Imagine you hear someone say "Let’s go eat healthy foods!" Does this excite you? If you are like most people, the truthful answer is NO!
People get excited about high-fat, high-calorie and highly tasty foods. I know that I do. According to data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service about what foods Americans buy, our favorite foods are most likely to be cheese, chicken, steak, fruit juice and pizza. Many of these are considered junk foods. What makes them so tasty is the fat content.
When we look at the evolution of humans, we find that we have preferences for high-calorie foods. They are an important source of energy and they were foods that helped us survive 100,000 years ago.
Now, however, we don't generally have food scarcities, so the high-calorie food are not necessary for survival. In fact, the high-calorie foods are making fat, and causing chronic illnesses in our bodies.
The fatty foods are not our only favorites. We love sugary foods, too. Sugary and fatty food release chemicals in our brains, called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine, create pleasurable feelings or rewards.
Studies have shown that the intake of sugar or sugary foods can create such a strong, pleasurable release of neurotransmitters that it can be considered addictive to some individuals.
With our taste buds and neurotransmitter betraying us for unhealthy foods that make us feel good, are we doomed to fail at our attempts to become healthy?
Is it possible for us to somehow change our thoughts and minds to make it easier for us to want healthy foods?
A study published in Nutrition & Diabetes found that we can train our brains to want healthy foods. The study took functional MRI scans of obese women looking at healthy and unhealthy foods at the beginning. The experimental group was given a low-fat high-fiber diet, and was educated about healthy lifestyle and eating habits.
After six months, the women were shown pictures of food again.