South America were developing the native kidney bean, pinto bean, haricot bean, and lima bean. These beans, together with the fava bean and mung bean, all come from the genus (a grouping of species) Phaseolus and form the class of legumes that we think of as “beans.” Unlike the case with grains, consumers in the developed world have not taken up the use of beans (Phaseolus) with enthusiasm: in the U.S., consumption is around 7 pounds per person annually; in Europe, it is 5 pounds annually. We will see that this is not a bad thing

Soy comes from a different genus of legumes called
Glycine. Even though soy originated in China, consumption there was minimal. According to K. C. Chang, editor of Food in Chinese Culture, the total soy protein intake in 1930s China was no more than 5 grams per person weekly. In Japan, consumption has increased slowly since those days, but even now soy protein intake is still only a modest 8 grams per day, according to Chisato Nagata, a researcher at Gifu University School of Medicine, in Japan.(23) In America, soy was unknown until about 80 years ago, when it was introduced to feed cows. Then, in a promotional campaign reminiscent of Kellogg’s breakfast cereal marketing wonder (see Chapter 2), just since 1970 Americans have been taught to eat soy. Consumption has been doubling every 12 years. The publicity touted soy as a meat substitute with supposed health benefits and vegetarians and vegans have enthusiastically adopted soy in all its forms—tofu, soy burgers, soy yogurt, soy milk, soy cheeses, and so on. Their consumption can reach a massive 70 grams per person How We Eat and Its Consequences 65 daily. Even the average consumer is unwittingly consuming soy as soy flour is added to all kinds of processed foods

When we buy a pack of dried beans or lentils, the label warns that the contents must be thoroughly boiled. This tells us that, in their raw natural state, legumes are poisonous. Our savanna ancestors could not even boil water, let alone cook legumes, so humans never developed resistance to the poisons in them. However, even after boiling, legumes still contain harmful substances, slow-acting poisons that disrupt the harmonious working of the body. According to their variety, beans and lentils can provoke immune depression, malignant tumors, red blood cell disruption, pancreatic problems, intestinal disease, and allergies. Soy contains at least 15 allergens, of which three are considered “major” by researcher Hideaki Tsuji of Okayama Prefectoral University, in Japan. (
24) Soy is also strongly linked to cancers, (25) senile dementia, (26) thyroid disorders, (27)  pancreatic problems, (28) and disrupted hormone function

The San tribe hunter would track an antelope for several days to get close enough to shoot it with poisonous arrows. We can be certain that neither the San, nor our Pleistocene ancestors, ever got close enough to a mother antelope to suckle its teats. Such a feat only became possible after the farming revolution with the domestication of farm animals. Even so, not many societies made much use of this unusual idea

It took the special circumstances encountered by the nomads of the Russian Steppes to change that. They were early Europeans who lived in the treeless plains of what is now the eastern Ukraine. By 4000
B.C., these people had learned to keep herds of horses, cattle, sheep, and goats. However, under the sparse conditions of the steppe, a migratory way of life became necessary. The animals consumed the grass faster than it could grow, so the herders had to keep their animals moving in search of new pastures and, as a consequence, abandon planting. This was the first time that human beings learned to live largely from their animals. In practice, this meant consuming the only renewable resource: milk, cheese, and other dairy products. To do that, they had to tame mother animals that had just given birth to a calf to allow milking by human hand. By about 2000 B.C., the herders had mastered their techniques and, constantly in search of new pastures, these nomads infiltrated much of northwest Europe, carrying the practice of dairy farming with them

In this way, Slavs, Germans, Scandinavians, and Anglo-Saxons became dairy farmers too, focusing on the cow. Some parts of southern Europe adopted, in a minor way, sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. Roquefort cheese is made from sheep’s milk in Toulouse, France, and the Greeks use goat’s milk to make feta cheese. To the east, the Mongols took up the practice of dairying with the yak (a kind of massive ox)

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 Other nomadic tribes stumbled upon the use of milk too. About the time the Ukrainians were carrying dairy farming to Europe (4,000 years ago), another herder, Abraham, was setting out from present-day Iraq for his “land of milk and honey” in Palestine. However, neither the Israelites nor for that matter the Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans made an industry out of dairying

Just 500 years ago, Mongol invaders (the descendants of Genghis Khan) brought dairying to the fringes of their empire in northern India and Persia. A little later, the English, Germans, and Scandinavians brought dairy farming to North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Nevertheless, it comes as a surprise to us in the West to discover that, as dairy consumers, we are in a small minority. A large majority of the world’s population (some 5 billion out of 6 billion people) had no idea about dairy until the last 50 years. These non-milk drinkers lived in vast swathes of territory, from Africa to southern India, from China to Japan, and from Latin America to Polynesia. The regular consumption of dairy foods, even today, only applies to a minority of people on the planet— those mostly living in the industrialized West

Interestingly, when in recent years Western dairymen entered these untapped markets, they hit upon an unexpected difficulty. The new, potential consumers thought that dairy consumption was a strange practice and found that it often disagreed with them. We now understand that dairy products can be a problem

For example, the San are uniformly intolerant of the lactose in milk and this applies in some degree to everyone on the planet. Lactose intolerance gives rise to allergies, headaches, bloating, colon diseases, and many other disorders

The unhealthy properties of milk fat are now mostly accepted. We are told that fat-free milk is good for us and it is even better to stay away from cream, butter, and ice cream. For many years now, the connection between these foods and high cholesterol, heart disease, strokes, and hardening of the arteries has been well known. Scientific findings show that dairy consumption from any source (cow, goat, sheep) and in any form (including skimmed milk, cheese, and yogurt) is associated with a number of serious, slow-acting diseases, including osteoporosis, high cholesterol, cancers, allergies, heart disease, and obesity. The notion that dairy products
cause osteoporosis is so contrary to conventional nutritional dogma that it needs solid justification. In chapter 4, we will look at the scientific background to these assertions

