Do you ever dream of eating a salad?
We didn’t think so. Unfortunately, most of us can’t say the same about a juicy burger. The irony here is that we know the salad is good for our waistline and our beauty, and we’ll feel great after eating it. A burger and fries will have the exact opposite effect—in all regards.
Scientists have long suspected that eating unhealthy food causes a physical addiction.
Once these unhealthy food addiction circuits are established, they may be hard or impossible to reverse, subjecting people who have gained weight to a lifetime of unhealthy food cravings and temptation.
Exciting new reasearch has found we can actually train our brains to crave healthy foods.
“We don’t start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,” says co-author Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., nutrition professor at Tufts University. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating—repeatedly!—what is out there in the toxic food environment.”
Eating healthy foods for six months will make our brains actually crave it.
Roberts and colleagues studied the reward system in 13 overweight and obese men and women, eight of whom were participants in a new weight loss program designed by Tufts University researchers and five who were in a control group and were not enrolled in the program.
Both groups underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans at the beginning and end of a six-month period. Among those who participated in the weight loss program, the brain scans revealed changes in areas of the brain reward center associated with learning and addiction. After six months, this area had increased sensitivity to healthy, lower calorie foods, indicating an increased reward and enjoyment of healthier food cues. The area also showed decreased sensitivity to the unhealthy, higher calorie foods.
The weight loss program featured behavior change education and high-fiber, low glycemic menu plans.
A pitfall of this study is that it was conducted on such a small group, but the results are encouraging. Imagine a life without burger cravings!