(NaturalNews) Eating a diet high in chemically flavored foods can degrade your body’s ability to recognize what real, healthy food is supposed to taste like, says Mark Schatzker, author of the book The Dorito Effect.
According to Schatzker, the modern diet of packaged foods has deceived the body into thinking that junk food is more nutritious than real food.
“Synthetic flavors in foods have heightened their desirability at the very same time that whole foods are losing flavor,” Schatzker said.
Fortunately, Schatzker says, your palate can be protected – or retrained – by eschewing processed foods for real ingredients.
The heart of the problem, according to Schatzker, is that our bodies have evolved to use taste to identify the nutrient content of foods. In general, real-world foods (fruits, vegetables, seeds, meat, etc.) taste good when they are rich in the nutrients that our body needs. In that evolutionary context, food cravings were able to point us toward a food that contained a nutrient we particularly needed in that moment.
The advent of synthetic flavoring chemicals – whether labeled “artificial flavor” or “natural flavor” – has allowed food manufacturers to trick our brains by adding flavors our bodies associate with nutrition, to foods with little nutritive value.
“Now that we’ve broken that connection between flavor and nutrition by creating synthetic flavors, we have created foods that tell a thrilling but deceptive nutritional lie,” Schatzker said.
So, if you drink a soda flavored with orange flavor, your body assumes that drink has the same nutritional value as an orange. In fact, because the soda is sweeter, your body actually interprets it as more nutritious! Remember, our ancestors evolved in an environment where sweet foods were hard to come by, and therefore highly prized nutritionally. Add in the pleasurable sensation of bubbles, and it’s easy for people to come to prefer orange soda to real fruit.
But junk food isn’t the worst problem, Schatzker said, because at least people understand that it isn’t supposed to be nutritious.
“What’s much more disturbing to me is that we’re adding flavorings to yogurt, soy milk, tea — even raw meat,” he said. “There are moms out there buying fruit-flavored yogurt tubes for kids that have no fruit in them at all.”
To a person raised on artificially flavored yogurt, real yogurt – even flavored with real fruit – will taste bland.
Eat well and your palate will follow
At the same time, the food industry has been breeding the flavor out of real foods by prioritizing shelf stability over other traits.
“Americans now use 600 million pounds of flavorings every year,” Schatzker said. “We have made bland, high calorie food taste thrillingly delicious. And we can’t stop eating it. And to make matters worse, whole foods, like tomatoes, chickens and cucumbers, are getting blander and blander. In short, everything that’s gone wrong with food and our eating habits can be understood through flavor.”
The good news is, it doesn’t take long to retrain your palate. The trick is to eat food made from real, fresh ingredients, ideally from local gardens or farmers. Pasture-raised meats taste different from factory farmed meat, and local, organic tomatoes are bursting with flavor compared with that tough, mealy tomato on your grocery store shelf.
“If you expose yourself to nature’s incredible palate of flavor, you’ll be thrilled by the experience,” Schatzker said.
It happened to him. Within a year of switching his eating patterns, he found the junk foods he used to crave unsatisfying compared with the rich flavors of real food.
“I stopped putting sugar in my coffee, not because I was trying to cut back on sugar but because I felt like it was getting in the way of tasting the coffee,” he said.
A similar effect took place nationwide, he noted, in the rise of craft beers over the prior dominance of mass-produced Coors and Budweiser.