BLOG NUTRITION, FOOD
May 6, 2015
Food Flavors & Our Palates
It’s no secret! Foods taste good and give us pleasure with each morseful bite. Our taste buds light up! When trying to sense which flavors can ignite the neurological pleasure centers in our brain.
Ultimately, our body is trying to fulfill our appetites through texture, smell, and taste from the foods we search and crave for.
However, it seems as though whole foods can never hit the “bliss” or “golden” spot, yet processed foods always ring in as the champions in the battle between quality nutrition and our pleasure centers. Let’s take a closer look as to why quality convenience foods overtake wholefoods and ask why? Could understanding our taste sensors have a correlation with fighting obesity?
Well before we address the question let’s start with a questionnaire:
• Do you love pastries because they're packed with sweet carbs?
• Do you love Cheetos because they literally melt in your mouth?
• Do you love Fruit Loops, popsicles and gummy bears because they are bright and colorful?
• Do you love chocolate because your body has not adapted to its intense flavor?
• Do you love fries and potato chips because they have the perfect mix of salt and fat and they're fried?
• Do you love soda, juices and sports drinks because they are sweet, sugar powerhouses?
How did you do?
Not surprisingly, most people would answer yes to all the above questions even though we are afraid to admit the intense excitement we receive when we eat these types of foods. Rarely do you hear anyone state their love for Brussels sprouts or cauliflower, yet everyone understands the importance of wholefoods. So what makes convenience food superior in taste?
What if these types of food were designed to grab your attention and overtake the pleasure centers in your brain? It has been well known that one of the best ways to over-stimulate our taste receptors and reward pathways in the brain is through the use of a combination of sugar, salt, and fat to maximize the impact of these foods.
These foods made with sugar, fat, and salt can be biologically addictive because the human body is hard-wired to find these foods as a survival mechanism. While it’s important to educate yourself on good nutrition, here are some helpful tips to trick your taste buds when eating healthier and still be able to hit that blissful spot with whole foods!
1. Add host of flavors to your recipes
Fresh ingredients full of taste and aromas such as fresh garlic, basil and parsley have much more flavor than dried herbs. Lime, lemon, and orange zest add a boost to the flavor of dishes that have lime, lemon or orange juice in the recipes. Variety also helps your brain feel more satisfied!
2. Give another chance to foods you think you hate
Taste buds typically become less sensitive with age, which allows you to enjoy foods that once tasted too strong or bitter, like Brussels sprouts, olives, or turnips.
3. Pair foods you dislike with those you love
If you’re agnostic about beets, but you do like blue cheese and walnuts, toss them all in a spinach salad.
4. Make small swaps
Switching to whole grains is easier when you gradually replace processed grains. Blend 1/3 brown rice and 2/3 white rice; over time, you can adjust the ratio until you eat 100 percent brown rice.
5. Give it time
Cultivating a taste for certain foods may require repeated exposure. New taste buds develop in 7 days so by then, you will have acquired a new profound taste than before. If you find certain foods more trouble than good, say goodbye to them. If other foods are pleasing and manageable, make them a go-to option
6. Educate yourself!
It’s important to give yourself reasons to like foods with flavors you don’t naturally love. If you learn about, say, why kale is so good for you—it’s loaded with fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, iron, and other plant compounds—you’ll be more motivated to try and like it.
7. Turn off a craving
When your sweet tooth starts demanding sugar, eating a food with a contrasting flavor, like half a grapefruit or a sour or bitter orange can satisfy your taste buds in more ways than one. You can also switch to a palate-cleansing flavor, like mint (gum or a tooth brushing anyone?) to stimulate out taste sensory enrichment.
8. Limit flavors in a single meal
Having too many choices at one time can stimulate your appetite and cause you to overeat. It’s called sensory-specific satiety—the tendency to get full and lose interest in, say, a buttery piece of fish, but be able to continue the jasmine rice. When you limit the variety in a given meal, you’re more likely to feel satisfied sooner. Stick to one entrée and one or two small sides.
Educating yourself on your body and why it works the way it does can make you feel a lot less guilty when it comes to food. When you know there’s a scientific reaction, not just will power at play, a lot of things can make a little more sense.
Knowing that highly palatable foods (high in sugar, fat and salt remember!) stimulate your reward and pleasure centers in an intense way means we have to be smart about the way we use those foods. Set yourself up for success! Think about what you’ll do to make it easier to eat one portion, what you’ll have before and after, where you’ll be eating it etc. Remember to plan for the recovery in case the cravings and hunger become overwhelming! Stage 2 anyone?
Co-written by Erika DeRooy