Q:if we cannot eat leaves and grasses as they can not be digested by us. then how can we eat leaves of spinach(even raw) ?
It’s not that we can’t digest leaves and grasses at all, we just can’t break down cellulose, the primary component of cell walls, efficiently. That’s actually a good thing for your digestive system, as it provides much the fiber that keeps the bowel train chugging right along.
We can digest some of plant matter, though. When you chew spinach, or any other leaf, you break open the cell walls of the plant with your flat, grinding teeth. Ever notice how herbivores’ teeth tend to all look like that, flat and grindy-like? That mastication releases the nutrients and energy held within the leaf so you can turn it into you. The structural material of the plant mostly passes through, the cellulose-rich outer layer of a corn kernel being the most famous example (you all know what I’m talking about).
Digesting cellulose is a problem for most vertebrates. Cows and other grazing animals have a special organ called a rumen, full of cellulose-munching bacteria, that they use to ferment their grassy snacks. Other plant-heavy grazers like elephants and horses can only get enough energy from their plant diets by simply eating and eating and eating, their guts so inefficient that they only digest a fraction of what they eat (hang around the back end of a horse to see what I mean).
Pandas might be the worst in this regard, being an animal that almost certainly evolved to at least be an omnivore (hello, large sharp teeth!), but for some reason decided that eating bamboo all day, which is all cellulose and almost no nutrition, was a good idea. They look chill and calm, munching away in highland forests without a care in the world, but they are really just lethargic because their diets are so inefficient. If I didn’t know better, I’d say pandas are trying to go extinct.
Our brains require so much energy, burning almost 1/5 of the calories you eat every day, that if we followed the raw plant-only diets of gorillas, we’d spend pretty much every hour we were awake eating, just to stay alive. Some people advocate for raw vegetarian diets, but science doesn’t support that it’s a good idea.
The only non-bacterial creatures I can think of that are good at digesting cellulose? Termites. Oh wait, they rely on microbes in their stomachs to do it too!
Whew, that’s a lot to chew on.
Want dessert? I went over lots of this, and more, in my “Why We Cook” video:
You have no idea how badly I wish this was real. Triscuits are my favorite cracker. Imagine if they had another dimension!
“At the moment, this hyperwafer can only exist for six milliseconds in a precisely calibrated field of magnetic energy, positrons, roasted garlic, and beta particles,” lab chief Dr. Paul Ellison told reporters at a press conference outside Nabisco’s $200 million seven-whole-grain accelerator.
(via The Onion)
Source: The Onion
Q:So cooking allowed humans to gain more nutrients and energy from less food. Now, with the industrialization of food, that nutritional efficiency is being lost. GMOs and processing/ refining takes away so much of food's nutritional value. What evolutionary consequences do you think this dominating lifestyle could have?
This is in response to this week’s video: “Why Do We Cook?" so if you haven’t seen it… click the linky thing there.
I don’t agree that the problem with modern diets is that we’ve taken away nutritional value from foods, but that modern industrial farming has simply given us access to too many cheap calories. And here I refer to cheap in the monetary and the biochemical sense. While those cheap calories aren’t the most wholly nutritious (corn and soybeans), most of the medical maladies associated with the “Western diet” are due to overconsumption of the wrong foods, not simply because we’re eating this one thing that happens to be industrialized or GMO.
The idea that today’s carrots or tomatoes are less nutritious because they might be GMOs is very iffy. There’s reasons to be concerned about GMOs, but most of that has to do with the companies that make them, not the foods themselves. I think maybe we can all agree that the more important issue is this: people just aren’t eating real, whole foods that are cooked at home.
If cooked food and more access to calories was the spark that led to Homo erectus’ big brain and development of culture, then we have fanned that into a wildfire, and its flames are currently licking our feet…
Who knows what evolutionary consequences it may have? Maybe none. Maybe some. Industrial farming has only been the Way of Things™ for two generations. We’re a tough species, We’re clever. And it was our brains that allowed our ancestors to leave Africa and populate the entire planet in only a couple thousand generations.
We simply need to be more careful what we feed them.
Chances are you’re going to sit down to a big holiday meal this week. But I bet you’ve never wondered the most basic scientific question, even though it’s sitting in the middle of your table: Why Do We Cook?
Feed your brain with this delicious tale of human evolution.
Here’s an idea: When that one weird uncle starts talking about politics tomorrow, you’ve got something else to talk about :)
Happy holidays, my curious friends!
Tangrams for Lunch
Don’t play with your food … unless you’re playing basic math and geometry games with it. Check out lots more tangram lunch fun at Dashing Bean.
I love this planet so much I want to eat it up! Check out this Earth cake with crust, mantle and core, made by Rhiannon of Baking Adventures in Melbourne, Australia. Gneiss cake.
Pair this with a side of Laura Moriarty’s geologic sculptural paintings. They really rock.
(via Boing Boing)
Source: Boing Boing
Physicist Albert-László Barabási likes making connections. By studying networks, Barabási and his Northeastern University research group improve our understanding of everything from the internet to human disease.
Now Barabási and colleagues are using networks to learn more about the way we eat. Read more…
This is what everything tastes like. Very cool work.
Sculpting a Catalogue of Apples
Apples, at least as we know them, are a freakshow born of agricultural genetics. While wild apples readily grow from seeds, perhaps every single variety we buy in stores is produced by grafting.
With more than 7,500 wild varieties, apples have incredible genetic diversity. This is how we’ve been able to develop so many variations of size, sweetness, texture and color. The side effect is that many apple varieties are such Frankenstein monsters that they literally can’t grow from seeds. Combine that with the complicated way that apples pollinate, and you’ve got a recipe for a clone army in an orchard.
This is great for farmers, because you get a consistent product, but bad for apples, because many of the wild varieties could be lost or forgotten. And should some pest, parasite or blight start attacking our genetically-engineered superfruits, we’re going to want those wild genes around to call on to save the day. It’s diversity that makes a population strong.
That’s why I love this project so much. It’s an archive of apple varieties using ceramic sculpture! So cool.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of the humble apple, read The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. Great book for foodies and science fans alike. If you want to get super-sciencey, here’s a cool paper in PLOS Genetics.
More via theatlantic:
In its original home, near Almaty in Kazakhstan, the apple can be the size of a cherry or a grapefruit. It can be mushy or so hard it will chip teeth. It can be purple- or pink-fleshed with green, orange, or white skin. It can be sickly sweet, battery-acid sour, or taste like a banana. Preserving this biodiversity can become a massive project, in life and art.
See more. [Images: Jessica Rath]