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Healthy Foods: Can We Train Our Brains to Want It?

By Expert HERWriter
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Healthy Foods: Can Our Brains Be Trained to Want It? MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

Imagine you hear someone say "Let’s go eat healthy foods!" Does this excite you? If you are like most people, the truthful answer is NO!

People get excited about high-fat, high-calorie and highly tasty foods. I know that I do. According to data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service about what foods Americans buy, our favorite foods are most likely to be cheese, chicken, steak, fruit juice and pizza. Many of these are considered junk foods. What makes them so tasty is the fat content.

When we look at the evolution of humans, we find that we have preferences for high-calorie foods. They are an important source of energy and they were foods that helped us survive 100,000 years ago.

Now, however, we don't generally have food scarcities, so the high-calorie food are not necessary for survival. In fact, the high-calorie foods are making fat, and causing chronic illnesses in our bodies.

The fatty foods are not our only favorites. We love sugary foods, too. Sugary and fatty food release chemicals in our brains, called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and dopamine, create pleasurable feelings or rewards.

Studies have shown that the intake of sugar or sugary foods can create such a strong, pleasurable release of neurotransmitters that it can be considered addictive to some individuals.

With our taste buds and neurotransmitter betraying us for unhealthy foods that make us feel good, are we doomed to fail at our attempts to become healthy?

Is it possible for us to somehow change our thoughts and minds to make it easier for us to want healthy foods?

A study published in Nutrition & Diabetes found that we can train our brains to want healthy foods. The study took functional MRI scans of obese women looking at healthy and unhealthy foods at the beginning. The experimental group was given a low-fat high-fiber diet, and was educated about healthy lifestyle and eating habits.

After six months, the women were shown pictures of food again. This time the group that had changed their habits had less activity in their brains for the unhealthy foods, and more activity for the healthy foods.

What created the change?

The healthy lifestyle change had created a positive response for the participants' brains. They now viewed healthy eating as a reward, so they associated foods with healthy eating. Examples could include fitting into clothes or feeling more attractive to others.

Likewise the unhealthy foods started to create a negative response for participants brains and they didn’t want to have those responses. Eating unhealthy foods becomes associated with worse health or gaining weight.

In the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, a study showed that 267 obese women who where taught new behaviors over an eight-week program were more likely to lose weight and keep it off because they had learned a new way to stabilize their weight, reported Time magazine.

So maybe it is possible to train your brain for healthy foods through healthy behaviors!

Live Vibrantly,

Dr. Dae
Dr. Daemon Jones

Dr. Dae's website: www.HealthyDaes.org

Dr. Dae's Bio:
Dr. Daemon Jones is your diabetes reversal, hormones, metabolism and weight loss expert. Dr. Dae is a naturopathic doctor who treats patients all over the country using Skype and phone visits. Visit her or schedule a free consultation at her website www.HealthyDaes.com.


Can you train your brain to crave healthy foods? The Conversation. September 9, 2015.

Foods That Increase Dopamine & Serotonin. WedMD.com. September 9, 2015.

These Are The Most Popular Foods In America. Time Magazine (Online). September 9, 2015.

To Lose Weight, It Helps to Train the Brain First Losing weight may be like any other behavior -- it takes practice. Time Magazine (Online). September 9, 2015.

Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. September 9, 2015.

Reviewed September 10, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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