It has been noted that the Germanic peoples, the ones who adopted dairy farming early, seem to tolerate milk quite well in their early years. We find, however, that childhood tolerance to milk wears off. Germanic senior citizens are just as vulnerable to milk intolerance as everybody else. This is one of the few instances that we know of where a human tribe has evolved an adaptation to a new food. We now suspect that early dairy herders must have suffered a very high percentage of weanlings dying from a bad reaction to milk. The ones that survived had a genetic makeup that allowed them to live through the 

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experience and pass their genes on to their descendants. Even so, such people still suffer, like the rest of the population, from the slower-acting diseases caused by dairy foods

The term fat and the term oil mean essentially the same thing. A fat is simply an oil that is solid at room temperature. Fats (oils) fall into three classes: saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. In nature, any particular fat (oil) is a cocktail of all three classes. As a rule of thumb, if it is solid (fat) at room temperature, then the chief component is saturated fat

We have seen that the food supply of the African savanna was very low in fat. It was never available on its own and the foods themselves did not contain much. The San really loved to eat the warthog, which had a relatively high fat content of around 10% (but still a lot lower than red meat’s 25%). The other major source of fat was the mongongo nut. The situation remained much the same throughout history until well after the farming revolution. It was not until a few thousand years ago that domesticated animals, notably the pig, were bred porky enough to yield a fat that could be separated out. This kind of fat is lard, whereas fat from cows and sheep is known as tallow. Even so, it was only in certain places and certain levels of prosperity that farming peoples had the luxury of free animal fat in cooking. Traditionally, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese cooking is done with water, not fat

Butter is also an animal fat, so the first dairy farmers were among the first to have fat as a separate entity. Several thousand years later, it was the same people (mostly northern Europeans) who, in the Middle Ages, discovered more efficient ways to raise livestock. This was the first time that a large group of humans had an abundance of meat and fat throughout the year. Fatty cuisine, utilizing cream, lard, and butter became the norm in Germany, Central Europe, and England

These same peoples then brought the animal fat habit to North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Animal fat consumption in U.S. was already strong in 1909 at 34 pounds per person per year; by 2000, consumption had accelerated to 42 pounds annually

Meanwhile, in the southern parts of Europe and in the Near East, early farmers had domesticated the olive. The earliest recorded occurrence is from the Greek island of Crete around 3500
B.C. (29) Its cultivation was important to the ancient Greeks and Romans and they spread it to all the countries bordering the Mediterranean

Fresh olives are extremely bitter and must be treated with lye (a strong alkali leached from wood ash) before they can be eaten. Today, olives are grown primarily for olive oil. The Greeks first extracted the oil simply by heaping the olives on the ground in the sunshine and collecting the oil as it dribbled out of the ripe fruit. Now it is pressed out, but in the first pressing not a lot of pressure is used so that the bitterness stays behind; this is known as “extra virgin oil.” Greece
68 Deadly Harvest remains the biggest consumer at about 42 pounds per person per year, while the tiny consumption in the U.S. has risen from 10 ounces to 1.5 pounds per person annually. Similar figures are seen in England, France, and Germany

It is difficult to imagine, but just 100 years ago corn oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil (Canola oil), safflower oil, cottonseed oil, and other “vegetable” oils were virtually unknown to the ordinary consumer. They existed, of course, but only as an unwanted by-product of agricultural processes. The U.S. cooked with solid animal fats as did northern Europe, including Britain and Germany. Then, in 1910, the first process was developed by the food giant Procter and Gamble, in Cincinnati, Ohio, for turning these waste vegetable oils into something useful—cooking fat. The process was “hydrogenation.” Thus, Crisco
(r) vegetable shortening was born and swiftly commercialized as a replacement for lard. It was cheaper, more convenient, and the quality more predictable than the animal fat alternatives

Gradually, vegetable fat became popular until, by World War II, farmers grew plants specifically to supply oil to the new vegetable fat industry. Beginning in the 1950s, the budding fast food industry discovered and liked these fats: they had a long shelf life and could be reheated and reused repeatedly without producing “off” flavors. Similar qualities endeared vegetable fats to the rapidly expanding snack food industry. It is remarkable to think that fast foods and snack foods have only been commonplace since the mid 1960s

However, in the 1970s researchers made the connection between saturated fat and heart disease and the spotlight was put on the practice of hydrogenation— yes, it was turning a relatively harmless plant oil into a health-threatening saturated fat. The solution was straightforward: just use the oil in its original, unhydrogenated state. Supermarket shelves filled with a wide range of vegetable cooking oils. By this time, the extraction technology had become more sophisticated. Today, high temperatures and pressures double the yield and petroleum solvents, such as hexane, extract the last drop out of the crushed oil seed. The raw oil is then bleached, deodorized, de-gummed, de-waxed, and refined with caustic soda. This produces vegetable oils that are clear, heat stable, bland, and odorless (some varieties can be used as engine oil).

Meanwhile, the fast food industry, expanding rapidly, continued using solid hydrogenated vegetable fat (commonly known as “shortening”) for its french fries until the 1990s. Recently, the concerns about hydrogenation encouraged them to convert to the original, liquid, unhydrogenated vegetable oil. This is a step in the right direction, but not the whole story, as we shall see. The net result of the enthusiastic adoption of vegetable oils is a dramatic, 24- fold increase in U.S. consumption, from 1.5 pounds per person per year in 1909 to 36 pounds per person annually in 2000. Overall consumption of all fats and oils combined has more than doubled from 35 pounds per person per year in


