Eat Like The Animals: Your Instinctive Five Appetites

A new book, ‘Eat Like the Animals: What Nature Teaches Us about Healthy Eating’ is making waves with the revelation that humans dont just have one appetite, we have five. Written by two renowned nutritional scientists, Stephen J Simpson and David Raunbenheimer, the book says that naturally we are compelled to consumer five nutrients in precise qualities. Those nutrients are:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Sodium
  • Calcium

Satisfying all of these give without consuming too many calories is the key to good health, according to Simpson and Raunbenheimer.

During their studies they looked at the eating habits of lots of different animals from locust to orangutans. What they found was that most animals know how to seek out a nutritionally balanced diet of five elements by pure instinct. When looking at locusts, it was always believed that they just consumed everything within their path. In fact, what they want is protein, and in specific amounts. Once they found it, the other four essential nutrients were often present too, meaning they get a nutritionally balanced diet. This instinct applied across the animal kingdom, in mice, spiders, baboons and orangutans. In humans, they found that we have found a  clever way of getting all five appetites met, with the different nutrients corresponding precisely to what we can tase in food – our appetites have evolved to target specific flavours and guide us to each what we need to survive. The five appetites are needed in the diet in very precise levels and different food types.

The only question is why there is so much obesity, heart disease and diabetes cases worldwide if the instinct to eat healthily is within us all? Raubenheimer and Simpson believe humans have lost their way.

When it comes to protein we need to eat the exact right amount to help us replicate DNA and repair damaged tissue. However, the modern world has led to a lot of “decoy protein products” like crisps, biscuits and other processed foods that add unnecessary sugars, carbohydrates and fats. Ultra processed foods are even designed to smell and taste like they are full of protein but they dont give your body what it needs. We end up eating a large amount of unnecessary calories to get the protein we need.

In order to eat healthy, we need to get back in touch with our five appetites.

Prioritise Protein

Your body wants all five of the key elements discussed, but protein is the most important. Work out your metabolic rate using your weight, height, sex, age and activity levels to get your daily calorie needs. 15% of this calorie intake should be protein.

If your calorie intake is 2000 calories that would mean protein would need to be 300 calories a day. One gram of protein contains 4Kcal of energy, so you will need 75g of protein a day. Thats about 330g of lean meat or fish or around 875g of chickpeas, lentils or kidney beans.

Too Much Protein is Bad For You

Raubenheimer and Simpson reveal that there is a struggle between “longevity pathway” and the “growth and reproduction pathway”. These are two pathways that lead to different lives for humans and other animals. The first helps you live a long time. The second helps you bear many children but die young. Too much protein creates more tissue and prepares your body for reproduction. However, it downgrades cell and DNA repair and leads to a shorter life span.

A lower protein diet however feeds into the longevity pathway as the body prioritised repair and maintenance. This is what the basis for intermittent fasting diets.

Choose Your Food Wisely.

If you just look at the numbers, and see that you need 70g of protein for example, this protein could come from yogurt, or from something like doughnuts. However, whilst your body might feel like it craves those doughnuts, but there is a ton of sugar and fats to add onto it. You might feel like their satisfying, but in fact you’re just eating calories upon calories! It’s also important to make sure you dont eat over and above the numbers, as this can have an adverse effect. Its important to get it precise.



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