Science | LS Answers – Why do we need such a varied diet?

From cheesy chips to gourmet delicacies, it is fair to say that the human diet contains a smorgasbord of preferences. A combination of different cultures, religions and even celebrity instagrams can influence our dietary habits, but why is it that humans choose to devour such a wide range of dishes whereas many animals can survive on just one type of food source?

Evolution is thought to be a key driver for how the human diet has evolved, varied sustenance can be advantageous to a species as it allows its members to survive in many locations and habitats. The discovery of cooking also lead to many foods such as potatoes, wheat and grain becoming edible as they would be poisonous for humans to consume if uncooked.

The way different organisms’ digestive systems are built can determine how they can most efficiently use the food they consume for energy. For example, many people assume that cows do not require a large intake of protein as they are herbivores that survive solely on grass, their stomachs, however, contain vast amounts of bacteria which form their own protein and the vitamins the cows rely on for healthy growth and function.

One reason why humans do not have the same biological make up as animals like the cow may be because there is a metabolic cost to synthesising your own vitamins and amino acids and that sourcing them from our diets may be more energy efficient. So it seems luckily for us, a variety is the key to healthy humans.


Hayley Williams


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