This is an old TED talk but I heard it for the first time this past Saturday. The theory is that the reason why human intellectual capacity disproportionately surpasses the intellectual capacity of other species is because we learned how to cook.
(crossposted on Facebook)
What is so special about the human brain? • 2013 Jun • Suzana Herculano-Houzel • TED
The line of reasoning is that what gives us our intellectual capacity is the massive number of neurons in our cerebral cortex—it gives us the capacity to plan and order tasks and make decisions and to model reality, among other things.
The massive number of neurons in the cerebral cortex require a lot of energy to maintain proper function. Without cooking, we would need to devote more than 9 hours a day to obtain and consume the necessary number of calories.
Cooking predigests food, making it easier for your small intestine to absorb and process nutrients. And your intestinal mucosa doesn’t need to spend as much energy synthesizing the necessary enzymes to break down raw food like other animals do.
This is yet another reason why I am so skeptical of the idea that “unaltered” food is better for us. Cooking is obviously a major modification of food.