Do you often try to dismiss your cravings for food and turn towards what is touted as being better for you? The newest study finds that humans are surprisingly tuned into what the body needs, so you might want to consider giving these cravings more credence.
Researchers from the University of Bristol set out to investigate how the body’s cravings influence food choices. It was believed from past research that humans were motivated by an approximate calorie intake, rather than types of food, when it comes to deciding what they should eat. This suggested that when humans know they’re low on calories, they will automatically seek out higher calorie food.
However, this study found that humans are not as motivated by caloric or energy requirements as previously thought. In fact, it’s much more nuanced—even down to unconsciously choosing food that meets our individual vitamin and mineral needs at any given time.
In the experiment, people often chose to pair foods together that provided the most complete and balanced nutrition (such as choosing an apple and a banana over an apple and blackberries). This was repeated with real-world data which found that popular UK meals were paired in ways that provided more robust nutrition. They also noted how flavor influences these choices, even in situations where flavor doesn’t equal the most efficient source of calories.
Animals naturally use flavor as a guide for choosing nutritionally dense meals, so the researchers raise the question about all the unnaturally flavored foods and drinks in our modern world, such as soda and potato chips. They believe that it’s possible that artificial flavorings are disrupting our natural cues towards healthier items, and they also wonder how diets which restrict whole food groups are disrupting this process of food selection. In this way, are we losing touch with our innate ability to provide our bodies with what they need?
Jeffrey M. Brunstrom, Mark Schatzker. Micronutrients and food choice: A case of ‘nutritional wisdom’ in humans? Appetite, 2022; 106055 DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2022.106055