The se­cret to healthy eat­ing can be found in the an­i­mal world

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Health -

Bi­ol­o­gists David Rauben­heimer and Stephen J Simp­son be­lieve that look­ing to other hu­mans for diet ad­vice may be where we’ve been go­ing wrong! Their book Eat Like The An­i­mals shares what crea­tures can teach us about our own eat­ing habits.


Like most an­i­mal species, hu­mans have dif­fer­ent ap­petites for dif­fer­ent nu­tri­ents, such as pro­teins, fats and car­bo­hy­drates.

“These ap­petites are the body’s means of telling the brain ex­actly which nu­tri­ents and nu­tri­ent com­bi­na­tions it needs at a given time,”

David ex­plains. “The big ques­tion is, if we hu­mans have this won­der­fully ef­fec­tive bi­o­log­i­cal ma­chin­ery for se­lect­ing a bal­anced diet, why don’t we use it?”

Stephen adds, “As it hap­pens, it’s pre­cisely be­cause of our won­der­ful ap­petite sys­tems that we’re prone to eat too much and suf­fer obe­sity and dis­ease.”


One of the many naughty habits hu­mans have de­vel­oped is called “pro­tein lev­er­ag­ing”. This is based on the the­ory that we nat­u­rally pri­ori­tise eat­ing pro­tein above other nu­tri­ents, re­gard­less of where it’s com­ing from.

“In hu­mans, like many other species, the ap­petites for pro­tein are stronger than those for fats and carbs,” says Stephen. “This means that if we di­lute our di­ets with fats and carbs, we must eat more of them get our fill of pro­tein – a process called pro­tein lever­age.”

“Di­lut­ing our diet with fats and carbs is ex­actly what we’ve done as a species, through stack­ing su­per­mar­ket shelves with all those highly pro­cessed foods that are cheap, rich in carbs and fat, and low in pro­tein,” David con­tin­ues. “If we reach for them when we’re hun­gry, as peo­ple all-too-of­ten do, we will overeat fats and carbs in or­der to get our fill of pro­tein.”


David and Stephen note that our eat­ing habits are very sim­i­lar to orang­utans – we both have strong ap­petites for pro­tein, are prone to overeat­ing and ac­cu­mu­late body fat from carb-rich and fat-rich foods. But the dif­fer­ence be­tween us and them is our en­vi­ron­ment.

“In orang­utan for­est habi­tats, there are long pe­ri­ods when fruits are scarce, and in those pe­ri­ods

they burn the fat they had pre­vi­ously stored,” says David. “How­ever, we are ex­posed con­stantly to highly pro­cessed foods.”

The way we can en­sure we’re eat­ing well is to cre­ate healthy food en­vi­ron­ments that work with our ap­petites. This can be done by stock­ing the kitchen with fruits, veg­eta­bles, grains and lean m meat so we’re not con­stantly snacking on sug­ary and fatty foods. “Re­mem­ber there are end­less ways to achieve a nu­tri­tion­ally bal­anced d diet,” Stephen adds. “Un­less there are spe­cific me med­i­cal rea­sons, you don’t nee need to cut out any food grou group or eat things you don don’t like, or that are not ap­pro­pri­ate to your food cul­ture,” he says.

by David Rauben­heimer and Stephen J Simp­son

Eat Like The An­i­mals (Harper­collins Aus­tralia, $35)

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