Ever wondered how humans evolved to become THE dominant species?
Growing up we’ve learnt about the fundamentals of creating and preserving fire in the survival of our ancestors. However, did you know that approximately 1.8 million years ago a surge in human brain size and the shrinking of the digestive tract can be directly linked to the innovation of cooking with fire?
By learning to cook, Homo Erectus doubled its brain size in as little as 600,000 years. Primates of a similar size such as gorillas and chimpanzees, reliant on a diet of raw foods, saw no change.
100% of cooked food can be metabolised by the human body, compared to just 30-40% of raw foods. Softer fibres, released flavours and more efficient chewing/digesting processes also result from heating food. This unlocked nutrition and preferable eating experience allowed our ancestors to reduce time spent searching for food and instead participate in more productive activities such as developing tools, agriculture and social networks.
Cooking even created a new labour distribution between men and women. Men sought out relationships to have someone to cook for them, allowing them to hunt and boost their social standing. Whilst women benefited from the additional protection of their partner and the safeguarding of food from thieves.
The innovation of cooking therefore provided us with enough nutrition to increase our brain size and the additional time needed to stimulate it with deeper and more complex thoughts. Our brains therefore evolved into energy-hungry organs larger than our body size would suggest (encephalization) and helped to differentiate us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
We are now biologically, anatomically and socially adapted to the original innovation of cooking food.