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We saw in Chapter 1 that humans are not designed to consume much fat and oil, and what little they do consume has to be of a certain kind. Today, we are consuming very high quantities of oils and fats—40% of calories for the average American—and these fats and oils are different from those found in our ancestral homeland. We can trace a range of diseases to this departure from the Savanna Model: artery plaque, thrombosis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, arthritis, allergies, cancers, obesity, diabetes, asthma, menstrual cramps, and many more. What is going on? We’ve all heard the slogan “fat makes you fat”, but how can fat (oil) possibly be responsible for such a wide range of other illnesses? The answer lies in our hormones: many fats manipulate our hormones, others do nothing, and yet others block hormones altogether. In other words, like bulls in a china shop, we are blundering about, knocking over our hormones, blissfully unaware of how the fats and oils we eat are disrupting the fine balance of our bodies’ workings. This is a crucial, but neglected aspect of what we eat: it can affect our body in subtle, unseen, yet harmful ways

In Chapter 2, we split the USDA’s “sweets” section from the Fats, Oils, and Sweets group and renamed it the “Sugar Group.” What the USDA means by “sweets” is sugar and foods with a high sugar content, such as candies, soft drinks, and some desserts. They are mainly thinking of the familiar sugar that we know as “table sugar,” although they also mention other sources of sugar, including honey, maple syrup, and corn syrup

There are, in fact, several types of sugar. Fructose is a sugar that is commonly found concentrated in many fruits (from which it gets its name); another common sugar is glucose. Frequently, the two combine equally to form a new type of sugar called sucrose. Table sugar is 99% sucrose and comes either from sugar cane or sugar beets. As we have seen, sweet foods were a rare commodity in the ancestral diet. The main source was honey, which is composed of several different sugars, with glucose and fructose as the major components

Even though most people today do not eat much honey, it has become a byword for innate goodness, sweetness, and even love. Winnie the Pooh said that “eating honey” was his favorite pastime. Shakespeare mentions honey 47 times: as endearments (“honey-love”), as flattery (“honeyed words”), as a sugar-coating for something unpleasant, as a delicacy, as something healing, and, by its association with bees, with industry and chasteness

Our Pleistocene ancestors gave priority to finding honey, but they would not have found much. Australian anthropologist Betty Meehan lived for a year with the native Anbarra aboriginals of Northern Australia and she recorded an average honey consumption of around 4 pounds per person per year. (
30) That

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contrasts with the current average consumption of sugar in the U.S. of about 160 pounds per person per year—40 times as much

The situation would have remained much the same up until the first farmers learned how to “farm” bees. The first recorded instance of beekeeping is in Ancient Egypt around 2400
B.C. From that time on, it is clear that, for the ancient Egyptians at least, honey became more available. Even so, it is certain that honey consumption was limited to the affluent classes: in 2100 B.C., the 1,000 manual workers building a monument ate “bread, vegetables, and meat”, whereas the king’s messenger received in addition “oil, fat, wine, figs, and honey.” (31). A marriage contract of around 1200 B.C. provides the bride with “12 jars of honey per year” (around 20 pounds), so honey is still precious and rare enough to form part of a marriage bargain. The boy-Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, had jars of honey buried with him. On the other hand, it seems that the ordinary populace had to make do with other sources of sweetness, which archaeologists have identified as syrups made from the juices of figs, dates, and grapes.(32)

The practice of beekeeping spread to ancient Greece and Rome, while the ancient Chinese imported honey from the Mediterranean area. In A.D. 500, one retired Peking bureaucrat was paid a quart of honey per month as pension. In late Bronze Age Britain (around 1000 B.C.), the production of beeswax was vital for the casting of bronze objects. We can suppose that the Ancient Britons enjoyed eating the honey that came with the wax

In Europe’s Middle Ages, there are many records of honey production. In England, Dame Alice de Bryene recorded in her household accounts for the year 1412 to 1413 a consumption of 6-
1/2 quarts of honey. In her 40-strong household, this works out at less than half a pound per person per year. By Shakespeare’s time, at the turn of the 1600s, just about every smallholder and cottager would have had a hive or two. Honey was commonplace but not available in large quantities, perhaps not even the 4 pounds per person annually that the Australian aboriginal was able to find by foraging. Even today, honey consumption in the U.S. languishes at around 1 pound per person per year, but that is because of the arrival of a powerful competitor—sugar

Table Sugar
Common sugar (or table sugar) comes chiefly from either sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugar cane is native to New Guinea in Southeast Asia and several thousand years ago, sugar cane cultivation spread throughout tropical Asia, notably to India. Alexander the Great, in his conquest of the Ganges area of India during the 3rd century B.C., was one of the first Europeans to come into contact with sugar cane. He reported the existence of a “stiff grass yielding a kind of honey.” Mostly Indians just chewed the cane, but around this time, in 400 B.C., they were trying to develop ways to extract the juice. The methods were rudimentary, but they were the first examples of sugar presses or “mills.”

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During the Dark Ages (around A.D. 500 to A.D. 1000), all contact with India was lost, so the crusaders in the 11th century became the first Europeans for over a millennium to come into contact with sugar. This was in Arabia and by this time extraction and refining had improved. Sugar came as a solid lump or “loaf” and it was as rare and expensive as spices. The source of sugar was a mystery, one that was closely guarded by the Arab merchants, but the returning crusaders were sufficiently enthusiastic (and entrepreneurial) to start trading sugar with the Arabs. In Europe, as is the way with rare and expensive commodities, wealthy households started to replace “cheap” honey by extravagant sugar. Then, in the 1390s, sugar cane was planted in southern Spain and Portugal by the Arab occupiers. The secret was out and sugar cane was carried to the Canaries, the recently discovered islands off the coast of Africa under Spanish control. In 1493, on his second voyage, Columbus stopped in the Canaries and took the first sugar cane cuttings to the New World. In the 1550s, the Portuguese already had a strongly developed sugar industry in Brazil, with 2,000 sugar mills along the northeast coast. (33) Even so, until the 1750s, sugar was still worth its weight in gold. Big profits could be made by those who could find new sugar-growing areas and more efficient means to extract the sugar. Speculators, entrepreneurs, and planters hastened to cultivate sugar cane in all suitable parts of the tropics and subtropics. During the 18th century, sugar plantations sprang up all over the Caribbean—in Haiti, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and Guadeloupe. In the century from 1700 to 1800, British consumption trebled from 4 pounds per person per year to 12 pounds annually. By the end of that century, sugar was readily available in rural areas as well as towns and was within the reach of all classes in society. At first, most sugar in Britain was used in tea, but later candies and chocolates became extremely popular. Planting increased during the 19th century, expanding to Fiji, Hawaii, Australia, India, Thailand, and southern Africa. During the 20th century, Florida became a world-scale producer.


