Home » Should We Eat Like Chimpanzees? How to Go Back to Our Natural Diet.
Fruit Diet Frugivores Outside the Box

Should We Eat Like Chimpanzees? How to Go Back to Our Natural Diet.

Chimpanzees are often referred to - and percieved as - typical omnivores. This is a misperception with significant implications on where humans place themselves on the dietary spectrum!

The diet of our closest living relatives should undoubtedly gain more attention in nutrition science, as it helps us rediscover what our own natural diet looks like!

Alienation from nature and natural foods

We live so far away from nature that we have gotten to the point where we are unsure about the human diet. The reason for the disorientation is that we do not live within our original natural habitat. We have overcome the limitations given by our biology with our intelligence and manipulative skills: we create new food sources by changing the chemical composition through heating and processing.

For example, grains and legumes are not edible in their natural state. Changing foods from their natural state tricks our instinctual knowledge and make otherwise un-tasty matter palatable.

We extensively manipulate nature to create conditions that better suit our needs through cultural adaptation. This is why our food choices are heavily influenced by cultural habits – rather than natural instincts – today.

However, this deviation from natural living comes at the price of compromised health because it means moving away from the naturally evolved balance between body biochemistry and natural food chemistry.

So where can we go from here? Given our genetic, anatomical, and physiological similarities, it is undoubtedly plausible that we can learn about our diet from chimpanzees. And – other than us – they are smarter and stick to nature within their natural habitat.

The chimps’ diet helps us understand the human diet

Chimpanzees are observable within their wild, natural habitat. Unlike in humans, we can study what foods the animals choose from nature – raw and unaltered. In contrast, humans have created a filter of civilization that clouds our view of what human biologically suitable foods are. It has got to the point that we wouldn’t eat many of the modern foods, that we eat on a daily basis, raw and unseasoned!

Therefore, a realistic depiction of the chimpanzees’ diet is highly relevant to what we think a healthy human diet looks like! For example, a distorted perception of meat consumption (and generally food choices) of chimpanzees results in a misleading promotion of an omnivorous high-meat diet in humans! Chimpanzees do hunt but eat much less meat than we find in an average human diet – chimps eat 1-2 % meat, while the standard diet of humans contains nearly 20% of meat.

Besides meat consumption, the chimpanzee diet also helps us critically evaluate other foods and environmental factors of their habitat in a comparative approach (see below).

To understand our natural diet better, we first have to know more about what the chimpanzees actually eat:

Chimpanzees are highly frugivorous – are humans too?

Chimpanzees are classified as frugivorous omnivores, and in scientific literature, the apes are described as frugivores: specialized fruit-eaters.

While chimpanzees are able to eat plants and animal foods – as humans do – they eat primarily ripe fruits in the wild. Fruits are their preferred food! Read more about their diet here.

Chimpanzees are classified as both, omnivores and frugivores!

In the wild their diet consist of 96% plant-based foods, of which 70% is tropical ripe fruit. Meat accounts for only 1-2%. Their diet is all raw!

Depending on fruit availability, chimps forage for other types of plant foods and animal-based foods like insects, eggs and meat. But the observed portion of animal foods in their diet is tiny, and the quantity of meat is negligible… or sometimes even seems non-existent. Most tropical monkeys and apes are frugivores.

Humans obviously have a lot in common with chimpanzees, as we are very closely related – but what about the dietary type? The question emerges: are we naturally frugivores, too?

Comparing us to chimpanzees reveals that this is indeed a highly likely scenario:

Humans and chimpanzees share many biological traits related to foraging and eating, like the shape of hands, sweet taste receptors, digestion, teeth, metabolic characteristics, and other features that have evolved with specialized fruit-eating (read more here).

Comparing the chimp and “standard” human diet

Comparing the chimpanzee diet to our own is complex, with the main issue being the alienation from nature and food quality: chimpanzees live still within their natural habitat, tropical climate (sunshine) and wild food sources. Most humans do not, which has implications for adopting a species-appropriate diet!

For example, wild fruits consumed by primates have another carbohydrate profiles (higher in fructose and lower in sucrose) and are higher in micronutrients, proteins and fiber than cultivated fruits (K. Milton; 1999).

Chimpanzees do hunt but eat much less meat than we find in an average human diet – chimps eat 1-2 % meat, while the standard diet of humans contains nearly 20% of meat. Additionally, humans consume around 10% of dairy and often have grains and cooked foods as the main staple foods. In contrast, chimpanzees eat an all-raw diet, with fruits as their carbohydrate source – instead of complex carbohydrates from grains.

Food TypeChimpanzeeHuman
Tropical Fruits70%depends on area
Temperate Fruitsnonedepends on area
Fruit Vegetablesnone
Nuts and seeds5%highly individual
Greens / leaves /sprouts21%2
Roots (starchy vegetables)?
Grains / legumesnone
Meat (incl. poultry & fish)usually 1-2%320%1
total animal products6%236%1
Cooked foodsnoneusually 30-80%
Raw foods100%4usually 20-70%
Processed foodsnonehighly individual
Table: comparing trends of the average diet of an adult chimp and an adult human. The table is hard to complete and is not exact because both, the human and chimp diet, vary. However, the significant differences are apparent and help us evaluate how closely our own diet is to a chimp’s diet! 1 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov; 2 wildchimps.org; 3 frugivorebiology.com; 4 nationalgeographic.com

Chimpanzees do naturally supplement their diet with mineral-rich matter (see here) and also have been observed to self-medicate with herbs (see here).

