In my last Tidbits post, I mentioned the book The Dorito Effect. Last week the author of that book was on Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution Podcast. Please listen to this podcast and then read the book, or read the book and then listen to the podcast – however you do it just read the book and listen to the podcast. Yes, I know that was redundant, but seriously this is important stuff.
Mark Schatzker (the author of the Dorito Effect) delves deeply into the world of flavor and very clearly ties it into nutrition and our ability to discern where nutrition lies. It is a wonder that in all of the discussions of nutrition we have forgotten about flavor. But what is flavor but nature’s way of letting us know where the good stuff (nutrition) is?
In the book Mark uses the example of goats, but really you could use any animal. Have you ever watched a cow graze? Was that a really “Texan” question? Ok, so maybe you haven’t seen a cow, but what about your dog? Have you ever taken your dog for a walk and he’s deeply interested in sniffing the grass, eventually settling on a patch of grass to take a couple of bites out of?
My dog does this all the time. He sniffs over this patch of grass and that one, but eventually he finds just the right patch and starts to take a couple nibbles. If I’m not paying much attention, I wouldn’t necessarily see that what I’m calling “grass” is actually several different plant species. Somehow Roscoe “knows” which “grass” is the right grass. But how? Well his nose – which is actually a bigger flavor sensor than the taste buds – and how it tastes when he has a nibble. The smell and taste of that grass “tells” him it’s what he needs in that moment; I didn’t tell him, his vet didn’t tell him, the media didn’t tell him. His own “nutritional wisdom” told him by communicating through smell and taste, aka flavor.
It is well accepted that animals have “nutritional wisdom” – no one will argue that a bear manages to eat what it needs to when it needs to. Yet we seem to think this is crazy in the world of humans. But humans are animals, we have “nutritional wisdom.” We’ve just hijacked it and are sending it mixed signals. This is because we have learned how to “flavor” things.
When Mother Nature flavors things that are appealing it’s because there are valuable nutrients in that thing. When humans flavor things they often have no nutritional value at all. We found a way to divorce flavor from nutrition in our “food.” But no one told our brains. We are still wired to seek foods with flavor, because we are still wired to associate flavor with nutrition. This is deeply rooted; it is an ancestral drive for survival; it has been hardwired over millennia of evolution. It is not easily set aside nor should it be.
So how do we use this information? We recognize that human made flavors are corrupted signals. We recognize that the only way to regain our own “nutritional wisdom” is to get back to eating food with flavor made by Mother Nature – she’s a whole lot wiser than you or I.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have lost all faith in food/nutrition books or just don’t have the time, please just read this one book, even if it’s the only one you read this year. It is well written, very easy to read and full of some amazing ah-ha moments that will hopefully give you the knowledge you need to regain your “nutritional wisdom” and your health. And the podcast is a great thing to listen to in the car or when you walk the dog…and he just wont leave that patch of grass alone.