An Elizabethan Overindulgence
Sugar was still beyond the means of the common folk, but it seems that the wealthy were already overindulging. Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 16th century received regal presents of loafsugar from the King of Morocco. In 1598, a foreign visitor remarked of Elizabeth that “her teeth were black, a defect to which the English gentry seem subject from their great use of sugar.” (34). Perhaps unwittingly, the King of Morocco’s generosity was the cause.  


That was cane sugar, but in the middle of the 18th century, a German scientist devised a method of extracting sugar from another plant, mangel-wurzel, a

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type of beet. Fifty years later, another German improved the mangel-wurzel to the plant now known as “sugar beet” and erected the first beet-sugar factory in 1802. In 1811, Napoleon was worried about the British blockade of sugar imports from the West Indies (the same blockade that drove the French to eat potatoes), so he set up sugar-beet schools, factories, and plantations. Sugar-beet grows easily in temperate climates and most European countries quickly set up their own sugar-beet industry. The same techniques were adopted in North America, Russia, China, Japan, and other temperate zones of the world. Now, production of sugar from sugar beets rivals that from sugar cane

Just in the last century, sugar has moved from being a luxury item to a cheap commodity. Annual consumption in America of sugar from these two sources rose to 61.5 pounds per person in 2004. Even so, supply outstrips demand and competition is intense. Farm prices have been driven down and each country is protecting its sugar industry by holding consumer prices high

This has led to yet another development: the extraction of sugar from corn (maize) starch. It might surprise you to know that sugar can be made from corn, but the marvels of modern technology have performed such a feat. This product is called “high-fructose corn syrup” (HFCS), although the name is a bit misleading, since it has exactly the same quantities of fructose and sucrose as table sugar. It is a lot cheaper than the artificially high price of cane sugar. Particularly in the U.S., HFCS has replaced table sugar in a great many foods. High fructose corn syrup mixes well in many foods, is cheap to produce, tastes sweet, and is easy to store. It is used in everything from bread and pasta sauces to bacon and beer as well as in “health products” like protein bars. However, by far its greatest use is in carbonated soft drinks—the American soft drinks industry switched from sugar to HFCS in the 1970s. As a result, American annual consumption of HFCS has soared from zero in 1969 to 59.2 pounds per person in 2004

The Problems with Eating Sugar
When we add all the sugar sources together (including minor sources such as maple syrup, molasses, and so on), annual sugar consumption in U.S. has shot up, just in 300 years, from around 4 pounds per person (as in the Savanna Model) to 141.0 pounds per person.(35) We might suppose that such a dramatic move away from the Savanna Model in sugar consumption has consequences, and indeed it does. As is now commonly accepted, sugar intake is not healthy: it disturbs blood sugar control which, as with grains and potato, is linked to the tremendous increase in heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cancers, bone disease, allergies, and many more conditions. This constellation of diseases is sometimes called “Syndrome X” or “sugar disease.” In addition, sugar is devoid of any other nutrients and it works yet more harm by displacing more nutritious foods from the diet  

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Salt is a compound made up of two elements, sodium and chlorine. As a rule of thumb, 6 grams of salt contain 2.5 grams of sodium and 3.5 grams of chlorine.(36) Put another way, 2.5 grams of sodium make 6 grams of salt. Often nutritionists talk about the “sodium content” of food rather than the “salt content,” because the body recognizes sodium in all its forms and sodium, not chlorine, is what has such a decisive effect on our health. Most of the sodium we consume comes in the form of table salt, although some people get additional sodium, for example, from the sodium bicarbonate in antacids

We saw in Chapter 1 how the San’s diet was very low in salt, about 650 mg per day (Americans on average consume ten times this amount). The San have no sources of salt and the only sodium comes from what is naturally present in the plants they eat. Our understanding of this ancestral diet suggests that the situation was identical for the whole of our evolutionary past, as our ancestors lived inland and had no access to naturally occurring salt. The Savanna Model diet is very low in sodium and, significantly, rich in another mineral called potassium

The USDA, both in its pyramid and dietary guidelines for Americans, subtly but insistently encourages people to reduce salt consumption. They point out that most salt is ingested from prepared and processed foods, so that much of the salt is so disguised that we do not realize it is there. Did you know that cornflakes are saltier than seawater?

But salt was not always so freely available. Homer related in
The Odyssey that Odysseus should look for a people who had no knowledge of salt—these were the Epeirotes who, even after the capture of Troy, knew nothing of the sea

The Greeks themselves came late to the use of salt and they might have had a taboo against it. Early Indo-Europeans and Sanskrit-speaking peoples (early Hindus) had no word for salt. To the Romans, salt was a scarce commodity and they even paid their soldiers with it (our word
salary comes from the Latin salarium meaning “salt-payment”). The same goes for many other civilizations: salt was a form of money and was treated with respect. Many Central American tribes knew nothing of salt until the Spanish conquest and the same was true of central Africa before European contact

Of course, many peoples who lived close to the sea had access to salt. They created salt-drying beds along the shoreline and harvested the salt for consumption and trade. Nevertheless, this was a cottage industry until recent times, when salt production was put on an industrialized footing. In some areas, salt beds deep under the Earth were discovered. The Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks sent unfortunate wretches underground to mine salt by hand

Nowadays, it is either excavated by huge mining machines or extracted through boreholes using high-pressure steam. Suddenly, salt moved from being a rare, tradable product to a freely available, cheap commodity. Salt consumption rocketed in the U.S. from around 1 gram per person per day to 10 grams per day

