Dr Tracey Evans
Why don't I crave vegetables?
So if you are someone that wants to make healthier food choices but you keep gravitating back towards the crisps, take-away foods, sweets, chocolate, pies and so on, let me explain to you why this happens.
First we need to take ourselves back to our ancestors who had to hunt for food. During this time, the hunter gatherers had a scarcity of food and could potentially go days without eating.
Now our basic needs revolve around food, water and sex - this is because we need all 3 of these to survive.
For this reason, it seems that the brain and body have developed sophisticated methods of identifying which foods are rich in calories - these are called calorie-dense foods.
When our ancestors ate a meal, the body and brain developed the ability to score the meal on its ‘energy’ content, which we now describe in terms of calories. This meant that when this food was seen again it would signal that this was a good food source - fatty meat would be an example of this.
This was a positive in terms of meeting our needs to survive.
Let’s now bring this finely tuned brain programming into the modern day world. Food is not scarce and it is in fact abundant for many.
When you eat an ice cream, those easily digestible fats and sugars (due to the high level of processing already done) signal that this meal is calorie-dense and the brain locks this into its memory. In the same way that a food that gives you an upset stomach or smells rotten will get locked into memory as ‘adverse’ - the very reason why I cannot eat banana flavoured foods!
Imagine you are sitting watching TV and an advert for ice cream comes on, your mouth may start to water or your tummy gurgles and before you know it you will be going to the freezer to retrieve that ice cream. Can anyone relate?
Maybe you go to the supermarket for eggs, walk down the pastry aisle and that pink doughnut with sprinkles begs you to eat it, you have a craving for that doughnut and it will not go away until you buy and eat it.
Now let’s ask ourselves why we do not get cravings for a bowl of salad vegetables? These vegetables are highly nutritious and this would be more beneficial to health and blood sugar, but the brain does not store the information based on vitamin and mineral content it stores it based on the energy it can provide in the form of calories. Calories mean survival.
Finally, I introduce the food science industry! Scientists work VERY hard to create foods that produce the ‘bliss’ point. This involves the right texture, colour, smell, taste, palatability etc. why? Because the food producer, paying the scientists, want you to get hooked on these foods so you continue to purchase these highly processed products that are usually full of fat, sugar and salt.
So in short, this is why we get cravings for highly palatable processed foods.
If you are interested in learning more about how the brain influences food choices, I am creating a course on comfort eating and how to break the cycle. If you are interested in this, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let you know when the course is live.