Food pairings may trick the brain into loving the taste of vegetables

Tuesday, July 03, 2012 by: Raw Michelle
Tags: food pairings, taste, vegetables

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(NaturalNews) While it's admirable for research to inform communities about which foods are good and bad for their health, another barrier plays a larger role than awareness. Taste preferences are considered to be the major motivator that causes people to consume low nutrient, high fat, and high sugar foods. It's not that nutrients taste bad, it's that foods that have the highest amounts of fats and sugars are processed and refined ones that don't have the benefit of naturally occurring nutrients. By contrast, the highest concentrations of naturally occurring nutrients are typically paired with the amplified sugar content in fruits.

However, there is a wide spectrum of nutrients that occur in other, less sugary foods. Just as parents may find it difficult to get children to eat their vegetables, these eating preferences are just a microcosm of the problem that continues to affect the population into adulthood. However, humans have more taste preferences than just the inclination towards sweet foods. Researchers are trying to unlock understandings of how people experience foods via taste and smell, in an attempt to find a way to encourage healthier food choices.

Condemned by ancient presets?

Pleasure from food is on one end of the sensory spectrum, opposite to innate responses to bitter foods, which aided foraging progenitors in avoiding unsafe or poisonous foods. While people tend to view tastes and smells as an "additional" benefit, or the main motivator for eating, it is designed to serve as a safety rating system.

Researchers found an interesting "flaw" in the way the brain experiences the pairing of certain foods. When foods are easily paired, the brain is less able to detect them as two distinct sources. This phenomena allows people to "taste" vanilla when it is paired with sugar, even though the former actually has no taste of its own. By contrast, when vanilla is paired with a less congruent flavor, such as salt, test subjects only reported vanilla as a smell.

Despite the popular belief that smell and taste both interact and are mutually dependent, they are entirely separate processes that are only integrated and harmonized in a part of the brain called the orbital frontal cortex, located just behind the eyes. The center processes the two senses, and provides judgement on the food sample.

Playing by the brain's rules

Professor Juyun Lim, of Oregon State University, says that despite this predisposition, what people eat isn't left to presets. Most people, for example, dislike the taste of coffee on their first taste of it. The benefit of increased energy leads the brain to reclassify the taste of coffee as pleasurable, and herein lies the key to overriding damaging dietary preferences.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are extremely beneficial to human health, but are largely avoided because of their offensive smell. Based on this research, cauliflower, for example, could be paired with a smell that causes the brain to reclassify the vegetable as one that results in a great deal of pleasure.

Sources for this article include:

About the author:
Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general. >>> Click here to see more by Michelle

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