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(Looking at the Science on Raw vs. Cooked Foods--continued, Part 3E)

Cooking practices of hunter-gatherers

Though hunter-gatherers cook, degenerative diseases are rare. In general, the scientific evidence available about hunter-gatherers who follow their traditional ways (or did follow them, since most traditional hunter-gatherers have now been acculturated) shows that globally they enjoyed good health with remarkably low rates of degenerative diseases. Perhaps, even, the lowest on the planet. (This will be discussed following our look below at some of the eating and cooking practices of hunter-gatherers; and a pointer will also be given to more extensive information available about disease incidence elsewhere on the site.)

We cannot here review the voluminous hunter-gatherer literature exhaustively. However, a few examples looked at in some depth will help to get an idea on the subject. Covered here are Australian Aborigines, the San Bushmen of the Kalahari desert in Africa (with primary emphasis on the well-known !Kung tribe), and the Inuit ("Eskimos").

Australian Aborigines

The diet of Australian Aborigines has been extensively studied by O'Dea. The most detailed information exists for Aborigines of Northwest Australia. During a two-week period, intake of various foodstuffs was measured [O'Dea, 1984]. Animal food contributed to 64% of total energy intake. Main staples were antelope kangaroo (36%), freshwater bream [a fish] (19%), and yams (28%). All other listed foods accounted for only 17% of total energy intake.

Aboriginal cooking practices. The following information about cooking methods of Australian Aborigines is quoted from

Cooking fires usually suited the food to be prepared. They were controlled by a range of techniques such as using different types of timber, twigs or leaves. Hot stones were ample to fry Bogong moths; small banks of coals suited marsupial rodents; somewhat larger, specially shaped hearths baked cakes, cooked tubers, and leached toxins from various foodstuffs. Kangaroos were usually cooked where they were killed and required larger, temporary fires. The cooking proceeded in stages--the carcass would be singed on both sides, then removed and scraped clear of fur, gutted and thrown back into the coals for deep roasting [Pyne 1991, p. 89]. Heated stones were useful to open hard fruits and explode Acacia seeds.

Cockles (mollusks)--consumed by the tens of millions--were prepared for eating by heaping the shells into piles, then topping the mound with a small fire, which heated the valves sufficiently to pop them open without the need for breakage [Pyne 1991, p. 89]. Perhaps the most sophisticated cooking fire was that made on a layer of clay or seaweed and carried in the bottom of the bark canoes used by fishing parties [Nicholson 1981, p. 63].

The ever-handy firestick carried by the Aborigines ensured that cooking fires could be manufactured when and where required.

Food cooked by the Aborigine

Overview: cooking may be necessary to render the available foods edible. Detailed information about plant foods consumed by Aborigines can be found at, from which the bullet-point information below is quoted. Of the many plant foods consumed by the Aborigine, some were eaten raw, others cooked. For some plants, information about food preparation is not available. The list below is not exhaustive, but provides a good overview of the way plant foods are processed, and shows that, in some cases, cooking is necessary to render the food edible.


(Cooking Practices and Staple Foods of the !Kung San--Kalahari Desert, Africa)

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GO TO PART 1 - Is Cooked Food "Toxic"?

GO TO PART 2 - Does Cooked Food Contain Less Nutrition?

GO TO PART 3 - Discussion: 100% Raw vs. Predominantly Raw

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