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Researcher Boyd Eaton estimates that the typical daily consumption of sodium in Pleistocene times was no more than 0.7 gram per person.(37) It was obtained purely from what was intrinsic to the foods they ate. The average American consumes 4 grams of sodium (10 grams of salt) per day, nearly six times as much. This heavy salt load poses a problem for the body: it is linked to problems such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis,(38) and blocked arteries. We tend to think of our arteries as being like inert plastic plumbing, but in reality they are living tissue and high salt levels irritate and scar them. The blood pressure specialist Professor Louis Tobian has shown that salt damages arteries even if your blood pressure is normal.(39) Also, over-consumption of salt drains calcium out of the bones and high salt levels cause our kidneys to malfunction, provoking abnormally high blood pressure

Nutritionists have demonized salt often enough, so what has been said so far is not a surprise. However, there is another factor that is important—the consumption of the mineral potassium. Sodium and potassium work as a team in tiny, yet vital, quantities in the electrical circuitry of body cells. They need to be consumed in a ratio of about 1 part of sodium to 5 parts potassium. Boyd Eaton finds that this is exactly the ratio consumed, quite naturally and without forethought, by humans in Pleistocene times.(
40) Potassium is abundant in fruits, salads, and vegetables. In the average American diet today, the see-saw is unbalanced the other way—1 part potassium to 2.5 parts sodium—and this has repercussions on the efficient working of every cell in our bodies

In chapter 2, we introduced a new food group, Beverages. The reason is that the USDA in its dietary guidelines for Americans only makes passing reference to alcohol, sodas, fruit juice, and water, and no mention at all is made of tea or coffee. Nevertheless, beverages are an important factor in our food intake and we need to know how they fit into the scheme of things. We therefore make a food group of beverages and single out the ones that dominate our Western consumption pattern

The main beverage for our Pleistocene ancestors was water, plain and simple. Or perhaps not so plain—often it came from a waterhole used by the other creatures of the savanna, containing all kinds of bugs, germs, and sediment. In addition, fluid was obtained from vegetation such as the tsama melon, roots and tubers, and even from rainwater collected in the hollow trunks of trees. Finally, some liquid was obtained from the mammals that were killed on occasion; the San would drink the blood and stomach contents of antelope, for example

Alcoholic Beverages
It is an interesting thought that in ancient times, no one had a means of boiling water. It was not until the invention of kiln-fired pottery in Egypt around 6000 B.C.

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that water could be heated and infused with herbs to give it flavor. Within a heartbeat of learning how to make pots, these inventive people also discovered how to ferment beverages to make forms of beer and wine. In short order, most civilizations adopted, or discovered for themselves, local variations on these basic beverages. In 2100 B.C., Sumerian doctors prescribed beer for many ailments; Egyptian doctors in 1500 B.C. included beer or wine in 15% of their prescriptions. By 1170 B.C., Hammurabi of Babylon, in his code of laws, regulated drinking houses and pre-biblical Canaanites had a multitude of uses for intoxicating fluids

Meanwhile, Indians and Chinese made intoxicating beverages from barley and rice. The 3,000-year-old Hindu Ayurvedic medicine teaches both the beneficial uses of alcoholic beverages and the consequences of intoxication and the diseases of alcoholism. Most of the peoples in India, as well as Sri Lanka, the Philippines, China, and Japan, have continued to ferment a portion of their crops. Japanese sake is a well-known drink made from fermented rice

In Africa, maize, millet, bananas, honey, the saps of the palm and the bamboo, and many fruits have been used to ferment beers and wines, the best known being kaffir beer and palm wines. The Tarahumara of northern Mexico made beers from corn and agave, and the Papago Indians made a cactus wine

Throughout Central and South America, the Indians made alcoholic beverages from maize, tubers, fruits, flowers, and saps. In contrast, the San, the Eskimo, the Australian aboriginal, the North American Indian, and the Polynesian never discovered fermentation

Today, the choice of fermented drinks has narrowed down to two main types, wine and beer. Wine is made from grapes and can have an alcoholic strength up to 13%. Beer is made from malted barley and has strengths between 4% and 6% alcohol; most varieties of beer are flavored with hops to give it a bitter taste. Consumption of wine in the U.S. has increased from 1.3 gallons per person per year in 1970 to 2.2 gallons annually in 2002. For beer, the figures show an increase from 18.5 gallons per person per year to 22.0 gallons annually. (These are figures covering the whole population, not just those of drinking age.)

 Fermentation produces a drink with a maximum alcohol content of only about 13%, but usually it is much less. By about 2,800 years ago, the Chinese had worked out a method to make the alcohol content much stronger—distillation

Around the same time, the Javanese discovered how to distill a potion they call “arrack” from fermented sugar cane and rice. The Greeks and Romans also made crude distilled products. However, it took the Arab alchemists in the 8
th century to develop the equipment and techniques to put distillation on a predictable, economic, and palatable footing. By the late Middle Ages, distilled spirits were widespread in Europe. The beverages could now have an alcohol content ranging up to 80%. (Nowadays, most governments restrict the alcohol 

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content to 45% maximum.) In the 19th century, Western entrepreneurs industrialized the production of spirits and actively sold to global markets. In this way, Scottish whisky, Dutch gin, English rum, French brandy, American bourbon, and Russian vodka beat out local brews to become world brands. Consumption of spirits has declined in America from 1.8 gallons per person per year in 1970 to 1.1 gallons annually in 2002. (Again, these figures cover the whole population, not just those of drinking age.)

