Human Nutrition Needs
What should we eat for optimal health? That’s a question that man has sought to answer for centuries. For so long, diet was determined by availability, but today in North America, most people have access to a wide variety of foods at some of the most affordable prices in the world. The question now has become, “Given all the choices, what foods should I choose for optimal health?”
While countless books have been written on the subject, the most widely accepted principle of a healthy diet is moderation and balance. That’s because humans need a variety of different nutrients and the needs are most likely to be met by eating a variety of foods. In some cases, foods work together to optimize nutrients and make them more “bioavailable” to the body. For example, meat can help the body absorb iron in plant foods.
Meat’s Role in Human Evolution
Anthropological and archaeological research reveals clearly that meat consumption played a critical role in evolution and human development. Early man consumed fruit, nuts and leaves and required large volumes of food to derive sufficient energy. As a result, early man had a large gut. Because the body was focused heavily on the hard work of digesting these foods, he also had a small brain and limited fertility. But when man learned to hunt and began to consume animal protein, smaller volumes of meat replaced the large volumes of food in his vegetarian diet. Easier to digest meat also allowed the body to use its energy to build its brain. Over time, man’s brain grew and so did other human characteristics like upright posture, speech and fertility. Not only did the individual grow, the population did, too. While humans are far more advanced today, meat and poultry play critical roles in building strong bodies and healthy brains and in maintaining our bodies as we age.