A study indicated that people have a natural instinct to eat healthy foods, rather than just being drawn to snacks rich in fat and sugar.
Researchers from the University of Bristol have found that people seem to be drawn to certain nutrients – not energy-dense foods.
Previously, scientists believed that humans evolved to prefer energy-rich foods and achieved a balanced diet simply by eating different foods.
The Bristol team found that people seem to have “food wisdom”, in which foods are chosen in part to meet our vitamin and mineral needs.
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Lead author Jeff Bronstrom, Professor of Experimental Psychology, said: “The results of our studies are very important and somewhat surprising.
“For the first time in nearly a century, we’ve shown that humans are more sophisticated in their food choices, appearing to make choices based on specific micronutrients rather than just eating everything and getting what they need by default.”
The paper published in the magazine appetite, gives renewed weight to the bold research of the 1930s by American pediatrician Dr. Clara Davis, who put a group of 15 children on a diet that allowed them to “self-choose,” in other words, eat whatever they wanted, from among 33 different children. Food.
While no child ate the same group of foods, they all achieved and maintained good health, which was taken as evidence of nutritional wisdom.
Professor Bronstrom’s team has developed a new technique that involves measuring preference by showing people pictures of different pairs of fruits and vegetables so that their choices can be analyzed without jeopardizing their health or well-being.
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In all, 128 adults participated in two trials. The first study showed that people prefer certain food combinations more than others. For example, apples and bananas may be chosen a little more than apples and blackberries.
The choices seem to reflect the amounts of micronutrients in the pair and whether their combination provides a balance between the different micronutrients.
The researchers reviewed their findings with real-world meal groups as reported in the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
This showed that people combine meals in a way that increases exposure to micronutrients in their diet.
Specifically, ingredients in popular UK meals, for example fish and chips, or curry and rice, appear to offer a wider range of micronutrients than randomly produced meal groups, such as chips and curries.
“Far from being a fairly simple specialist, as previously thought, humans seem to have a distinct intelligence when it comes to choosing a nutritious diet,” said Professor Bronstrom.
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