Humans have an instinct for healthy eating and select a diet for specific micronutrients, study finds

Humans have a built-in instinct for healthy eating and select a diet for specific micronutrients, study shows

  • A new study suggests that humans may prefer foods based on their health benefits
  • Humans are more sophisticated in their dietary choices than previously thought
  • It has long been thought that humans seek out energy-rich foods and ignore others.
  • Minerals and vitamins were once thought to be ingested only because humans ate many foods indiscriminately, but this notion is now being challenged.

humans select foods to meet our need for vitamins and minerals, challenging notions that we prefer those rich in starch.

It has long been thought that we seek out energy-dense foods and obtain vitamins and minerals by eating a variety of dishes.

But a study now suggests that humans may have ‘nutritional wisdom’, preferring foods that could benefit health.

Humans are more sophisticated in their dietary choices than previously thought. New study suggests we choose foods based on micronutrient content rather than starch content

Lead author Jeff Brunstrom, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol, said: “The results of our studies are hugely significant and quite surprising.

“For the first time in nearly a century, we have shown that humans are more sophisticated in their food choices and appear to select based on specific micronutrients rather than just eating everything and getting what they need by default.”

In experiments with 128 adults, the team measured preference by showing participants pictures of different combinations of fruits and vegetables. This showed that they preferred certain food combinations more than others.

For example, apple and banana may be chosen a little more often than apple and blackberry.

Preferences appear to be predicted by the amounts of micronutrients in the pairs and whether a combination provides a balance of different micronutrients.

The researchers also looked at real-life meal combinations reported in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

They found that popular combinations increase exposure to micronutrients, reported the journal Appetite.

For example, fish and chips or curry and rice seem to offer a wider range of micronutrients than randomly generated food combinations such as chips and curry.

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