 Back in the Middle Ages, monks were experimenting with making alcoholic “elixirs” designed for medicinal purposes, with closely guarded recipes using fruits, sugar, herbs, and spices. We know these elixirs today as “liqueurs.” Benedictine was among the first liqueurs in 1510. Chartreuse came in 1607 and was swiftly followed by Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Curacao, and many more. They have an alcohol content ranging from 25% to 60%

Tea and Coffee
Earlier, we mentioned heated water and infused herbs—one of them, tea, found by the Chinese around 350 B.C., has come to dominate the market. But tea did not come to Europe until the English East India company, trading with the secretive Chinese in the 1660s, introduced tea leaves to London’s coffee houses. This ushered in the picturesque age of the famous sailing clippers: these graceful, high-speed ships raced across the oceans to be the first with their precious cargo in the capitals of Europe. However, for almost two more centuries, no European knew what a tea plant looked like. Then, in 1827, a young Dutch tea taster, J.I.L.L. Jacobson, risked his life to penetrate China’s forbidden tea gardens and bring back tea seeds to cultivate the tea plant in the Dutch East Indies. In 1823, coincidentally, a variety of tea had been discovered growing wild in Assam, India. Under British government encouragement, tea plantations were developed using plants from both Assam and China, and India became a major producer and consumer of tea. Most tea in the world today is so-called “black tea”: it comes from the same plant as green tea, just the drying and fermentation process is different. Annual tea consumption in U.S. is not as high as in other countries and has been stable since 1970 at around 7 gallons per person

Coffee rivals tea in worldwide consumption. It is thought to have its birthplace in southern Ethiopia and to take its name from the province of Kaffa. It was as recently as the 15
th century that the plant was discovered and transplanted to southern Arabia. From there, it swiftly became popular all over the Arab world. By the early 1600s, major European cities could boast of their coffeehouses, which became centers of political, social, literary, and eventually business influence. By the late 1600s, coffeehouses became popular in North American cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Annual consumption of coffee has been falling in the U.S. in recent times, from 33.4 gallons per person in 1970 to 22 gallons in 2002

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Cocoa has its origins in Central America, where the Maya and Aztecs held it in great esteem. At the court of Montezuma, the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes was served a bitter cocoa-bean drink. He brought the bean to Europe, where the cocoa drink was sweetened, flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, and served hot. The beverage remained a Spanish secret for almost 100 years

In 1657, a Frenchman opened a shop in London, at which solid chocolate for making the beverage could be purchased at 15 shillings a pound. At this price, only the wealthy could afford to drink it, and fashionable chocolate houses appeared in London, Amsterdam, and other European capitals. It was not until the mid-19
th century that cocoa became affordable for all levels of society. Today, “chocolate drink” powders that have only a small percentage of cocoa adulterated with sweetener, fillers, and artificial flavors, dominate the market for cocoa

Soft Drinks The first marketed soft drinks appeared in 17th-century France as a mixture of water and lemon juice, sweetened with honey. But the race was on to carbonate water—the idea was to produce cheap versions of naturally occurring health spa mineral waters. In 1772, the English scientist Joseph Priestley demonstrated a small carbonating apparatus to the College of Physicians in London. For this invention, he is nicknamed “the father of the soft drinks industry.” Using Priestley’s apparatus, Thomas Henry, an apothecary in Manchester, England, produced the first commercial quantities of carbonated water. Jacob Schweppe, a jeweler in Geneva, read Priestley’s papers and, by 1794, was selling highly carbonated waters to his friends. He added other mineral salts and flavors, such as ginger, lemon, and quinine (to make tonic water). Schweppe moved to London and built a worldwide soft drinks empire

In 1886, Dr. John Pemberton, an Atlanta chemist, developed what he called an “esteemed brain tonic and intellectual beverage, a cure for all nervous affections, sick headache, neuralgia, hysteria, and melancholy.” Pemberton’s product contained carbonated water, sugar syrup, cocaine from coca leaves, caffeine from kola nuts, and other secret flavors. It was later marketed under a telling name, Coca-Cola. Because Pemberton was ill, he sold two-thirds of his business in 1888 to cover expenses. He died later that year, never knowing how successful the product would become. Asa Candler, an Atlanta druggist, bought the entire business in 1891 for $2,300. The Coca-Cola company removed the cocaine by 1929. Even so, consumption has soared. Americans in 1940 consumed an average of one 6.5 ounce bottle per week, or 2.6 gallons per year.(
41) This has increased ten times to 25.8 gallons per person for the year 2003. Another carbonated cola beverage has been around almost as long—Pepsi Cola; they sell 22.0 gallons per person annually. Thus, consumption of just these two beverages

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combined is nearly 48 gallons per person per year, or over a pint a day. Other carbonated soft drinks account for a further 7 gallons per year

We examined milk in the Milk Group, but here we look at it as a beverage. Milk in its raw form can be dangerously contaminated with unhealthy microbes. These used to cause a lot of sickness until Victorian times. Then, inspired by the work of Louis Pasteur, it was found that milk could be made safe by heating it to 162°F (72°C) for 15 seconds. This “pasteurized” milk was the form in which milk was commercialized until the 1960s. In those days, milk used to have the cream float to the surface (some may remember bottles of milk with a plug of rich cream at the top). Today, milk is usually “homogenized” as well: the milk is heated and squirted by pressure pumps through nozzles so that the cream stays evenly distributed throughout the milk

Since the 1960s, there has been an awakening to the dangers of milk fat— nutritionists have been advising the use of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk over whole milk. Skim milk is made in a machine that centrifuges the milk at 6,000 rpm to separate the fat from the skimmed milk. Consumption of whole milk has declined dramatically from 25.5 gallons per person per year in 1970 to 8.0 gallons annually in 2002. Meanwhile, skimmed milk consumption in its various forms has increased from 5.8 gallons to 15.5 gallons annually. Overall, annual milk consumption per person in America has declined from 31.3 gallons in 1970 to 22.2 gallons in 2002.(
42)  And the unhealthy milk fat? That is recycled back to American consumers as cream, butter, and ice cream

