A magnet given to me by a friend sits on my refrigerator door. It reads, “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?” Anyone who doubts good nutrition is important only needs to look at the role it played in the development of our species. As writer Suzana Herulano-Houzel explains, while we humans have heads overly large for our bodies, brains size isn’t important where smarts are concerned. The number of neurons we can support through diet is. “The more neurons in a cerebral cortex, the more capable it should be, regardless of the overall size of the structure.” (‘The Remarkable (but not extraordinary) Human Brain,” by Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Scientific American Mind, March/April, 2017, pg. 40.)
Because neurons require large amounts of energy to survive, humans gained an advantage over other species when we became bipedal. Walking upright left our hands free to develop tools. With tools we could manipulate our food, important because pounding, crushing, and dicing releases locked-in nutrients. Cooking releases even more. “…cooking with fire [was] a watershed in human evolution.” (Ibid pg. 41.) Maximizing our ability to nourish our brains increased the number of neurons we could maintain and that difference sent Homo sapiens to the top of the evolutionary ladder.
As we grew in knowledge, we needed to communicate what we learned with others. Today, the need to communicate grows because our knowledge exceeds the capacity of any single human brain to contain it. Collective wisdom is the hallmark of our species and it will increase with the aid of technology. We have an obligation to the future to preserve and grow that knowledge for succeeding generations.
The link between nutrition and human development is indisputable. The brain represents 2% of our body mass, yet it requires 25% of the energy we consume every day. (Ibid pg. 39) . A pregnant woman understands symbiosis. She knows she’s eating for two. As a species, we have a similar obligation to the future. How our descendants develop has much to do with how we nourish ourselves today.