Junk Food Is Deceiving Your Body–How Artificial Flavoring Changes The Taste Of Real Food
We’ve all been there: you’re vaguely hungry, but you’re not sure what for. You open the pantry, then the fridge, scanning for something that might jump out at you. Apples, carrots, ah. There it is.
Well it turns out there’s a very good reason why junk food high in artificial flavorings might appeal to us over natural foods.
According to Mark Schatzker, author of “The Dorito Effect,” artificially-flavored foods high in chemical flavorings can degrade your body’s ability to taste real, healthy food.
The root of the problem, according to Schatzker, is evolution. Taste is something our bodies have evolved in order to identify the nutrient content of foods. Generally speaking, real foods, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, and meat taste good to us if and when they contain the nutrients that our body requires. Food cravings guide us toward items that contain a nutrient we are particularly in need of at that moment.
But with the explosion of synthetic chemical flavoring chemicals, manufacturers have been able to trick our brains into believing that the flavors our animal selves associate with nutrition are associated with their synthetic food.
Another unfortunate effect of modern life is that soil depletion and industrialized farming methods have robbed much of our foodstuffs of the flavor and nutrients they historically contained.
“Synthetic flavors in foods have heightened their desirability at the very same time that whole foods are losing flavor,” said Schatzker. “Now that we’ve broken that connection between flavor and nutrition by creating synthetic flavors, we have created foods that tell a thrilling but deceptive nutritional lie.”
So for instance, if you eat super-sweetened fruit-flavored yogurt that contains no fruit, your body will find actual fruit with yogurt bland by comparison. In fact, because the artificial version tastes so much more sweet and is thus more “rewarding” to your body, your body will perceive the fake stuff as more nutritious than the genuine article. Indeed the way our bodies evolved, the sweeter, the more rich a food tasted, the more nutritionally valuable it was and thus the more we craved it.
And our current predicament is no accident.
“Americans now use 600 million pounds of flavorings every year,” Schatzker said. “We have made bland, high-calorie food taste thrillingly delicious. And we can’t stop eating it. And to make matters worse, whole foods, like tomatoes, chickens and cucumbers, are getting blander and blander. In short, everything that’s gone wrong with food and our eating habits can be understood through flavor.”
The good news is we can be retrained. It takes time, but by eating whole, natural foods and eschewing artificial flavors, we can come to taste our food again. And you’d be amazed at the difference in flavor between produce purchased at a farmer’s market versus that from a big box grocery store that uses industrialized farms to source their food.
And one more piece of advice: if you never have potato chips in your pantry, you won’t be tempted by them.