From the time when it was learned how to preserve fruit juices in reasonable condition (using pasteurization) in the 19th century, bottlers have canned and packaged various juice products. They pressed the juices from the fruit, strained, clarified, filtered, pectinized, and pasteurized it. They concentrate some juices by evaporation. Today, by far the most popular juice is from oranges; it is followed by apple, pineapple, and so on. Total fruit juice consumption has been rising steadily from 5.7 gallons per person per year in 1970 to 10 gallons annually in 2002

Our Pleistocene ancestors’ water came from rivers, lakes, and waterholes. Often, they had to compete with lions, crocodiles, and hyenas for a sip from a muddy, excrement-infested water source. It is probable that they picked up many nasty parasites and diseases from their water supply. Water supplies in the early civilizations were even worse: the high concentrations of population not only took water out of the river, but put sewage back in. The major cities would be located

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ed on a good river, and mostly the population had to get drinking water from it as best they could. There were outbreaks of various waterborne diseases, but usually the gods were blamed rather than unsanitary practices

This changed dramatically in Victorian times: there were particularly bad outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, and typhus in London and scientists had discovered that sewage-contaminated water was the cause. In reaction, the authorities undertook immense construction projects from 1850 to 1875 to build elaborate networks of pipes and tunnels to collect raw sewage and carry it to treatment works outside the city. In parallel, pumping stations, reservoirs, treatment stations, and pipe networks were constructed to bring safe drinking water to every household. It is said that this new science of public health engineering has done more to prevent and cure disease than any conventional medical treatment

Quickly, public health engineering spread to America and continental Europe. Overseas, the public works department became one of the most important development arms of British and French colonial governments

Water for municipal supplies comes from two chief sources: surface water from rivers and lakes, and groundwater from water-bearing layers underground. Surface water is usually dirtier and needs several stages of treatment. It is first filtered and then “flocculated,” a process whereby certain chemicals are added to the water to make the fine particles clump together and sink to the bottom where they can be strained off. Other chemicals are sometimes added to reduce acidity and to bring hardness to acceptable levels. Both surface water and groundwater need to be disinfected to kill harmful bacteria. Most commonly, this is done by injecting chlorine gas; excess chlorine is removed when it has done its work. The gas ozone is sometimes used instead of chlorine because it leaves less odor, but it is more expensive

In this way, municipal water contains traces of the chemicals that have been added. They are mostly harmless substances like slaked lime, baking soda, and alum (aluminum sulfate). Chlorine is potentially more aggressive, but the active quantities that remain are usually harmless too, certainly a lot less than in the average swimming pool

There is some evidence that a chemical called fluoride helps fight tooth decay so, more controversially, some municipalities voluntarily dose their water supply with fluoride. Now it happens that the waters of our African homeland were quite rich in fluoride, certainly no less than the concentrations deliberately put there by some municipal authorities. Nevertheless, many consumers object to being forcibly medicated in this way. A great many of the water treatment plants and distribution networks were built over 100 years ago. Not only have they reached the end of their useful lives, they suffer a chronic lack of investment. In consequence, they are vulnerable to mistakes in chemical dosage and to contamination through leaky pipework.

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Everybody was happy drinking municipal water until the 1980s, when the public became more concerned about the aging equipment, the added chemicals, and the forced fluoridation. The bottled water company Perrier brilliantly exploited this disquiet. They initiated a marketing coup on a scale similar to Kellogg with breakfast cereals (see Chapter 2) and persuaded Americans and Europeans to abandon drinking the water they could get for free out of a tap and buy water in a bottle.

The mineral water companies latched on to another alarm—that we are all dehydrating from lack of water. Remarkably, they persuaded us to not only switch from tap water to bottled water but also to drink much more of it. Such was their success that consumption of bottled water has soared from virtually zero in 1970 to 21.2 gallons per person per year in 2002. Curiously, consumer watchdogs estimate that 60% of the bottled water sold on the market is simply municipal water put into bottles (sometimes with further treatment). Most of the remaining 40% of bottled water does indeed come from natural springs and wells, but it still has to be sterilized, conditioned, and carbonated.

The Health Consequences of Our Beverage Choices
Our species, like most on the planet, are designed to get most of their liquid intake from water. Until recent times, that was still the case for us, even in the West. But we have seen the rise of alternative drinks, which have come along just in the average grandparent’s lifetime. Setting aside wine, distilled spirits, and liqueurs, which are not thirst quenchers, what are we now consuming instead of water? When we add up the figures for beer, tea, coffee, cocoa, soft drinks, juices, and

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milk, we find that the average American is consuming, in a year, 150 gallons of liquid that is not plain water—that comes to 3.25 pints per day! The average farm laborer in 1900 consumed a half pint of beer on a Saturday night, and that was it for alcohol for the week. Today, Americans of drinking age are consuming, on average, 5 pints a week, much of it concentrated into one or two binges. Beer drinking on a large scale is linked to obesity (beer gut), heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, poor bone health, and cancers. The connection is the same as for sugars: beer contains a hyperactive sugar, maltose, which creates abnormal blood sugar surges. In addition, some people are allergic to the barley gluten in beer. The alcoholic content is also a problem (see sidebar), but beer is relatively dilute in alcohol, so this factor is of secondary importance to the sugar diseases.  

The Problem with Alcohol
Alcohol occurs frequently in nature, especially where ripe fruits ferment of their own accord. There are stories of elephants gorging on overripe, fermenting mangoes and rampaging around in a drunken stupor. The human body handles alcohol perfectly well in these modest, naturally occurring circumstances. However, with our cleverness, we have made alcohol much more readily available and in greater concentrations. Greater consumption interferes with fat metabolism, brain chemistry, and many other bodily functions. The liver, the organ responsible for detoxifying alcohol from the blood, can develop the fatal condition of cirrhosis. Sometimes, the one-way valve into the stomach becomes a two-way valve, leading to acid reflux, when the contents of the stomach rise back up the esophagus and burn the lining. Plus, alcohol is empty calories: at best, it just adds to the waistline, at worst, it displaces more nutritive foods from the diet. Chronic alcoholics frequently suffer vitamin and mineral deficiency diseases and their life span is shortened by 10 to 12 years because of this.  

