It is true, most diets don’t work. Yet there are so many people who are trying to lose weight. People generally give up dieting because: A) they are hungry and B) they are craving unhealthy sugary and fatty foods. Many unhealthy foods are addictive, but what if we could train our brains to actually crave and even prefer healthier foods? Well there is research to say that we can. Hallelujah.
When we overindulge in unhealthy foods for a prolonged period of time it causes an excessive activation of the brain’s reward system for high fat or high sugar content food cues, which makes us more likely to reach for that donut over a banana when we have a choice. A new study that was published in Nutrition & Diabetes suggests that it may actually be possible to train the brain over time to prefer healthier food options over junk food options, virtually reversing the addictive power of junk food.
Researchers from Tufts University conducted a study that enrolled 13 healthy, overweight or obese men and women. Of the 13, 8 of the participants took part in a specific weight loss program, the remaining 5 participants acted as controls for the study and were placed on a waiting list for the program.
To find out whether the program would alter neural circuitry, the researchers took functional magnetic resonance imaging scans before the participants were randomized into the two groups, and did this again six months later. The purpose of the scans was to investigate brain activity in a region of the brain called striatum, which is thought to be critical for reward processing.
The scans revealed that the brains of those from the group who were put on a diet had changed over the six-month period compared with the others who were in the control group. At the end of the diet their brains reacted more positively to healthier foods and less positively to more unhealthy foods like sugary cereals and fried chicken.
How Can This Relate To The Average Joe?
This study was definitely very small; so more research will need to be done to confirm its validity. Although this study was conducted using a fairly strict diet that was designed to enhance the brain’s reward systems desire for healthy food. I personally believe that eating healthy for a prolonged period of time can enhance this part of the brain for everyone.
When you eat healthy more frequently, you are replacing junk, with health. Many junk foods are physically addictive, so once you start to eat healthy you are literally breaking those addictions. Do it for long enough, and you probably won’t crave those unhealthy foods in the same way. You will most likely find new healthier versions of your favorite foods that make you feel good, and instead you will crave those foods more often.
The Key To Eating Healthy?
You have got to start somewhere! Try to eliminate processed foods, in general. Try to make as much of your food and prepare your own meals as much as possible. If it has a long list of ingredients with words that you can’t pronounce, it is probably a good idea to avoid these products. Eat organic when possible, here are 14 Tips To Cut Out Processed Foods and Begin Eating Real Food and 5 Steps To Help You Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet. Both of these are a great place to start!
Here’s to health and happiness!
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