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The Appeal to Nature

The “appeal to nature” is the concept that the wild state of nature, or perhaps the way humans were living thousands of years ago should be a guide for telling us how to live our lives today.

For example:

– Humans should not eat ANY foods other than fruits, greens, and nuts because those are our natural foods (why? look at our modern cousins, the chimpanzees, who live in “nature”).

– We should never take drugs, under any circumstances, because they are not natural.

– We should not eat foods that we can’t make a meal out of, because apparently, in nature, we wouldn’t be able to do that.

– Human progress and civilization is wrong because it takes us away from our natural state, where we would probably be healthier and happier.

– Paleo diet promoters will claim that we should eat meat, fruits, and vegetables, and avoid all grains because those foods have only been part of our natural diet for the past 10,000 years.

One of the reasons the Appeal to Nature is wrong is that it’s contradictory.

Where do you draw the line between what is natural and positive, and unnatural and negative?

  •    Wild foods are more nutrient-dense than cultivated foods, but how can we forget the fact that most wild foods also contain toxic alkaloids and lack calories, making them unsuitable to be staples in most human diets?
  •    Modern drugs are not natural, and some are dangerous, but can’t we deny the millions of lives that have been saved through the use of anesthetics, antibiotics, and surgery, to name just a few.

  •    Living in nature sounds good on paper, compared to life in an apartment building, but we don’t mention the fact that many tribal people have bodies full of parasites (from eating “natural” foods), and rarely lived beyond the age of 45.

  •    When we think of civilization, we can think about the millions of lives that have been lost through global conflicts like WW1 and WW2, but can’t we overlook the frightening statistics that in tribal societies, that 30% of males died before the age of 35 due to tribal warfare? When we put that in perspective, our day and age seem relatively peaceful.

The Appeal to Nature is tempting but wrong. Instead of arguing about what is “natural” versus what is not, we should try to evaluate the value of anything based on the results that it brings us.

Food doesn’t have to be “natural” to be healthy. It just has to keep us healthy. If we have evidence to support that, we don’t care how “natural” it is.


Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.