Are People “Meant” To Be Vegan?
When people recommend one diet or another it sometimes comes with a whiff of moralistic reasoning.
And more often than not, you’ll hear the following justification ad nauseum:
“The “xxx” diet is great because it’s what humans were designed to eat.”
PETA makes this argument all the time.
It’s not true.
It might seem intuitive that there’s a very specific set of circumstances under which humans were meant to thrive, but that sort of thinking doesn’t capture the non-linearity of evolutionary processes.
The truth is, humans probably wouldn’t have been able to conquer the planet by having a narrow set of dietary requirements. Just the opposite. We went out of Africa because our bodies were remarkably good at using pretty much whatever was around us….including meat, fish, and dairy.
Humans have a long history of eating pretty much whatever was available.
For example, in prehistoric times humans simultaneously had the following diets:
- 85% mammal meat (whales, dolphins, seals, etc) among the Inuit
- Northwest Indians depended on wild fish more than any other food source combined
- Havivuh Indians lived almost exclusively on corn
- Further south diets relied almost exclusively on corn
And mind you this was going on before we developed agriculture.
Jaws, Bones, Bodies and Teeth
Vegans like to make a point of how our set of teeth and nails suggest that we were meant to eat plants because neither are very sharp and our teeth can move side to side, which is unusual for carnivorous animals.
However, they miss an important point: our ability to hunt developed long before we ever needed sharp teeth.
If you can hunt an elephant with spears and rocks then sharp teeth for biting the animal are irrelevant. Any idiot that tried to claw a tiger instead of waiting for his tribe quickly removed himself from the gene pool. No need for sharp teeth.
It’s the same reason why our bodies respond well to cooked food. Right around the same time we figured out how to use tools we also started making fire, and cooked food has been baked into our genes.
When talking about what people were “meant” to eat, references are typically made to the Savannah jungle man.
That crude walking ape, wistfully trolling the grassy plains looking to chew on the closest nut with his gnashing teeth. Surely, early humans had to be vegan!
Africa 200,000 years ago looked a lot different than it is today. It was a lot colder back then and the climate was going through a bout of schizophrenia. The temperature changed a lot and the continent consisted of a lot of “microhabitats” that were exploited by different species of humans. Some of the earliest and best preserved traces of human origins are in the southern tip of the continent, and their bone collagen and archeological digs suggest they made heavy use of the marine life to feed themselves.
Yep….early humans were fish eaters.
Or put it this way….we were eating fish before we were eating about 95% of the consumable plants we have exposure to today.
An overlooked fact about human evolution is that there have been plenty of human-like species before us. 23 to be exact. They’ve all gone out business, but still came from our common ancestor.
By the time Homo Sapiens showed up the Neanderthals were already living in europe, Homo Erectus was living in the fertile crescent, and Home floriensis was setting up shop in the east asian islands. They all had different diets. The neanderthals were even hunting badass wooly mammoths.
So by the time Homo Sapiens were borne as a species early hominims had a wide and deeply nuanced genetic history of eating food sources that were quite varied.
What Not To Eat
You can’t really say what humans were meant to eat. The remarkable thing about our bodies is that with enough time, it looks like it can get used to eating anything.
A more useful endeavor is to think about what humans were not meant to eat.
We weren’t meant to eat certain foods that were developed after agriculture…..at least not in large quantities.
We’ve fed on just about every animal, herb, and nut under the sun, but in 4 million years we have no experience eating different commercial grains, refined sugar, or pressed oils in volume until recently.
In certain quantities they’re harmless, but their health dangers are similar to that of synthetic vitamins: too much nutrition at one time.
Ungar, S. Peter. “Diet in Early Homo: A Review of the Evidence And A New Theory of Adaptive Versatility” http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/fae/PSUFEGMFT2006ARA.pdf
Marean, Curtis, et. al. “Early Human Use Of Marine Resources And Pigment and South Africe During the Middle Pleistocene” http://www.archaeomagnetism.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Marean-et-al-2007-Nature.pdf
Teaford, Mark, et. al. “Diet and the Evolution of the Earliest Human Ancestors” http://www.pnas.org/content/97/25/13506.full
Cordain, Loren “Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet: Health Implications for the 21st Century” http://courses.biology.utah.edu/carrier/3320/readings/westerndiet.pdf
Schoeninger, Margaret, et. al. “Stable Nitrogen Isotope Ratios of Bone Collagen Reflect Marine and Terrestrial Components of Prehistoric Human Diet” http://www.anthro.ucsd.edu/Faculty_Profiles/margaret/Tauber%20etal.1983.pdf
21 thoughts on “Why Your Body Wasn’t “Meant” To Eat Anything”
Thank you for this article. It was balanced and comprehensive (just as our diet should be, I suppose, regardless of what we choose to eat!). I’ve long taken issue with the moral judgement and holier-than-thou attitude pushed upon me by vegetarians because I happen to eat meat and enjoy it. Just as I choose to eat meat and don’t ridicule, belittle or judge vegetarians, I appreciate when vegetarians are principled but not judgemental towards me.
Thank you Andrea. I definitely think being a mindful omnivore is the most appropriate way to eat. It’s the most direct route to optimal health and doesn’t have to have the moral dilemmas that vegans constantly attach to it. I’ve never seen a cogent argument for veganism that doesn’t fall back in some way on moral judgments about the treatment of animals.
