I’ve been reading a biography of Genghis Khan written by an anthropologist who spent over five years in Mongolia researching his subject. I came across an interesting paragraph that I thought I would share. A little background.
After Genghis Khan had achieved dominion over the entirety of Mongolia he received notice that his submission was required by the Golden Khan, the leader of the Jurched dynasty centered in what is now northern China. Genghis Khan decided to attack rather than submit. He began preparations for a march by his thousands of troops (the so-called Mongol horde) across the Gobi Desert and an attack on the Golden Khan, who resided in what is now Beijing.
The Chinese noted with surprise and disgust the ability of the Mongol warriors to survive on little food and water for long periods; according to one, the entire army could camp without a single puff of smoke since they needed no fires to cook. Compared to the Jurched soldiers, the Mongols were much healthier and stronger. The Mongols consumed a steady diet of meat, milk, yogurt, and other diary products, and they fought men who lived on gruel made from various grains. The grain diet of the peasant warriors stunted their bones, rotted their teeth, and left them weak and prone to disease. In contrast, the poorest Mongol soldier ate mostly protein, thereby giving him strong teeth and bones. Unlike the Jurched soldiers, who were dependent on a heavy carbohydrate diet, the Mongols could more easily go a day or two without food.
I’ve always maintained that one can discover more nutritional wisdom from the anthropological data than from the giant mass of current medical papers. This quote proves it.