It is indeed a hard pill to swallow to break a habitual pattern. Eating junk foods is a case in point wherein people – kids, especially – are facing difficulty from desensitizing unhealthy, fat-rich and sugar-packed eating practice. While the public are already well-informed that eating fruits and vegetables should be part of every diet, many are still those who par takes the traditional junk food habit. As a result, they face a slew of health problems. But recent studies show that people can actually train their brains to skew towards choosing healthier food selections. Find out how.
Why People Love Junk Foods?
Science creates it.
Scientists and food producers are the ones who make the food more addictive and appealing to consumers. But, why exactly people crave a lot of unhealthy foods?
- Junk foods have dynamic contrast. Most unhealthy foods have crunchy shells followed by soft fillings packed with taste-active compounds. Scientists explained that the brain find crunchiness stimulating and exciting.
- Junk foods trigger more salivary response. Salad dressing, mayonnaise and butter are some of the main ingredients that prompt salivary response. The more emulsified food is, the more it promotes salivary action, and the more it glazes on the individual’s taste buds with goodness.
- Junk foods have quicker melting point. Junk foods tend to meltdown rapidly. As a result, it signals the brain that the person is not actually eating, or not enough. The aftermath is the person tends to overeat.
- Junk foods are jammed with calorie density. Calories need to be fed up by the brain to make it continuously working. However, as we know it, calories found in junk foods are empty ones. They might provide energy, but far enough to give energy.
- Junk foods create hard-to-forget memories. When a person eats junk food the first time, the brain registers a “good feeling”– the smell, the taste and everything about the food – and stores it in the memory. Hence, when he/she sees it the next time around, the body automatically creates physical response such as mouth-watering craving and salivation.
- Junk foods secrete neurotransmitters when consumed. Junk foods have certain compounds that are released during mastication. Dopamine and serotonin, which are both neurotransmitters, involved in pleasure and craving. This can lead to an increase urge of consumption.
How to Train the Brain for a Healthier Eating Habit?
The only way to practice healthy living is by kicking the junk food tradition. But, how?
1. Avoid processed or Packaged Foods: These “convenience foods” are high in sodium and fat, and categorically belong to junk foods. Any food that goes with a package is a processed food. Instead, buy whole, fresh foods such as fruits, eggs, bread and vegetables.
2. Do not limit Yourself to Certain food Groups: Try a variety. The human brain always seeks for novelty or something fresh. Experiment flavors and come up with an interesting menu. Mixed up foods and try different spices to be added on your menu.
3. Deal with Stress: People who constantly encounter stress tend to overeat. This has been shown in several studies wherein bad emotions are strongly linked to unhealthy eating habit. In saying that, the more a person is in control of dealing stress, the less likely he/she resort to binge eating. Furthermore, when a person gets stressed, the body releases chemicals – namely, neuropeptide Y and opiates – similar to those that are obtained from fats and sugar. Ditch the stress by performing exercise, short-guided meditation, breathing techniques or go shopping.
4. Lose Excess Weight: Study shows that unhealthy food addiction can be resolved by taking behavioral weight loss. A study was conducted by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and Massachusetts General Hospital wherein participants were obese and overweight individuals, who were divided into control and experimental groups. They underwent a weight loss program that ran for a period of 6 weeks. At the end of the study, MRI brain scans were performed and revealed that certain regions of the brain associated with addiction and learning have changed. After the weight loss program these specific areas have decreased their sensitivity to unhealthier food options.
Why Healthy Options?
Not only eating a healthy diet improves the overall health condition but also the following benefits are achieved:
- A healthy diet improves psychological growth, which means enhanced sense of wellbeing and creativity.
- A well-balanced meal plan spares the person from heart disease, hypertension, diabetes (type 2), and specific form of cancer.
Choosing healthier food options all the way may be very challenging at the outset, but with time, it will come off easily. Experts advise to not try to change your eating habit at once. Solicit support from friends and families by practicing healthy eating with them or by making delicious and nutrient-packed recipes.