There is no moral way to kill an animal . Hungry? Go hunt other animals and sww how quick you can catch it and how much you are meant to be eating them.
Why would you belittle vegans? They’re with the understanding that we’re all the same when it comes to the will to live,, suffering, feeling pain family oriented. You wouldn’t eat a dog but would a cow. Why? Propaganda. You’ve been fooled into a cancer ridden diet due to profit margins. Not smart.
This is a wonderful article. Please fix one typo Homo floresiensis instead of Home Floriensis. I would like to share this but with the glaring typo, I cannot do so in my field. Thank you!
Angela, thank you and the typo was fixed. Thank you for pointing it out!
Can you explain why we as humans have so many illnesses?
Genetic and dietary factors, highly processed foods play a big role i believe.
Processed foods play a huge factor. Whatever salts and other chemicals they use to keep ‘food’ from wilting or spoiling. Over-consumption of anything is bad. Simple as saying staring at the sun will make you go blind
This is wrong on so many levels and is completely unscientific. There is irrefutable widespread fact illustrating that some foods are clearly more harmful or beneficial than others, likewise some foods are poison and others are life saving. Just because humans can hunt does not mean it was efficient or wasnt simply an adaptation. Humans also have rituals of sticking rods through their noses which is clearly not biologically designed. Studies of most primitive tribes today show that hunting is a rare activity and is also not usually done. Most humans are lucky to hunt for a wild boar, catch it, and eat it. It is far more efficient for primitive tribes to catch anything that can fit in its hands: fish, birds, insects, eels, snakes, molluscs, than large mammals. There are many tribal people today who do not hunt at all. Dentition and other genetic dispositions, such as having fingers to climb trees and pull yams from the ground and not rip apart mammalian flesh, are not post-hunting attributes, they are evolved from Apes who are not big meat eaters. The human body only needs a few grams of protein per month to sustain itself and was the genetic code designed cellular machinery specifically designed to eat carbohydrates primarily.
No one said we never ate meat. We are the most evolved specie on earth. That is why we adapted to hunt. Now that we do have access to any food we want:what is optimal? Plantbased. You say that our body can adapt to anything after a long time… Have you seen the top 5 killers in america… No. Plus, nothing at all in consumming animal products is substaintable for humans nor for the planet. if you want to talk about our amazing survival instinct… Were failing right now.
Fun fact, plants are not the most efficient food source, insects are. So, if you want to talk efficiency, you and your ilk should all become entomophagists.
Nonsense. Humans are designed to consume what appeals to our senses in it’s raw natural state, just like every other species. Insects certainly do not appeal to our senses without being cooked & covered in chocolate or some other condiment.
Look, humans do NOT need to eat animals. Its that simple. Yes, processed food is horrible for our health, but that doesnt mean meat is good either. Clearly vegetarians, NOT “vegans”, live long healthy lives, granted they dont screw up their joints or worship stupid “gods” in excess. We were meant to have NO religion, to LOVE one another, worship eachother, NOT kill eachother or animals. Since we were born we have been brought up by JUNK food, with barely any nutrition. Cooked to death, with zero nutritional value. Thats why humans now a days cant give up their cocaine like addiction to eating convenient meat, that they didnt have to slaughter, and watch the animals die horrifically. All because of the brainwashing convenience of retarded uninformed close minded “vegans” who actually think its still “okay” to kill animals. Vegans are full of shit. Meat eaters have to rethink their convenient habits, and vegetarians were ALWAYS right. I wish I was brought up as a vegetarian, because I would have started to care about animals alot sooner. The hipocrisy of “vegans” and meat eaters is astonishing. Justifying their cocaine like habit of KILLING or eating flesh. Retrain your tongues, think peacefully. Love one another. Terrorism is a PSYOP to get people to justify killing eachother. In reality terrorism is a GAME, a paid for game that promotes the NWO. Yes, I deployed to IRQ and AFG. I was an analyst with the highest clearance. So dont try me. In conclusion, START thinking critically, QUESTION everything. STOP the hate. STOP the killing.
Paraphrasing: “Humans are meant to be totally pacifistic idealists, because of metaphysical reasons I pulled out of thin air.” – Guess what: “Extraordinary claims, require extraordinary evidence.” – In other words: [CITATION NEEDED].
I’m not sure you know what a vegan is… Vegans don’t eat any animal products including eggs and milk…
We left african 2 million years ago. Dairy wasnt introduced till 7,000 years ago
This article is fucking amazing.
The improper use of the word schizophrenia made this article lose any and all credibility. Look up bipolar disorder, Disassociative identity disorder or and schizophrenia and if your going to make a reference to a medical condition at least make sure it’s the right one.
Food is where almost all dis-ease stems from. meat is so bad for our bodies when you learn about it from a chemical/logical point of view. articles like this are scary because it encourages ignorance but the truth cannot be hidden forever and shall prevail. luckily we are eternal and everyone has more lifetimes to figure out the truth.
It fails to show that meat, fish, dairy and eggs are all acid forming, cancer creating foods! The World Health Organisation pointed out in 2015 that meat is fucking crap.