Wouldn’t it be great if you had cravings for things that are good for you like broccoli or kale? Like, the same cravings you have for things like pizza, chocolate and doughnuts – all the things which cause serious illness and disease. If we evolved to crave things that were good for us, then we would live in a disease free world, but instead, we crave fats and sugars, which make us very ill, and this really makes no sense.. so why did we evolve to love the things that are bad for us?
The answer lies in our evolutionary history, at least 10,000 years ago. In this time we lived as hunter gatherers, and I’ll first look at why we crave sugar:
Sugar is extremely rare when you are a hunter gatherer, and the only real source of pure sugar is honey, which is very difficult to find and even harder to harvest. So, the main source of sugar would be fruits, which are relatively high in sugar, but also contain vital micro nutrients such as vitamin C. Being high in sugar provides much needed energy for the active hunter gatherer lifestyle, and also provided much needed micronutrients, so naturally, we evolved to seek out these sweet tasting fruits. Still, the sugar content of fruits is nothing compared to modern foods, and with an active lifestyle, it would pose no health risks, just benefits.
Fats are also very difficult to find, and the only source would be animals, which understandably don’t want to get caught and eaten. But we evolved to seek out fats because they are a fantastic source of energy, and contain about twice as much energy per gram as carbohydrates, which again, is extremely useful for an active lifestyle. Fats also always come alongside protein, and other nutrients which are not provided in fruits in any meaningful quantity, but are extremely important for health and ultimately survival. So naturally, we evolved to seek out fats and sugars, because they provide us with much needed energy, much needed micronutrients, and, particularly in the case of fats, are quite rare.
We didn’t evolve to crave foods like broccoli simply because they were very easy to find, and didn’t provide much of what we needed the most – energy. Plants like vegetables were probably eaten quite commonly, but because of their ease of access and low energy content, we never needed to crave them.
As we developed agriculture and industry, we were able to extract and concentrate the flavours that we liked – sugar and fat – into extremely unhealthy foods, which cause the illnesses we are all familiar with today. However, if we had evolved to crave broccoli, you can bet that we would have extracted and concentrated whatever was in broccoli into a food which would have resulted in its own illness. The problem isn’t the nutrient as much as the quantity and form we eat them in today.
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