Jodi's Reviews > Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

Catching Fire by Richard W. Wrangham
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's review
Mar 09, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: health-books

The author makes an extremely convincing and logical argument for his theory that cooking food (as well as meat eating) helped make us who we are.

Eating raw vegetables makes me feel terrible and has a huge metabolic cost. They just sit in my stomach like a rock - while properly cooked meat and vegetables are digested well. Nuts and seeds are better digested when soaked and then dried as well. I am tired of reading that raw vegetables contain all the enzymes we need to digest them easily, and that raw vegetables are far easier on the digestion than cooked ones. My own experience and that of many people I know, and books on the SCD diet, the GAPS diet and also books on nutrition such as 'Eat Fat, Lose Fat' and books by Dr Sherry Rogers and others just don't bear this out at all.

Cooked vegetables are what you very often need, especially if you are very weak and ill and have digestive and/or metabolic issues. Cooked food is also much nicer to eat, easier to eat and tastes better. Don't believe the raw food hype! Especially don't believe the vegan or almost vegan raw food hype!

Persevering with such an unnatural eating plan despite feeling awful on it just because you've been convinced (wrongly) that it is the healthiest possible way to eat for all of us, is not a good idea.

Having said that, foods very high in enzymes (far more so than raw vegetables) such as sauerkraut and apple cider vinegar are very effective digestive aids, as are properly made enzyme supplements - which do survive the acid stomach environment. Fresh vegetables juices also digest very easily. So while raw vegetables may be low in enzymes as the author states, I disagree with the author that the right sort of enzymes can't make a big difference to digestion and that all enzymes are destroyed by the acid stomach.

Just to be picky... I also disagree that some peoples have been very healthy eating 100% plant based diets and some on 100% meat based diets as the author states in the conclusion. (For more information on the lack of any truly vegan peoples, and the importance of animal products such as eggs to health and so on, see the Weston A. Price Foundation website.) The idea that we can be healthy on any type of macro-nutrient ratio we happen to prefer is just not correct. (See 'Good Calories, Bad Calories' and other books on fats and oils and the problems with very high carbohydrate diets and why high calorie intakes alone are not the cause of obesity as the author suggests.)

I also disagree that animals can all do well on cooked food diets. (What about the research on calves being fed pasteurised and homogenised milk, and dying from it, or the Pottenger's cat experiments which showed that cats need raw foods?) Confusingly the author says animal don't and DO do well on cooked food diets.

The book was very easy to read and quite brief, which I appreciated. I would much prefer a solid but short book than a longer one with huge amounts of padding.

This book makes a very good case for eating real food and cooking your meats, eggs and vegetables.

I agree with some other reviewers that the final chapter could have been a bit better but overall this book is a very good one and well worth reading. I'd recommend it, especially the first 4 chapters.

Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for M.E.

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