Monday, July 19, 2010

Why Do You Crave Sugar, Salt, and Fat?

Your tongue has a limited variety of taste receptors because sugar, salt, and fat were the flavors most important for human survival over the last few million years of evolution. Your tongue craves sweetness because it signals ripe fruit. You yearn for salt because it’s an essential compound for basic body function. You long for fat because it’s an extremely dense source of dietary energy. On the other side of things, sourness can alert you to spoiled food, and bitterness can warn you about poisonous substances.

Our sense of taste is a great tool when we need to select nutritious, non-toxic foods from a natural environment. However, its effects aren’t as positive when we use it to guide food creation—for example, when we engineer heavily refined foods like candy-coated breakfast cereal. In this situation, our natural preference for sweet and salty runs rampant, producing foods that are literally too much of a good thing. These foods still taste
good on our tongues, but over time they can throw our bodies seriously off kilter.

The good news is that learned associations can gradually trump our built-in drive for sugar, salt, and fat. After all, many highly prized tastes involve a complex assortment of flavors along with the sour or bitter notes we normally avoid. For example, chocolate, coffee, beer, citrus peel, and greens like escarole all have strong bitter notes that we enjoy when matched with other flavors. There’s a good evolutionary reason for this flexibility— generations ago, humans who could discover new, untapped sources of food had a huge survival advantage.

This is particularly significant if you’re a parent and you want to expand your kid’s taste universe beyond chicken nuggets and plain pasta. The best advice is to present new foods, several times, with no conditions. Avoid resorting to bribery, bargaining, or threats, all of which place a taste “value” on food. (For example, using chocolate as a reward for eating spinach teaches that chocolate is desirable and spinach is not.) While you’re unlikely to find a child who prefers rapini to peanut butter, in time we can all learn to love a wide range of flavors.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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