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"Plant Strong?" Even Meat eating plants can't thrive on substitute food

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"Plant Strong?" Even Meat eating plants can't thrive on substitute food

The Perfect Human Diet

I want to share this experience with you because it illustrates a big lesson about the irreplaceability of human foods in our diet, in spite of the popularized and passionate claims that plant foods can healthily replace animal foods for our species. 

I was walking through a room of tropical plants in The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, located in beautiful Golden Gate Park, when I noticed a small sign next to, what I was to discover, was a "carnivorous" plant. The sign talked about it's diet - which of course captured my interest.

The sign said that the carnivorous plants native diet, the food it had evolved to eat in order to survive the nutrient deficient soil (or lack of water) in its environment, was made up of animal life forms. And, as I learned later, this carnivorous adaptation was, and is, true all over the world. In fact, every continent except Antartica., under many different circumstances for the over 645 species and subspecies of carnivorous plants.

Carnivory is a miracle of evolution. In order to conquer habitats too poor in nutrients for normal plants, carnivorous plants evolved the ability to lure, trap, digest, and consume insects that they have no way of knowing even exist.
— Peter D'Amato, Author of The Savage Garden
Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers

What surprised me though was this: when the conservatory and others tried to get the plants to thrive on fertilizer combinations that were believed to be just as good as the plants real food, not the living animal life forms themselves, the plants "health" declined... and ultimately they couldn't survive being fed these substitutes.

Even though these attempts were logical, by people who loved carnivorous plants, modern intelligence didn't override Mother Nature's design.

Lau Hodges

Lau Hodges

About 6 months later I spoke with Lau Hodges, Director of Operations and Exhibitions at the S.F. Conservatory of Flowers, because 1) I hoped they would have a picture of that sign available (unfortunately no... that'll teach me to whip out my iPhone next time!)... and 2) I wanted to verify what I had read that day.

She graciously filled me in on some truly interesting facts about carnivorous plants, such as, to be a "carnivorous plant" they must do 4 things:

  • They attract and capture animals, usually insects. Although the range includes; spiders, sow bugs, worms, tadpoles, frogs, lizards, and even rats (large mammals are rare).
  • They kill them, usually by drowning.
  • They dissolve and digest the animals, sometime with the help of bacteria and other allies.
  • They absorb the nutrients that were in the tissues of the animal they captured.
...the thought that plants might sometimes eat animals was called blasphemy... Darwin, however, preformed painfully exacting experiments with carnivorous plants to establish once and for all that these plants did indeed eat animals.
— Peter D'Amato, California Carnivores site (the largest carnivorous plant nursery in the U.S.)
Peter D'Amato

Peter D'Amato

But here's the point that's worth noting - and what by extension applies to modern humans. The fertilizers used by the Conservatory were specifically designed to replace the nitrogen (protein) and minerals that the various carnivorous plants needed, to be an adequate nutritional substitute. Yet even those intelligently thought out substitutes failed.

In the same way, a popular belief is that plant "protein," plant derived nitrogen, is just as good as animal protein for optimal human health. An adequate, if not preferred, animal protein substitute.

A belief by the way that is not supported by the newest science shared with me at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology or, as Gary Sawyer Physical Anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History said to me, by "the Archeological record."*

The irony here, believing humans should be "plant strong," giving up all animal foods and fats, is two-fold;

1) Our intelligence evolved because we started eating more and more animal proteins and fats, thus becoming a new species, "modern humans".

2) The other is this: even though this belief in plant based protein may, to many, be logical... when it comes to optimal food sources for our species, our intelligence can't override Mother Nature's design. 

The longer I live, the more this well known saying is made clear, "you can't fool Mother Nature."

As always, comments and questions are welcome. 
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The Perfect Human Diet documentary.

For more on Peter D'Amato, California Carnivores and The Secret Garden see:

For more on The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers see:

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