Cooking Food Made Us Human – Weight Loss Options

cooking food

There is a lot of promotion of raw food consumption for health purposes today; however, is it actually healthy? Is eating raw meat, like the Paleolithic diet supports, actually an ideal? Raw food advocates might say so, especially if you are wanting to lose weight, but it turns out that cooking food is a much older art than previously thought, and it brings some health benefits with it a well.

My background is in social science and cultural anthropology. Among my anthropology classes—before I finished my degree—was one in physical anthro, which dealt with pre-human fossils, which were the fossilized bones of non-modern humans called hominids (hominins for the direct human line). I learned early on just how far back the act of cooking food went on for these ancient peoples.

Cooking food is as old as humanity

Says author, Richard Wrangham, in his book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, there is evidence that shows humans have been using fire to cook food and meats for tens of thousands of years, and even some cases where it has been longer… much longer.

One of the premises of raw diet plans that are based on ancient peoples is the Paleo diet. This diet system advocates that eating like the people did in the Paleolithic times (pre-10,000 years ago, before the end of the last ice age) is healthiest for the human body.

This would include eating raw meat, according to the main rules of the Paleolithic diet, even though microorganisms and bacteria and worms/parasites could have easily infected the hosts. However, I believe that ancient peoples knew they needed to cook the body of the animals over the fire to make it safe to eat. They did not understand about microorganisms and bacteria yet, but they knew what was safe to eat or not. Their advanced knowledge and experience with herbal medicine and medicinal mushrooms is ancient as well.

Although eating raw meat is often true for the Inuit near the Arctic Circle, where consuming raw salmon and other fish is commonplace, as it is in other cultures, it is not necessarily true for the rest of the world, nor throughout prehistory, nor 100% of the time. Cooking food is a deeply-imbedded practice in cultures today, as it was in pre-history.

Sure, after a hunter killed a deer or other animal, the liver or blood may have been consumed raw and fresh, right out of freshly killed carcass, but many times this was not only to restore energy to the hunters after a long hunt, but also for cultural reasons and beliefs of the animal’s spirit power going into the hunter. The rest of the carcass was then brought back to the tribal home so it could be cooked over the fire pit or in an oven so the families could eat as well.

However, eating raw food was also common in Paleolithic times, especially for gatherers. Berries, fruits, green foods, seeds, nuts, roots and tubers, worms and other insects, and other foods were often picked at eaten fresh, right off the vine, tree, or bush, or taken from the ground and eaten raw.

Homo sapiens, and those who came before them, surely knew that they would get sick if they ate certain things certain ways, but not others. Hence, they cooked some of what they hunted and gathered.

Cooking food, like the carcass of animals, in particular, occurred quite often, and the oldest accounts are fire pits from over a million and a half years ago by hominids in Asia who even cooked each other!

So today, whether it is drying or smoking deer or beef jerky, or barbecuing meat over a fire, baking whole grain bread in a stone oven, packing clay around a fish and baking it in hot coals, or throwing a tuber/potato into the fire pit to cook it, you are practicing what the ancients have done for tens of thousands of millennia… cooking food!

Cooking food has been part of humanity for a very long time, and will continue to be. Whether you lose weight using raw or cooked foods may not matter as much as how healthy you eat–raw, of course, being the most nutritious, but cooked being safer (at least for meats). Remember that carbohydrates like grains, and meats, tend to make people gain weight or have higher cholesterol. These things should supplement, not be the main staple, of a healthy diet for losing weight.


The author of this story is a freelance contributor to National Nutraceuticals’ online news portals, such as Amino Acid Information Center at and Vancouver Health News at  National Nutraceuticals, Inc. also owns and operates a third health news portal focusing on medicinal mushrooms at, plus our newest portal at

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Wrangham, R. (2009). Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. NY: Basic Books

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