Food is probably one of the most important considerations governing our lives. What is on my plate? Should I have it, is the food right for me? Ask this question and a hundred experts are ready with advice on its pros and cons. The food industry is huge, the medical industry is also huge but our food problems are getting bigger by the day. People are just not eating right. This body is made up of what it eats; if our eating habits are unhealthy there is no way that we could be healthy. The old maxim says when in doubt go back into history.
What did our ancestors eat? Each civilisation formed its own food habits which could be right or wrong. So it would only be right to go further back that is before the advent of civilisation. The Neanderthal man existed from 2.5 million BC to 10,000 BC. He lived in forests and dwelt in caves. His food was governed by his habitat. Unlike popular belief the Neanderthals were omnivorous. They ate what was available in the forests around them. Their food comprised of fruits, vegetables, roots, seeds, nuts, leaves, grasses and flesh of animals, birds and fish. Each day the elders would go out and collect the above items from the forest around them, bringing in a great variety, say 30 to 40 types of seasonal items for the family to consume. Usually the family ate together under the watchful eye of the patriarch.
A look at the caveman’s food shows that the cavemen had no staple diet like wheat, maize, rice etc. Let us see the highlights of this diet – all the items were fresh, there was no sugar, no salt, no preservative, no dairy product, no potatoes, no millets or lentils, here is the interesting bit – the diet is essentially low in fat and carbohydrates and high in proteins, minerals, fibre and vitamins. Diseases like diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and obesity were unknown. Does this diet not remind one of what the good doctors and the dieticians often advise us on the type of food that we should be having. A visit to any forest will show that all the animals in it are well fed and healthy, we rarely find a sick or weak animal in the wild. Similarly, the Neanderthals were well fed and healthy, they did not lack good nutrition. Research shows that an average Neanderthal woman was as strong if not stronger than any super athlete of this day. They had no one to advise them and they followed their basic instincts.
Humans have evolved over millions of years. Our body organs have developed over a long period of time. We have been civilised only for the last 10,000 years, even in the medieval ages food was highly simple and primarily vegetarian in content. It is only recently that food is being grown or bred in such large quantities and so heavily processed. Our organs find it difficult to digest the various types of food that are on the table today. The forests of our ancestors have been replaced by the supermarkets of this day. I am sure we can enter them and make intelligent choices on what we should eat or avoid, and not be overly influenced by what ‘A’ or ‘B’ company says.
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