What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom
“Nourishment will change the way you eat and the way you think.”—Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect
“[Provenza is] a wise observer of the land and the animals [and] becomes transformed to learn the meaning of life.”—Temple Grandin
Reflections on feeding body and spirit in a world of change
Animal scientists have long considered domestic livestock to be too dumb to know how to eat right, but the lifetime research of animal behaviorist Fred Provenza and his colleagues has debunked this myth. Their work shows that when given a choice of natural foods, livestock have an astoundingly refined palate, nibbling through the day on as many as fifty kinds of grasses, forbs, and shrubs to meet their nutritional needs with remarkable precision.
In Nourishment Provenza presents his thesis of the wisdom body, a wisdom that links flavor-feedback relationships at a cellular level with biochemically rich foods to meet the body’s nutritional and medicinal needs. Provenza explores the fascinating complexity of these relationships as he raises and answers thought-provoking questions about what we can learn from animals about nutritional wisdom.
- What kinds of memories form the basis for how herbivores, and humans, recognize foods?
- Can a body develop nutritional and medicinal memories in utero and early in life?
- Do humans still possess the wisdom to select nourishing diets or has that ability been hijacked by nutritional “authorities”?
- Is taking supplements and enriching and fortifying foods helping us, or is it hurting us?
On a broader scale Provenza explores the relationships among facets of complex, poorly understood, ever-changing ecological, social, and economic systems in light of an unpredictable future.
- To what degree do we lose contact with life-sustaining energies when the foods we eat come from anywhere but where we live?
- To what degree do we lose the mythological relationship that links us physically and spiritually with Mother Earth who nurtures our lives?
Provenza’s paradigm-changing exploration of these questions has implications that could vastly improve our health through a simple change in the way we view our relationships with the plants and animals we eat.
“Nourishment is a conversation between science, culture, and a greater spiritual or cosmological umbrella.”—Montana Public Radio
Reviews and Praise
“In Nourishment a wise observer of the land and the animals becomes transformed to learn the meaning of life. Fred Provenza’s reflections on his long, fruitful career in behavior-based management of landscapes include his joy in observing the natural world around him.”—Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
“An absolutely fascinating topic, engagingly written. Fred Provenza will wholly up-end everything you think you know about what you are supposed to eat and why. Nourishment should be the first book read by every student of nutrition.”—Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Defending Beef
“Once again, Fred Provenza shows he is one of the freshest and most insightful thinkers about the role of herbivores (and omnivorous humans!) in our food and land management systems. His clear evolutionary thinking is matched by his keen powers of observation of ecological interactions. This book is a landmark contribution.”—Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Mesquite and Food from the Radical Center
“Fred Provenza’s Nourishment is a synergy of the essence of his lifetime of research coupled with commonsense nutritional advice to aid both animals and humans. All readers will benefit from the knowledge revealed in this book. I have long thought Dr. Provenza’s work should comprise a required course in veterinary and medical schools, and Nourishment confirms that opinion.”—Richard J. Holliday, DVM, holistic veterinarian; coauthor of A Holistic Vet’s Prescription for a Healthy Herd
“In Nourishment Fred Provenza offers a rich explanation of how animals follow instinctual wisdom of nutritional biochemistry when nested in their proper ecological niche. Drawing from episodes of his years of research and the cycles of life, Dr. Provenza illuminates the fascinating mechanisms by which animals’ innate knowledge of healthy eating is passed on to their offspring and how we humans can learn from the simplicity of animals in our midst. This engaging book provides proof that animals are not mindless eaters—nor should humans be.”—Hubert Karreman, VMD, author of Treating Dairy Cows Naturally
“Fred Provenza is a hero of mine. For more than thirty years, he has been a leader in applying scientific knowledge to social good. His deep understanding of how animals behave on the land—why they eat what they eat, how they stay healthy, and how they teach their young—has helped generations of ranchers, farmers, wildlife managers, and university students understand and strengthen their relationships with animals in sustainable ways. We are animals, too, and in this magnificent book, the culmination of a lifetime of learning, Fred weaves together philosophy, nutritional science, memoir, and his humble appreciation for the natural world into an inspiring meditation on our moment on Earth.”—Courtney White, author of Grass, Soil, Hope and Two Percent Solutions for the Planet
