When it comes to the benefits of healthy eating, there are too many to count. They can include lowering the risk of some diseases, losing weight, and having more energy to enjoy life. And while all of these are very important reasons to eat mindfully, a healthy lifestyle can also have some surprising effects that often aren't discussed in the media. For instance, did you know that eating healthy can actually help you retrain your taste buds and change your overall attitude toward eating? Here's what else you should know.
The Science Behind Taste
Your tongue can detect five basic tastes—sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory (also called umami). Humans are born liking sweet foods and disliking bitter foods. By the time babies are a few months old, they start detecting the taste of salt, and as you grow up, your sense of taste keeps developing under the influence of culture, socioeconomic factors, and various life experiences.
As an adult, you may perceive the combinations of basic tastes to be very appealing. In fact, the most delicious recipes are developed by layering the five basic tastes and multiple flavors to create irresistible culinary masterpieces. Unfortunately, it's not only chefs who know how to manipulate our taste buds. The same principles are also applied to engineer cheap junk food, which is created specifically to appeal to all taste senses. The complex artificial combinations of basic tastes can make junk foods extremely satisfying.
Food Cravings Explained
Cravings are another beast you may have to conquer when you embark on a healthy living journey. Many people say that cravings are a big obstacle when it comes to staying on track with a healthy lifestyle. If you've ever felt the urge to go and find the nearest vending machine in the middle of the work day, or had to run to the convenient store at night to pick up a bag of chips, you know this feeling all too well.
Meals that consist of high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes, rice, or pasta, as well as sugary desserts, can cause your blood sugar to rise very quickly. Your brain, however, wants blood-sugar levels to stay in a very narrow range, and perceives high blood sugar situations as emergencies. This triggers the release of insulin, which starts removing sugar from your blood. Unfortunately, insulin will store excess sugar in fat cells, which can increase the potential of weight gain and cause blood-sugar levels to drop.
Since your brain depends on a constant supply of glucose to function properly, when your blood sugar drops, your brain declares another state of emergency and signals hunger. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, low blood sugar can make you crave high-calorie foods, making you more prone to overeat at your next meal. In other words, if you eat an unhealthy meal, your next meal will most likely be unhealthy, too.
How to Retrain Your Taste Palate
According to the article published in Today's Dietitian, you can retrain your taste palate when you start eating healthy. In the beginning, you might have to make a conscious decision to choose healthy foods, but with time, it can become easier and easier. Your taste buds adjust to natural tastes, and you might even notice that the foods you liked in the past now taste too sweet or too salty.
What Happens When You Eat Healthy?
After eating a healthy, low-glycemic meal that consists of protein, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit, your blood sugar will stay nice and steady. This can help keep your brain happy and you can feel full longer, as well as experience fewer cravings and hunger pangs.
In addition, according to the above-mentioned article in Today's Dietitian, if you stick to a healthy diet for long enough, and eat less processed foods and more whole foods, you might even notice that you start craving healthy foods instead of chips and donuts.
Eating healthy on a daily basis isn't always easy. A healthy lifestyle isn't a destination. Instead, it's a journey where your daily choices can help you stay on track. However, the longer you stick to it, the easier it gets, and eventually making healthy choices will become second nature.