Let Whole Foods Market help you enjoy more time

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Date Added : April 17, 2013 Views : 641
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Usually by now, the New Year diet, detox or other form of extreme denial will have hit a wall, and the merciful retox will be fully under way. It has been proven time and again that quick-fix diets are counterproductive in the long run, and it's not just willpower failure making dieters regain the weight (and then some). A 2011 study indicated that depriving oneself of food changes the levels of hormones that control our appetites, fuzzing up our hunger compasses and making us eat even more. Furthermore, dieting has been shown to exacerbate an "emotional response to food".

The holy grail, surely, is to learn to love health food more than junk, thus avoiding the binge-fast vicious circle. A colleague of mine used to describe his mid-afternoon Mars bar and Diet Coke as giving himself a "wee hug on the inside". Is this skewed view fixable?

We know that most of our food likes are a triumph of nurture over nature, with the exceptions of an innate fondness for sweet, and distaste for bitter. "There may or may not be an innate preference for umami flavour, and there's a debate about fat flavour," says Anthony Sclafani, professor of psychology at Brooklyn College. "But other than that, when we're talking about real foods, let's assume most of the preferences are learned."

'Flavour flavour' learning

Our taste biases develop in various ways. Flavour flavour [sic] learning, for instance, is a form of Pavlovian conditioning. For example, if you drink Coca-Cola, says Sclafani, you may enjoy the taste at first because you already like sweetness. Then, the more you drink it, the fonder you will become of the other gustatory characteristics of that particular brand.

A 2006 study into whether flavour flavour learning can help children feel more positively about broccoli produced encouraging results. After being fed sweetened broccoli, the kids liked the taste of plain broccoli more.

Lower your taste thresholds

We all have different thresholds for feeling satisfied by tastes. These are controlled in part physiologically – the abundance and function of our taste buds differ, making us more or less sensitive to tastes – but over time we also get used to certain levels of, say, sweetness and saltiness. If you don't salt your pasta water, you're going to think most ready meals taste of rock pool. It's all relative.

I once gave up anything with added sugar for a month. I quickly became an evangelical bore, yammering on about how apples now tasted better than cake to me. However, this transformation didn't last. To make permanent changes, you need to reduce the levels little by little, so each step is imperceptible.

"A number of [food] companies are facing the necessity to reduce salt or sugar or fat," says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. "What happens if you do that suddenly? People don't like the product any more. But execute the same change over a much longer period, very gradually, then we keep adapting," he says.

The feel-good factor

Another form of preference learning stems from the positive post-ingested nutritional effects of what you consume. So, returning to the Coca-Cola example, the glucose sends a positive message to the brain because that is its primary energy source (hence my colleague's Mars bar hug). But you can get a similar kick after consuming more nutritious foods. I can get a hug from brown rice. There, I've said it.

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