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Why do we hate good food?

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Anybody who's ever had a kid knows how hard it is to convince them to eat nutritious meals. Even as adults, we still prefer fattening foods like burgers and pizza, and high-sugar foods like dessert and soda, over "nutritious" foods like broccoli or brusel sprouts; it's simply our matured sense of responsibility (juxtaposed to that of children) that cause us to eat the nutritous foods more often, at the expense of flavor.


It's so consistent that we can eliminate any possibility of it being a fluke; it's a trait of the homo sapien species. Sure, there's the occasional exception, but then again, there's also the occasion person born with six fingers.


However, when you look at this from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes no sense at all.


According to natural selection, genetic mutations happen all the time (often, in homo sapien culture, this is a referred to as a "disability"). However, once in a blue moon, such a mutation gives the person who has it a survival advantage. These animals survive, reproduce, and before youk now, there's an entire population of organisms with this trait. Now repeat that a hundred million times over the course of a billion years, and you have the ultimate surviving lifeform, someone who can create tools to give him the survival advantages his body doesn't have on its own, thus enabling him to survive anywhere and survive anything that the planet can throw at it; no "mutations" necessary.


But, if that were how our species came to dominate the planet, then why didn't evolution give us taste buds that would prefer the food that makes us big and strong, as opposed to the food that just makes us... big?

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I'm no expert... but it seems logical that we "like" anything with a high energy content.

If you look at a healthy diet, from all the food groups, those with high energy content (proteins, fats) were the most scarce. Also, contrary to vegetables, proteins usually ran away or tried to fight back. So if that food required the most effort to get, we may have evolved a craving to motivate ourselves to make that huge effort to find it and catch it?

I seem to remember (but I have no source) that as humans evolved to become more and more intelligent, we required more and more proteins to grow our larger brains. That means we required more meat and other sources of protein. Maybe we just evolved a craving for meat and high-fat foods? If humans would have remained strict vegetarians, we might not have become what we are today.

It is just a guess. Again, I am no expert.

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It seems that our desire for bad food is good for us. Over many generations we gained the ability to identify foods by taste (sweet and fat) that had the best chance to get us into adulthood due to their high energy density.

Why do kids of all cultures love sweet-tasting foods compared to

adults? Here’s a hint…it has to do with growing like a weed. New

research from the University of Washington and the Monell Chemical

Senses Center indicates that this preference for sweets is based in human biology and is related to the high growth rate in children.


This does actually make sense because when growth is rapid, the

body’s calorie demands do similarly increase and the programmed

preference for sweet foods will point kids in the direction of high

calorie foods.


The researchers looked at sweet preference and biological measures of

growth and physical maturation in 143 children between the ages of 11

and 15. The findings, reported in the journal Physiology & Behavior,

suggest that keen preference for sweet foods is related to their high

growth rate and that as children’s growth slows and eventually stops,

their preference for sweets likewise declines.


Parallels have been drawn between sugar and fat preferences. Sensory preference for sweet taste is present at birth, and the “sweet tooth” of early childhood helps to introduce new foods into the children’s diet (Birch, 1999). Children learn quickly to prefer flavors associated with high-energy content and begin to select high-fat foods early in life (Johnson et al., 1991; Birch, 1992).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53528/ Edited by zapatos
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I wouldn't discount the power of advertising either. You don't see a lot of commercials for broccoli and sprouts. Anyone who thinks they're completely impervious to cheeseyburgery, sucrolicious, microwave fat pocket affective conditioning is just fooling themselves.

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High fat and high salt foods were less common in the past. They are not bad for us, as we need them to survive. What's bad for us is their abundance today. A desire for these things is good when they are in short supply. When they are available everywhere and at insanely low costs problems begin.


Obesity and its related health issues was not a problem for anyone who was not very wealthy until the very recent past.

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Because of the abundance of what you would call 'bad' foods.


Any predator animal will eat first the most energy supplying parts of the killed victim, and leave the rest of the carcass for second thoughts -or next needs- if no other victims are found soon.


The same predator, will go for broccoli to avoid starvation if nothing else is available.


What you name 'good' foods can be a label pushed by nutritionists and not reality.

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Sugars were usually in ripe fruit because they are really just ovaries preparing to feed the budding plant and hunting was a fairly difficult when trying to feed an entire tribe with rival predators everywhere. So both of these things would either only come every once in a while (for fruit) or had a high energy tradeoff (for hunting). Thinking of it this way it is not difficult to see why evolution would select for eating high amounts of these two types of food when the availability is high, otherwise during the winter when these things weren't around (and sex tends to occur more IIRC) they may not have had the energy and nutrients to survive the months without those things.


That being said people do like foods that are good for you, they just don't tend to like them as much as the other types of food. Fruits being the most commonly eaten because they have sugars we enjoy. Vegetables are edible to us, for the most part, but give us very little in the way of nutrition because we can't digests the cellulose, we can survive for a while on them but not indefinably.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Salt is the first thing I think "sells" the high calorie foods.



I think there is an inclination to eat richer foods. Foods with high a nutritional value.


The implication is that what we eat is not rich. I think this is a sign of your economic status and not your desire for harmful or worthless foods.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Food like french fries are high in carbohydrates and calories, things which give us instant energy necessary to persistent hunt a deer or something. If you look at it that way it seems obvious why our brain prefers these food. It is only recently that these food have become easily accessible and we do not need to persistent hunt any longer. But, our brain has not had time to evolve to stop craving for high calorie food, so, we still like to eats these stuff, even though they are not so good now.

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This is easy. We did not evolve in an environment of plenty. We evolved in an environment of scarcity. Our tastes have not evolved as fast as our agriculture. We have six basic tastes, sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami (protein) and fat. We crave sweet, salt, umami and fat, because we need all of those to survive.

First of all, sweet. Sweet indicates safe, high calorie food. A very good things a few thousand years ago. Fat indicates high energy, which was a precious commodity. Protein is always in short supply. And salt is quite rare in most of the world. Just look at how far wild animals will travel to find a salt lick. Roman soldiers were once paid in salt (hence the name salary). Our kidneys are designed to conserve salt.

So, we find most vegetables unsatisfying as most are typically deficient in such nutrients.

On the other hands, we are actually programmed to reject most vegetables. Every plant on Earth is toxic. And our taste buds respond to these phytotoxins by registering them as bitter.

It's evolution.

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  • 3 weeks later...

All evolution cares about is that procreation takes place soon enough to ensure survival of that species. It does not care how old people live to be. It does not matter much how healthy people eat all their life, since all they need to do is procreate at an early age, and the genes for the love of high calorie food get passed early on.

Edited by Airbrush
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