Are cravings from lack of flavour?
I’m just back from Newcastle after spending a few days with altered eating expert Duika Burges Watson. My brain is almost exploding from all of the information I learned. One of the key take away points was that current research suggests that foods high in fat and/or sugar increase dopamine in the brain which lead to cravings/wanting. That part isn’t new. However, what I didn’t realise is that dopamine triggers the wanting without giving any pleasure or satisfaction. So basically, the more of these foods that you eat, the more you want and the more unsatisfied you feel.
So what’s the solution?
First off, she suggested asking ourselves, “does eating this food give me pleasure? Or does it just make me want more without ever making me feel satisfied?” You might start making vastly different food choices if you start focusing on how much pleasure a food gives you. This may ultimately reduce the amount you eat as well.
Which foods give us pleasure?
The only way to actually get satisfaction from what you are eating is to choose foods which give you a full sensory experience. That means that not only do you need to be paying attention to the food that you are eating (as I’ve been recommending for a while now), but you also need to be choosing foods which have a lot of flavour.
What exactly is flavour?
Flavour is tricky because it is a combination of the taste (eg. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), texture and aroma from a food — and of these three senses, the one most closely linked to pleasure is aroma. Think of foods with lots of onions, garlic, herbs and spices added to them – you’ve likely already noticed that these foods are a lot tastier than plain meat, potatoes and vegetables. Other examples of high-flavour foods include Thai soup made with lemongrass or curries made with a variety of different spices. Since smell molecules literally evaporate when you heat them excessively, that means that reheated foods and ready meals have lost much of their flavour and won’t be very satisfying. I had always thought these foods were a problem because you lose a lot of the texture when you reheat foods, but Duika feels the loss of flavour is a bigger issue. Biscuits, crisps, chips, and sandwiches, on the other hand, have never really had much flavour to begin. Duika calls them “tongue foods” because while they stimulate the sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami taste receptors on your tongue, they don’t really have much smell/aroma associated with them – that means they are not as flavourful and thus not as satisfying.
So I’d like you to test out this theory and report back with your findings. Compare a homemade spaghetti bolognaise or curry made from scratch with a ready meal. Which one gives you more pleasure and enjoyment and leaves you feeling more “satisfied” when you are finished? Or you could compare homemade soup made with lots of herbs versus tinned soup. Which one gives you more pleasure and satisfaction and does this affect the quantity you eat?
I’d love to know what you find out. Ping me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.