We’re animals. Like every other animal that ever existed, we have traits that are common to all animals, plus traits that are peculiar to our species, Homo sapiens. What are the traits that relate to nutrition and your body’s function? What are some basic nutrition rules? Here are my best guesses. Read the sources and see what you think.
The mule deer buck in our wildlife camera photo is an animal that does well on a plant-based diet. Herbivores like this deer have all kinds of adaptations to that carbohydrate-based fibrous diet. Adaptations we don’t have. We let deer and their bigger herbivore brethren digest the plants, then we ate the herbivores. Technically, we’re omnivores. There are plenty of plant products we can eat and get good nutritional value, but they need to be the easy to digest parts of the plants–fruits, berries, nuts, and some leafy and/or starchy materials, often heated to soften them enough for our small teeth to chew.
- Your body can only store energy as fat, except for a tiny buffer of glycogen derived from glucose. If what you eat has more proteins, sugars, or fats than your body can use in the short term, it has to store it somewhere or dump it in your urine, which can happen when there’s way too much glucose in your blood stream if one is diabetic.
- Your body doesn’t count calories in food and drink. Yes, you can count them, but your body doesn’t know or care. Sugar, fats, and proteins are each processed by very different metabolic pathways. Typically, if you don’t eat enough food to sustain your normal metabolism, your body will respond as if you’re being starved to death, which complicates a one-dimensional calorie restriction diet.
- If you eat the mix of foods that’s normal for your species, your body will adjust appetite, intake, and activity levels to sustain a normal body composition. Not too fat, not too thin. Healthier, too.
- Your body processes different foods differently. For example, if you eat food with a lot of sugar or carbohydrates that digest quickly to sugar, your body is wired to keep eating until the sugar is gone and to make as much of the sugar into fat as possible. If you eat a high fat diet with very little sugars, you’re wired to eat less.
- If you eat foods that aren’t normal for your kind of animal, your body will respond in strange ways. Depending on where your genetic weak points are, you may get sick in ways that used to be pretty unusual before the 20th Century. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression, and other problems come to mind.
- Food and drink with a lot of sugar or carbohydrates that become sugar quickly are the worst. Sugar will make you sick over time, the only question is what form the sickness takes.
- The temperate zone vegetable oils like soy, corn, canola, etc. aren’t normal either. Hydrogenated or heated, they’re downright toxic to any kind of animal. Practically all fried foods are cooked in these oils today.
- Strangely enough, what’s seems optimal for the human animal is food with a high fat content, from animals, nuts, and some tropical vegetable oils like coconuts. See Biology.
- High carbohydrate diets can be OK if the carbohydrates come from sources that digest more slowly than modern processed foods do. Tolerance varies depending on the person’s genetic makeup.
- Exercise doesn’t matter very much if you are eating the wrong foods for your kind of animal. You can still get sick.
- Exercise helps your body function normally if you’re eating the normal foods for your species. There’s a synergistic effect.