The Variety of Food Problem and Optimal Variety

One challenge to a variety point of view might be what you could call the food problem.

If variety is what seems important, you might point out that diets we generally know to be unhealthy can include plenty of variety. So what’s the problem with those diets?

Here’s where you get into debates about whether certain kinds of variety might be better than others. And I think the answer is probably yes, certain kinds of variety are probably better than others, for some or even many kinds of situations.

For many kinds of situations, there may be sets of possibilities which still fall within a wider range which could be considered more optimal variety. And, in contrast, sets of possibilities which mostly fall outside that range of more optimal variety can probably still have plenty of variety, but they are less optimal.

A good example is food. Diets largely consisting of a wide variety of plant-based foods are generally considered to be the most healthy. So you see here there is room for a lot of variety, within the range of plant-based foods. This also implies that too narrow a variety of plant-based foods could also be a problem. And it says that if your diet does not largely consist of, meaning if the diet is not dominated by, plant-based foods, then that is also probably a problem. So you could say that the optimal variety regarding food (assuming health is what you’re going for) is a diet largely consisting of a wide variety of plant-based foods. And so, less-optimal diets could still have plenty of variety, but that variety would not be more optimal variety.

I guess we would have to admit here that, if death and disease are what you’re going for, there would be a different optimal variety of foods for that! And, admit that there are probably different opinions regarding which kinds of optimal variety in food are most healthful!

The takeaway here, for variety people, would seem to be that we shouldn’t only go for variety, but consider what the optimal variety would or might be. This also relates to the idea from our About page that “we shouldn’t pursue variety just for variety’s sake.” It’s also probably worth mentioning that optimal variety may often overlap, or arise alongside, variety which is sustainable. Further, only allowing yourself to eat a diet of optimal variety, when other important considerations are factors, such as survival, might not be optimal in a larger sense, and also goes against an openness to having a variety of variety.

Finally, broadly and generally, pursuing variety in the short and the long term, will probably lead you to seeking and finding sustainable variety, and so a variety perspective is a useful general strategy for many kinds of situations. This also relates to some new research on what intelligence is, but that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned! (Of course, these days we don’t really tune into things like radio and TV, so much as just turn them on!)