The jungle effect diet refers to the theories of Dr. Daphne Miller, as mentioned in her 2008 book The Jungle Effect and especially to her theory that diets relying on moderation and localized but not very many ingredients often result in healthier people. Miller takes an anthropological and medical perspective, though the book is written for the average reader, in explaining how certain populations of people tend to avoid various illnesses that plague other cultures. Miller’s book emphasizes the food choices from certain cultures, from varied regions of the world that seem to have the healthiest diets, and offers recipes, information, and strong evidence for her theories.
The jungle effect may be a slight misnomer, since not all cultures where health and diet seem optimum are located in jungles. In fact, some cultures Miller cites as having a jungle effect diet live nowhere near jungles, like people in Iceland who tend to have much lower incidence of risk for some very devastating diseases. Actually Miller attributes the name jungle effect diet to one of her patients who would return from her native Brazil and feel improved. The idea that reestablishing eating patterns that occur in your homeland, as her patient would when visiting Brazil, may say something about how ancestral eating patterns can be good for us. Miller’s contention is that our ancestors had often thousands of years to determine which foods were optimal for consumption, and due to that, they may have usually chosen foods that were truly the most healthful.
A jungle effect diet of optimum quality has several components. It usually doesn’t include processed oils, and most foods are locally available. The healthiest diets may be very different from culture to culture, but they often share common traits, like being based on a local grain, containing some form of fermented food and having some form of seasoning or spice. Miller also contends, and she is certainly not alone in this, that communal eating, like sharing meals with family, seems to be more healthful and may matter as much or more than what foods you eat at shared meals.
Some of the material in The Jungle Effect seems to fly in the face of conventional dietary wisdom. For instance, foods with a high fat content aren’t rated as bad or avoided foods if they make up part of an optimum jungle effect diet, or part of your particular ancestry. There are no “low carb” diets praised. Certainly Miller sees moderation as a part of any good diet, but it appears that most minimally processed foods, especially ones you prepare yourself, would make good sense. Whether it is vital for people to consider their ancestry when thinking about diet is hard to guess, especially when people have, as they often do, very mixed ancestry.