Split peas, being legumes, are a source of food unanimously considered as healthy. My question is why didn't evolution favour humans that liked the taste of split peas? And/or maybe that could eat split peas raw without cooking them? Those humans would be favoured since they wouldn't have to cook them and/or would be favoured because they would eat plenty of this healthy food since they like it?

Forgive me if that's already been answered but sometimes I have those questions which I don't find answers to and it puzzles me.

EDIT: I'm not saying that split peas taste bad, but for most people, it does not taste as good as nuts, which are healthy too, for example (no source but I think most would agree)

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    $\begingroup$ Remember the prior-research requirement, see lectins. $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2023 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ Don't mistake evolutionary solutions for optimal ones. You need selective pressures, pre-existing mechanisms to work with, and luck. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 30, 2023 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ I love split peas. I love lima beans more, and would happily eat brussel sprouts every day. I don't like apples. I like a few kinds of nuts but nowhere near as much as brussel sprouts. Yet I am an end product of evolution. Did I "devolve"? Or is your opinion only that: someone's opinion? $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2023 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ In the ~500 million year evolutionary history of taste buds, or even in the ~2 million year evolutionary history of humans, how long have we been eating domesticated peas? Maybe like 10,000 years. And by that point we were probably manipulating their evolution through agriculture. So the question should be, why didn't we select for peas to taste better? $\endgroup$
    – MikeyC
    Nov 30, 2023 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeyC or the question could be, Why did split peas/legumes evolve to taste bad? or perhaps Why are most legumes not edible raw? There I can see selection pressures.. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Nov 30, 2023 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


Because our modern nutritional needs are different than the ones we evolved with. Also cooking.

For a lot of our evolution, food was a limiting factor. Our ancestors regularly died of starvation, and sustaining sufficient calorie input was really difficult.

Part of the evolutionary "fix" for this is a preference for calorie dense foods - like nuts, or sweet tasting things, or, say, fatty cuts of meat (mmm, bacon). This is reflected in types of taste receptors (sweet, protein rich, and salty all trigger different receptors), and our brain wiring to perceive these as good.

The second part - why do they taste bad? Well, our taste receptors are relatively crude, but have inbuilt warnings - bitter is often "this food is off" but can also be "there are toxins in this" - Our receptors are relatively indiscriminate in the flavours they pick up on.

The third part is that humans, fundamentally, are weird. We like powerful chemical irritants (chilies, peppercorns), signals of decaying food (cheese, alcohol), and a whole range of other things that animals with less curiosity would have treated as the dangerous substances they deserve to be. So our tastes are built up from some hard wired stuff (mmm, sugar) and some social or learned stuff (mmm, moldy, solidifed cow's milk)

When we also throw cooking into the mix, humans eat a wide range of things our bodies are not well adapted to eat. But, the wiring for taste receptors remains pretty similar to before cooking, so they throw up false warnings - this bean is indigestible, and contains a bunch of bitter things that might be poison. This round, bitter bit of brassica has few calories, but a bunch of minor toxins, so we reject it. Eating enough of them raw will upset our stomachs, at the very least.

But, we can learn to like things - and some of that is us forming good associations with the food we're eating, and some of it is a dampening down of the warning signals - eat something bitter regularly, and your brain stops going "shit, you're trying to poison us" and instead starts realising it doesn't get sick from this particular food

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    $\begingroup$ There are a fair number of questionable statements here, making this answer very much just opinion (which isn't a good fit for a science site.) If you could provide references to back up your points, it would be very helpful. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2023 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ all very fair - I think I've not got time to dig through for the sources, and it was a bit of generalization, pitched at the level the question was being asked at - think it's better to delete or leave it? $\endgroup$
    – lupe
    Dec 4, 2023 at 11:45

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