Ever have a slice of monkey pie? No? Well, that’s good, because there is no such thing, at least not in our part of the world. And it would be weird if there was. It would be contrary to instinctive notions, eating a creature similar to humans. You wouldn’t eat human pie and, for similar reasons, you wouldn’t eat monkey pie.
Would you agree that every creature on earth, human and otherwise, follows an instinctive dietary program?
This toad is an insectivore, consuming flies and grasshoppers in order to survive. Nobody had to tell this toad that flies are delicious. Properly nourished, this toad can mate with other toads and deposit eggs on rocks in order to reproduce and make more toads.
What if you didn’t like the fact that this toad devoured creatures like grasshoppers and you forced it to eat nothing but spinach and kale? It would die within a few weeks, deprived of all the nutrients its body requires to survive.
How about a cat? Cats are obligate carnivores, consuming mice, birds, and other creatures, just as its close relative, wildcats, chase pigeons, squirrels, and deer fawns for food. You may have to encourage your cat to eat the synthetic kibble you put out in a bowl, but no encouragement or instruction is needed for it to chase down a mouse.
What if you didn’t like your cats carnivorous ambitions and you restricted its diet to only dandelion greens and cashews? You’d have a very hungry, upset cat, then a very dead cat.
Every creature therefore follows an adaptive dietary script written over millions of years of adaptation to life on this planet, following a way of eating that is programmed into physiology and determines nutrient needs. Toads eat insects because it needs the nutrients contained in insects and cannot get them from green plants. Cats like to eat mice because the flesh, liver, and intestines provide nutrients the cat’s body needs. Veer off this dietary script and health will suffer; it can even prove fatal.
What is the dietary script of Homo sapiens? The historical record is clear: humans are incredibly effective hunters, consuming the organs and flesh of land animals and, to a lesser degree in most cultures, freshwater and sea creatures. We are also gatherers of nuts, berries, and leaves. (Cooking also introduced dramatic changes in human anatomy and physiology, a practice not followed by any other species.) This was the dietary script we followed for the first 2,500,000 years of our time on earth, a script to which our physiology is programmed. We therefore need the vitamin B12 contained in liver, the zinc contained in flesh, the intestinal butyrate-yielding fibers in tubers and legumes, the vitamin C in liver, leaves, and fruit, the omega-3s EPA and DHA contained in the brains of land animals and the fat of fish.
Human-induced change in our instinctive dietary script occurred 10,000 years ago, the so-called Neolithic period in which agriculture and non-nomadic living appeared. Some dietary changes were benign, such as growing lettuce and radishes, closely mimicking the foods found in the wild. But two big disruptive dietary changes also emerged: consumption of the seeds of grasses, or “grains,” and the domestication of ruminants as beasts of burden and a source of food. The latter innovation–consuming the products of the mammary glands of domesticated ruminants–is not quite as drastic a departure as consuming the seeds of grasses, as humans are mammals, after all, suckling their mother’s milk for the first several years of life. So the products of mammary glands are not foreign to humans; the consumption of the products of non-human mammary glands is the point of difference.
But it’s the consumption of the seeds of grasses that is the dietary innovation that has proven most disruptive, eating a food for which there is little human precedent nor adaptation. This explains why multiple components of grains are entirely or incompletely indigestible, such as the gliadin and glutenin proteins, wheat germ agglutinin, and D-amino acids. Indigestible or incompletely digestible components explain a lot of the adverse effects that grains have on humans. The impervious-to-digestion protein, wheat germ agglutinin, for example, goes in the mouth intact and comes out in the toilet with the same structure, untouched by human digestion. But, in its journey from mouth to anus, it exerts a variety of gastrointestinal toxic effects, not to mention inflammatory and endocrine disruptive effects from the small quantity that obtains entry into the bloodstream. The gliadin protein of wheat, rye, and barley, as well as the zein protein of corn, are only partially digestible, yielding peptide fragments that are both bowel toxic and brain toxic and account for gastrointestinal effects such as acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and mind effects such as food obsessions, appetite stimulation, mind “fog,” anger, impulsivity, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Of course, the consumption of grains, initially adopted in desperation by hungry humans, is now a cause for celebration by Big Food and agribusiness, aided and abetted by the USDA and other agencies, all of whom agree that, not only should the seeds of grasses be consumed, but they should be the dominant source of human calories. Factor in changes in grains, such as high-yield semi-dwarf wheat, some strains the product of chemical mutagenesis, others introduced via selective breeding for better pest resistance (yielding higher levels of wheat germ agglutinin and phytates), and you have a perfect storm of destructive health effects on humans.
Recognize this simple, logical fact—that the adoption of the seeds of grasses, grains, was a big mistake, regardless of what the nutritional authorities and commercial interests tell us—and you are given a ticket to extraordinary health. If someone tries to serve you a slice of monkey pie, turn it down. If someone tells you that grains are an essential part of the human diet, you will know better.