You can look at nutrition through any lens you would like.
In my humble opinion, if you’re being mindful about food in any type of way, then that is a good thing.
So let’s just begin.
What is the benefit of an evolutionary nutritional philosophy?
Every person is a human and that’s what every person has in common. Evolutionary theory suggests that the ability to use fire for cooking food was a determining factor in how the human brain became more powerful, along with adaptation to complex social structures.
Our physical bodies are biologically constrained to the environment and input from the environment directly and indirectly impacts the genome in particular the expression of genes into proteins. The ways in which nutrients are converted into proteins matters a lot because antioxidants act as transcription factors in the process of DNA into RNA.
When proteins are encoded, they can add evolutionary value to the human organism. If the human has access to a broad spectrum of high quality nutrients, they modulate immunity which is a big deal.
Berries, mushrooms, roots, and leafy vegetables are extremely valuable, genetically speaking. Based on complexity and biome, wild food should be the most valuable along with organically grown, local food.
“Given the role of Keap1-Nrf2-ARE pathway and its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, we hypothesize that the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant mechanisms of LLLI may be achieved by activating the Keap1/Nrf2/ARE signaling pathway.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6538222/
Meat/fish/eggs may provide valuable nutrients, but are also at risk of containing unwanted contaminants, obesogens, and drugs, therefore the ethical sourcing of animal products should be considered when making the decision to consume.
“There is an incredible diversity of electrophilic dietary phytochemicals that interact with the Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway. Consuming a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables would help to optimize the collective role of Nrf2 regulated proteins: to restore homeostasis from a state of oxidative stress and xenobiotic insult, protecting the integrity of DNA, proteins, membrane and other lipids.
Adequate dietary intake of sulfur and trace minerals such as zinc and selenium provide the building blocks necessary to optimize Nrf2-mediated resilience to oxidative stress. Management of the inflammatory and oxidative homeostasis of the body through proper diet may help to slow disease progression or prevent the development of chronic disorders altogether.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4179188/
High quality food –> higher level genetic expression –> fit phenotype.
You already have the DNA to thrive, it’s the environmental conditions which are the maintenance and that involves all input and output.
Benefit 1: Allows for infinite potential.
There is infinite potential in the universe because energy is forever and is forever changing. Chaotic events that violently collide somehow create new matter and it reveals patterns or potential laws of the universe.
One of my favorite examples of chaos is the formation of the element, gold. It is theorized that the collision of two neutron stars created much of the gold that is found on our planet and in the universe as we know it.
Just think about how our bodies are able to process and metabolize so many different types of foods and so much of what people ingest. There are so many potential nutrient combinations, timings, and the fact that everybody is a bio-individual, I mean there truly is unlimited potential in the evolution of the human immune system.
“Another potentially fruitful line of investigation centers on the evolutionary ecology of the human gut microbiome, or the diversity and densities of bacterial species populating the human gastrointestinal tract. Signals of adaptive evolution may be detected on both sides of this symbiotic relationship and could provide insight not only in terms of evolution of the immune response (123), but also in terms of the evolution of the digestive system itself (93), potentially including our ability (and efficiency thereof) to digest food compounds that have been of particular importance in human evolution.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4163920/
The only constraints are our environment, for better or for worse.
Benefit 2: Because humans have been eating for millions of years and our ancestors even longer.
Okay, so Google might inform you that humans have been around for 200,000 years and if we’re talking homo sapien, sure. But all of genus homo has existed much longer than that.
We now have strong evidence of an ancient human mating event in which the DNA of the humans (Neanderthal and Denisovan) was separated by 700,000 years. You and I have a common ancestor with every human up to about 200,000 years ago or more recently for some of you. These other two groups of humans were separated by 700,000 years and they still found each other sexy enough to get it on!
What our own ancestors were doing 700,000 years ago is still extremely important to our own lives today, for health purposes.
Food is vital in these stories because of the importance of its access for a tribe and the ability of food to guide evolutionary processes, potentially allowing the next generation the adaptability to survive and mate in ever-changing environmental conditions.
Benefit 3: Food IS information.
Surely there are some ancient particles and some newer forms that compose our cells. Energy from the sun is energy that comes from the beginning of the universe and it continues to be cycled into new forms, which the forms eventually die and then transmute into other new forms.
How does DNA impact the body?
The other major feature of DNA is its ability to make proteins. Proteins provide structure for our bones and other tissues, transport materials like iron throughout our bodies, help materials move from one cell to another, function as hormones that regulate our body’s functions, act as enzymes in chemical reactions, and fight diseases in the form of antibodies. In short, proteins are among the most important cells in the body.https://humanorigins.si.edu/dna-and-evolution
I wish I knew the origin of DNA, but I do believe that the information contained within DNA is sacred information that required a lot of prior chaos in order to finally come into ordered existence.
There is some theory that DNA needed a virus to replicate it in other species, which is why all life on earth seems to share some DNA. I guess sometimes it is a good thing to go viral…
Up to now, most scientists interested in the studying of DNA replication have not been apparently concerned by the problem of the origin and evolution of this central cellular mechanism…https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6360/
We have emphasized the importance that viruses could have played is usually ignored or underestimated. In any case, viral replication systems should not be only considered as simple model system, giving possible clue to more complex cellular ones, but as mechanisms interesting to study on their own, as witnesses of critical aspects of early life evolution.