Tea, whether black or green, seems to be mostly positive in its health effects. It is rich in certain micronutrients that are in short supply in the average Western diet. The body gratefully seizes these and uses them to reinforce the immune system, so that tea drinkers are less likely to suffer certain cancers and infectious diseases. And the caffeine content is moderate: a cup of tea contains about the same as a 12 oz can of cola

Although consumed by the large mug, the classic American coffee is weakly brewed and relatively benign. The trend now is for coffeehouses to serve much stronger brews but still in large portions, which is getting us into the territory where caffeine overdose (see sidebar) may undermine our health. Coffee in these concentrations is associated with raised blood pressure, increased heart rate, strokes, and heart disease. On the other hand, coffee does have some protective effect against some types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. However, the balance of advantage stays with keeping the coffee weak. Cocoa also contains caffeine at low levels, but it also contains a rich variety of micronutrients that are heart healthy and protective against many cancers. The warning is the same: use the genuine cocoa powder, not the artificial confections that masquerade as “chocolate drinks.”

Caffeine Overdose
Caffeine is found to a greater or lesser degree throughout the plant kingdom. The human body is clearly well adapted to handle it. Today, we tend to focus on the plants with a high content, particularly coffee, for its stimulative properties. On the whole, caffeine is quite benign and does not have many drawbacks. However, used consistently and in large doses, it interferes with blood sugar control and with bone health, and it reduces elasticity of the arteries. Caffeine addicts who try to stop often find that they suffer classic drug withdrawal symptoms: headaches, sleeplessness, irritability, tiredness, and so on.

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Soft drinks and, by volume, colas dominate the market and have a number of problems. Their sugar content is directly associated with childhood obesity and heart disease. By adulthood, we see diabetes, cancers, raised blood pressure, high cholesterol, and all the usual sugar diseases. Colas, because of certain ingredients, are also associated with poor bone-building in children and osteoporosis in adults

Fruit juices also have their problems. Fruits lose their fibrous structure in the juicing process. In addition, pasteurization knocks out many micronutrients, dramatically reducing their nutritional value. Finally, juice processing brings out the sugar content, which hits the bloodstream hard—fruit juices too are associated with the sugar diseases and, in particular, obesity and diabetes

We have dealt with milk at length in the Milk Group and it is associated with all the problems of that group: heart disease, poor bone-building, allergies, obesity, and many more. Milk consumption has been dropping in spite of increasingly desperate promotions by the dairy industry. Studies suggest that they are losing out to carbonated soft drinks, which is simply replacing one problem with another

Let us now turn to the other alcoholic beverages—wine, spirits, and liqueurs. Wine, particularly red wine, contains a number of micronutrients that appear to be helpful to health, especially cardiovascular conditions and cancers. The proviso is that you should drink no more than a couple of glasses per day. After that, the alcohol content takes over and starts to dominate the consequences

Wine, particularly dry wine, does not have the catastrophic effect on health that beer can have—wine drinkers on the whole suffer less from beer belly and the sugar diseases. Spirits have higher concentrations of alcohol, so the limit is reached more quickly and this is their main danger. But they do not provoke the sugar diseases like beer does. There is some evidence that high alcohol concentrations irritate the mouth, throat, and esophagus linings to the point where cancers develop. Spirits do not have any worthwhile concentrations of nutrients. Liqueurs suffer the same drawbacks and have an additional one— high sugar content. Liqueurs are doubly fattening (sugar and alcohol) and have nothing worthwhile to contribute nutritionally

Finally, back to water: on the big scale, this is the least of our worries. Municipal water supplies are still far healthier than the fetid, polluted, and disease- ridden waters that our ancient ancestors were obliged to drink. Bottled waters are a harmless diversion. The alarms about dehydration are largely overdone, simply marketing manipulation to get us to drink far more bottled water than we need

We have examined how various foods have entered the food supply. Not all newcomers to the diet are unwelcome—many are fine alternatives to the foods

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our ancestors were adapted to in the Savanna Model. In recent history, new foods have arrived from all over the world. Some of them, such as the potato, have colonized our food supply so thoroughly that we cannot imagine life without them. In a similar vein, most cuisines around the world have accepted that fine addition to our diet, the tomato, which was unknown to Shakespeare just 400 years ago

However, things are not always what they seem. For example, just in the past few centuries, the carrot has gone from purple to bright orange and now it is going back to purple again. In changing the colors, we keep changing the nutrients. The strawberry used to be just a little fruit about the size of a pea. In this continuous hybridization process, what nutrients have changed? In the industrialized production of the modern world, generic foods can change out of recognition, just in a generation

Today, we see a host of new diseases afflicting our populations: autism, allergies, asthma, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, bone disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more. These diseases have become so pervasive that we think of them as part of the normal human condition. We simply cannot imagine that there is a direct connection between our lifestyle, notably eating habits, and these diseases

We have catalogued, food group by food group, the major divergences of these foods from our ancestral foods of the African savanna and looked at some of the consequences. We see that there are problems with grains, milk products, potatoes, and dry beans. Less surprisingly, we find that sugar creates havoc with our health. We should never have accepted certain types of vegetable oil in bulk quantities and we have done certain things to red meat that make it unhealthy to humans and non-conforming to the Savanna Model. We come to the startling realization that nature never intended us to eat some very familiar foodstuffs, which are making us sick

Much of this new knowledge has not yet percolated into the schools, the nutritionist creed, and the medical community. And many of these revelations are daunting—they call into question many of our sincerely held beliefs and make us realize how much our upbringing, our schools, and the health industry have indoctrinated us. In the next chapter, we provide the scientific background to these astonishing conclusions, and then we will pull all the strands together to build the ideal eating plan in modern terms

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