What does all of this mean for the human diet? We can compare foods and dietary habits to learn about a natural frugivorous diet. And we can also still rely on our natural instincts like animals do by asking ourselves: would I hunt and eat a smaller vertebrate and eat it raw, as a chimp does? Most of us would do this only if nothing else were available. 

Why do humans eat the way they eat today?

Humans can be described as cultural omnivores but biological frugivores. Humans have distinct traits, and characteristics specialized for fruit-eating (read more here).

Humans have invented and adopted food processing, like cooking, mixing, and seasoning, to make otherwise inedible foods edible and palatable in cold areas, where fruits are not abundant and nutritious enough to sustain larger primates. We have to remember that humans are a tropical species!

However, those foods are not optimal for our biology and are survival foods. We still have no major adaptations to cooked foods other than a higher tolerance to the toxicity that comes with it.

Inuits are one example of having integrated raw meats in their diet, because of the harsh environment without vegetation to sustain a frugivore or plant-based human diet. Those conditions do not allow for a high average age. Thus for humans, meat is a survival food – not a primary food source!

Instead, humans are biologically adapted to fruit-eating and evolved with tropical fruits as their primary food source!

Conclusion: humans and chimpanzees are highly similar in terms of diet

Humans resemble their closest relatives in many aspects – including in their dietary biology! This is why knowing their diet and their dietary classification matters for the understanding of our own diet! Changing our view from the omnivore chimpanzee to the frugivore chimpanzee has major implications on the view of the human dietary ecology.

Knowing the diet of our closest living relatives helps us understand what foods best suit human biology.

Humans and chimpanzees also share many adaptive features that specialize us as fruit-eaters. But are we still as frugivorous as chimpanzees? More scientists should ask this essential question! And as a follow-up question: “what can we learn from wild primate diets?”. Like this citation from K. Milton in Nature (1999) in her scientific work:

Is a high-fruit tropical diet the most suitable diet for our biology? There are many indications that this might be the case! And in real life, the number of people adopting a high-fruit diet is growing – and reporting tremendous health benefits! 

There definitely is something to the chimpanzee diet! For a more in-depth view of the human frugivore diet, visit this article here.

And to learn more about the practical part of doing your diet more chimp style, check out the our (free and open) frugivore diet guide:

Go to How to do the Frugivore Diet

Go To Learn more about what food groups are really suitable for humans.

About the author

Martina Spaeni, MSc in Biology

"We are frugivores - specialized fruit-eaters!"

It was passion at first sight when I came across the intriguing concept that humans are adapted to a high-fruit diet, similar to chimpanzees. As someone trained in evolutionary biology and anthropology, I had to start digging deeper! I'm not an academic scientist, but I seek knowledge and health by connecting the dots. Thus, after seeing enough convincing evidence, I started eating a frugivore diet to test it on myself... and saw changes in health I had never imagined. Now, my main focus is to gather biological evidence and answer the question:

Are We Frugivores?

Hey, dear fellow seeker of truth in nutrition and regeneration, I'm Martina, an independent researcher with a focus on the species-appropriate diet of humans and biological detoxification.

My background so far:
M.Sc. in Biology, Ecology, University of Zurich, UZH
B.Sc. in Biology, University of Zurich
Nutrition Science Course at Stanford Center for Health Education
Certified Regenerative Detoxification Specialist
Overcoming my autoimmune disease naturally
A family with a strong background in natural remedies, with my father being a well-known herbalist and chemist.

My great passion is exploring the ancestral, original ecological niche of humans and the potential to self-regenerate within this paradise habitat we are biologically adapted to. I connect scientific studies with holistic, ancient knowledge and real-life experiences.

I aim to raise awareness of the toxic overload of the world and our bodies and how to detox efficiently by sticking to the ecological niche and diet we are adapted to. We desperately need this reliable and easy-to-use compass within the profit-driven jungle of artificial dietary concepts nd overcomplicated (mis)information. Know your ecology... and finally, everything makes sense. To heal our bodies, we need to find out who we are in nature without letting our cultural filters get in the way.

I'm grateful to be given the opportunity to use my educational background in biological sciences, combined with natural healing knowledge, common sense, and intuition, to put out information to the best of my ability.

I'm 100% independently working in service to those ready for great change towards a loving, regenerating world.



Are we frugivores?

Exploring the species-appropriate diet of humans.

We challenge the dietary classification of humans as omnivores. Why does this matter? Because knowing our evolutionary, species-specific diet is the compass in the ever-growing contradictory diet and health jungle.

Read more about us…

Follow me

Medical Disclaimer

The content on this website serves informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice. See full medical disclaimer here.