Nutrients from food are like a wise translator that can help identify higher level genetic information and also help encode that information into the proteins that impact cellular function. Antioxidants are particularly notable activators that increase expression of genes responsible for immunity, homeostasis, and normal cellular function.
Science doesn’t always know what is best for you, but your body probably knows some things.
The ability of the gut to, “read,” the environment is truly underrated and underappreciated. Scientists have been learning in the nutrition field, but they have a challenging job because scientific work is almost by definition isolated. Life and food are not isolated events — life is environmental and all-encompassing.
“Polyphenols, highly present in a wide range of healthy foods (namely vegetables and fruits), have been linked with beneficial effects on multiple disorders, including cardiometabolic, neurodegenerative and oncologic, which might be due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other cytoprotective properties.
“Evidence from preclinical and clinical studies suggest that polyphenols are able to express prebiotic properties and exert antimicrobial activities against pathogenic gut microflora. Although the precise mechanisms deserve further clarification, dietary polyphenols have shown benefits in distinct disorders, accompanied by a major impact on gut microbiota towards symbiosis.“https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33445474/
New particles and bio-active components from food are constantly being discovered every day it seems. There are so many components in food that it is unlikely they will all be discovered so we have to expect that we’ll never know everything about nutrition.
We should appreciate that our digestive processes, “read,” the input (food) much better than the human can ever know rationally. Thus, we would benefit by using feedback from our own digestion and elimination to help understand what our nutritional needs are. There is an innate wisdom inside of you and you need each other.
Listen to your gut because it is always communicating.
Benefit 4: Evolution is 24/7 in your gut.
Lateral gene transfer or the transfer of genetic information between two cells of bacteria within the microbiome is proof of real time evolution of the human body.
Considering that food quality, freshness, and variety all impact the genetics of the human microbiome, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that other phytonutrients like curcumin impact genetic expression significantly. While phytonutrients and other bio-active compounds impact the microbiome, the biggest impact may be from living, functional foods.
“Comparative genomic studies of phenotypically characterized kefir strains would be of additional benefit in this context and identification of key genes involved in health benefits would be a major step forward in exploiting kefir lactobacilli.“https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627492/
I will be a witness and an advocate for the healing powers of fermented foods any day. I can say that when I consume large quantities of quality fermented foods and probiotic foods, I truly feel more life and the presence of my inner voice seems enhanced.
Maybe I feel this way because of how comforting it can feel for me to drink fresh, raw goat milk kefir. Perhaps my own gut manufactures and secretes natural anti-depressant neurotransmitters like serotonin following the consumption of functional, living food.
Benefit 5: Humans have already discovered through experience the medicinal value of herbs and nutrients.
While I respect the work that the modern physician performs, many are undertrained when it comes to nutrition. The fact of the matter is that most ingredients in drugs were originally isolated from natural plants and then they used laboratory techniques to create unnatural synthetic versions of the isolated ingredient. Along with a lot of money spent on trials and marketing, the large drug companies continue to rake in the revenue as doctors prescribe drugs for symptom management.
The idea of healing as an innate process isn’t too controversial. Many cuts, scrapes, and bruises worked themselves out and healed. I think what is still controversial is that natural foods and nutrients are necessary to support those innate healing processes. I believe that natural healers in tribes have existed for millions of years, I truly do.
Special wound healing methods used in ancient Egypt and the mythological background.
The Egyptian civilisation is one of the oldest in history and was renowned for its scientific and artistic achievements, and medicine was no exception. The ancient Egyptians were masters in applying and arranging bandages, and they recognized the cardinal signs of infection and inflammation. Egyptian drug therapy can be regarded as having evolved from a system rooted in magic and empirical observation.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14708054/
Many humans have died from eating the wrong thing… maybe it was a poisonous mushroom. Those real life experiments generated information passed down for the ages and finally now so much is being written and documented.
However, there have also been many who have truly been a witness to healing or experienced healing themselves.
The old wise man still knows about healing foods and herbs because it has been passed down to him and he is the keeper of the flame.
The best part about nutrition is that there are many different ways to do it.
You can look to Europe and find natural remedies like chamomile that Americans take for granted, or you can look to India and find the holy basil which has been touted as a cure-all and the ultimate stress tonic. Don’t even get me started on traditional Chinese medicine or Native American healing because this blog post would go on for too long.
If you don’t know where to start with regard to this, just consider your ancestry and research what your ancestors likely have eaten. Even though you will not be able to fully replicate that diet, you will likely get some hints or clues for what is ideal for you.
We don’t control evolution, but I’ll be damned if my genes don’t get me safely to 90 with a good brain and a strong body. Disease prevention is evolution in my opinion, guided by nutrition and environment.
Do you think evolutionary lenses are valuable in the understanding of human nutrition and disease prevention?
Thank you for reading this and would love for any comments. This is my first post in a while and hopefully not my last. Let me know your thoughts so that I can respond to you.