Food can be our friend or foe depending on how we pick it. If you’ve notoriously made bad food choices and are now the pawn of unhealthy, addictive, high-sugar foods, then this article is for you! Recent research shows that no matter how enslaved you are by cravings for unhealthy, high-calorie delights, you can train your brain to prefer healthy, lower-calorie options.
Your Brain’s Reward Center
New research published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes suggests that you can overturn your preference for unhealthy foods in exchange for a liking for healthy foods. Scientists at the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted brain scan studies on 13 overweight and obese men and women at the start and end of six months. Eight of the subjects simultaneously participated in a weight loss program put together by Tufts University. The rest were part of the control group, and did not participate in any weight loss efforts.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, researchers showed that individuals who underwent the weight loss program demonstrated marked transformations in the brain reward center associated with learning and addiction. Specifically, their brain reward centers exhibited increased sensitivity to healthy, low-calorie foods, and decreased sensitivity to unhealthy, higher-calorie options.
The authors of the study theorize that several components of the weight loss program affect these changes, most notably behavior change education, high-fiber foods, and low-sugar meal plans.
Change It Up!
This study is positive confirmation that no matter what bad habits you may have collected over the years, you can train your brain to crave healthy foods. You didn’t start out loving fried onion rings and pizza…you trained your brain to love these high-calorie processed and fried foods. But now you know it’s possible to switch your preferences!
Training your brain to prefer healthy foods is also a much better route to take than surgical procedures like gastric bypass surgery, which lowers your liking for all foods, healthy and unhealthy alike! The key is fine-tuning your brain to gain satisfaction from healthy foods, and to be turned off by foods that keep you mired in obesity, autoimmune disorders, and other chronic, sometimes life threatening, health conditions.
Remember: it takes time to cultivate new habits. So stick with a healthy meal plan, and your taste buds will be singing a new tune in no time!