“In this path-finding and paradigm-breaking book, Provenza combines a lifetime’s worth of scientific work with deep empathic insight to further extend his unique contribution to healing our ailing landscapes, our animals, and the human condition. Across five continents Provenza has led livestock managers to upend traditional beliefs about animals in grazing-browsing systems. Now, in exciting and original fashion, he extends his ideas concerning we humans—animals, after all, who also coevolved in diverse, once nutrient-filled landscapes. In an era when the false pathway of economic rationalism, aligned to industrial agriculture and its food systems, is poisoning the planet and ourselves, Provenza provides a vitally new holistic perspective of our species: a perspective that provides exciting solutions to our Anthropocene and human dilemmas.”—Charles Massy, author of Call of the Reed Warbler
“Part mirror and part compass springing from a bedrock of science, Nourishment takes us on an extraordinary journey through bodies of wisdom. This book sets a new bar for how to think about the intersection of food, nature, and ourselves.”—Anne Biklé, coauthor of The Hidden Half of Nature
“Through Fred Provenza’s eyes, a simple meal becomes a wondrous journey into the world, into our bodies, and into our deepest selves. Nourishment will change the way you eat and the way you think.”—Mark Schatzker, author of Steak and The Dorito Effect
“Fred Provenza has spent his career redefining the ways we understand livestock intelligence when it comes to diet. In this compelling and engaging book, he shares many of those lessons and synthesizes a wide breadth of research and knowledge to challenge some fundamental assumptions about diet, whether it be for livestock or humans. Provenza connects the dots like few have before, offering a new way to see the world and bringing new meaning to ‘you are what you eat.’”—Steve Gabriel, author of Silvopasture and coauthor of Farming the Woods
“Fred Provenza has a brilliant, inquisitive, and open-minded spirit, the kind that should live within all of us. Nourishment is the result of a lifetime of observation, experimentation, and incredible insight by a master scientist. This is a book you will read, reread, dog-ear pages in, and tell your friends about. You will be blown away, as I have been. Outstanding!”—Bob Budd, executive director, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust
“Throughout his illustrious research career, Fred Provenza has taught us how animals—many of which we choose to eat—learn what they themselves should consume to maintain optimal health. He has now taken these lessons and applied them to the human situation in insightful and clever ways, concluding that we ignore our body’s wisdom to our nutritional detriment. But he goes further, tying his metaphysical ideas about the lives of plants, the nature of food, and the consciousness of cells to his fascinating life adventure. This book is sure to engage, educate, and provoke the reader.”—Gary K. Beauchamp, director and president emeritus, Monell Chemical Senses Center
“I could describe this book as simply an enlightening treatise on the philosophy of life, but that fails to do it justice. Fred Provenza uses his life’s experiences as student, rancher, fisherman, researcher, teacher, hiker, cancer patient, and retiree to illustrate vividly the fundamental principles of nutrition not only of animals (including humans) but also of plants and soil. In Nourishment Provenza also offers a rich exposition of his outstanding all-embracing views of life. To read this book is to challenge many of one’s assumptions and prejudices.”—J. Michael Forbes, professor emeritus, University of Leeds; author of Voluntary Food Intake and Diet Selection of Farm Animals
“Fred Provenza spent his distinguished academic career becoming a leading authority on the food habits of rangeland animals. In this thought-provoking book, he uses his deep understanding of his four-legged study subjects to cast light on our own nutritional condition in a world where we have become increasingly remote—philosophically and physically—from our food supply.”—Stephen J. Simpson, PhD, academic director, Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney
“Fred Provenza tells the story of the science behind how animals wisely choose to feed themselves from the variety of plants in the natural world. He integrates that story with the way we humans make food choices in childhood, why we like some foods but not others, and our propensity for addiction. Moreover he shows how animal behaviors shape the natural world and how a healthy ecosystem provides nourishment for our bodies, spirits, and intellects. Nourishment provides the keys for relinking our appetites with our health and happiness.”—William Foley, emeritus professor of nutrition and ecology, Australian National University
“Fred Provenza serves up a feast for the mind, heart, and soul. Philosophical, spiritual, and rigorously scientific, Nourishment takes readers on this humble deep thinker’s life journey of discovery, sharing his insights about the nutritional and medicinal wisdom of animals, while clarifying some of our own misconceptions. Like a master mandala artist, Provenza provides perfect balance, drawing together multiple disciplines and belief systems to synthesize a paradigm shift based on wisdom that exists within each of us for eating well and staying healthy. Provenza calls on us to be responsible consumers and more compassionate visitors on this planet.”—Michael A. Huffman, professor, Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan