Train Your Brain to Like Healthy Foods
For all of you who think you just can’t eat healthy, you’re probably selling yourself short. A new study shows that these habits can, in fact, be learned.
In a recent study, researchers from Tufts University and Harvard University found that the human brain can be trained to prefer healthy foods.
The results were published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.
Weight Loss Counseling Changes Food Preferences
Let’s face it, unhealthy foods are way more tempting than healthy foods. Wouldn’t it be better if it were the other way around?
To examine this possibility, the researchers recruited 13 obese or overweight participants and studied the effect of food on their brains. Eight of these individuals underwent weight loss counseling and were encouraged to eat a diet rich in fiber, low in carbs, and high in protein. The remaining five did not undergo counseling and served as the control group.
MRI scans of the brain were taken while participants were shown pictures of healthy foods (for example, high-fiber cereal and grilled chicken) and unhealthy food items (sugary cereals or fried chicken). Scans were repeated after a period of six months to note any changes. The investigators were specifically looking at the area of the brain that controls addictions and rewards.
Training Brains to Like Healthy Foods
Compared to the control group, those in the weight loss program, showed a more profound reaction in the addiction and reward center of the brain when presented healthy foods. In addition, the reaction to unhealthy foods diminished towards the end of the study.1
These results indicated that those undergoing nutritional counseling changed their preferences from unhealthy foods to healthy foods. The healthy foods became more enjoyable while the unhealthy foods lost their appeal.
This study, while small, gives hope to those struggling to eat a healthier diet. It shows that food preferences can change for the better with time and training.
1. Nutr Diabetes. 2014 Sep 1;4:e129. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2014.26.