I want you to imagine something for a second.
Imagine that everything you know about food – or you thinkyou know about food – is now gone. It’s no longer there. That part of your brain has been erased.
To you, there are no such things as calories or carbs. You’ve never heard of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, digestion, or anything related to food consumption.
To you, food is just, well, food.
Now, with that in mind, let me ask you a question…
If I give you a random food to eat, something you’ve never seen or eaten before, how would you know whether that food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
If you knew absolutely nothing about a food or its ingredients, how would you know whether to classify it as good (as in, sure I’ll eat it again) or bad (as in, I’ll never touch this again)?
Think about that for a second because it’s very important.
Hint: there’s a bit of biology involved.
The answer is actually fairly simple.
But, what you’ll soon discover might scare you.
Let me explain.
To answer that question, we have to go back in time a bit.
We have to go way back to our ancestral days.
The days before TV, fast-food, cars, or even agriculture. The days we were still required to hunt and gather our food.
Without the ability to search up the nutritional facts on Google, our ancestors needed a way of knowing whether the food they just consumed was good or bad. They needed some sort of feedback system.
Fortunately for them, the body had an intricate system for this.
It has a biological means of sending us signals to let us know whether the food we just shoved down our throat is A OK or no good.
Our innate senses.
By simply looking at, smelling, and feeling the food in our hands we can obtain a lot of important information about it.
But, more specifically, we use the taste of the foodto determine whether it is goodor bad.
Our brain has been hardwired to understand and appreciate taste.
This is precisely why we judge foods based on their flavor. We’ve been built to do so.
And there are various tastes we are hardwired to understand.
Bitter tastes signify toxic foods, ones that we are to avoid, while sweet tastes signify much safer choices. These ‘safer choices’ are broken down into three basic tastes: sweet, fatty, and salty.
Sweet tastes represent a safe source of energy. Fatty taste signify a dense source of calories. And a salty taste represents conservation of fluid.
This feedback was essential for the survival of our ancestors. Without it, they would have been clueless.
And here’s the thing…
We still use this taste-driven feedback system. It is still hardwired in our brains.
But, as you’ll soon see, this can be somewhat of a problem.
Let’s first see what happens when we consume food.
“Every time we consume something that is sweet, fatty, or salty, the neurotransmitters in our brain send signals of pleasure and reward to inform us (and remind us) that we made a good food choice.” [It Starts with Food]
When we consume foods that are sweet, fatty, or salty – foods that are satiating – our brain releases good ol’ dopamine, the powerful neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center.
What dopamine does is it actually motivates behavior. It encourages you to continue seeking foods that trigger its release. It even gives you that intense rush of anticipation before you even eat the food.
When you finally do take that first bite, the brain immediately releases opioids – feel good endorphins – which have a pleasant rewarding effect. Its release brings pleasure and emotional relief. It alleviates stress and makes you feel damn good.
“Reward circuitry is integrated with parts of the brain that enrich a pleasurable experience with emotion, making it more powerful, and easier to remember. The combination of pleasure, reward, and emotion pushes you toward rewarding stimuli – including food.” [It Starts with Food]
So where is the problem?
Well, it all started with a few smart cookies who figured out how all this stuff works. They figured out the psychological connection between your brain and your food and, at the same time, had an urge to make some good money off your health.
We’ll call them food mad scientists.
Once they caught on to the fact that our brains respond strongly to various flavors (sweet, salty, fatty), they thought to themselves: “Hey, if we know that people are biologically driven to eat foods of certain flavors, why don’t we just modify existing foods to be saturated with these flavors and package them into beautiful boxes and sell them for cheap??”
Well done, guys. Very clever.
Armed with the right knowledge and a capitalist mindset, these mad scientists started sucking out all the water, fiber, and delicious nutrients out of our whole foods and began replacing them with incredibly disgusting (and cheap) things like corn syrup, MSG, seed oils, and artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.
What a great way to make some money while destroying the health of millions of people all around the country!
So how are these modern (modified) foods different from the whole foods our ancestors ate?
The nutrients are gone!
Back then, whole, natural foods were loaded with health-enhancing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients. Sweet tastes came from seasonal raw fruit which was rich in these elements. Fatty tastes came from nutrient-packed meats. Salty tastes came from sea life or the animals we ate.
Today things are a bit different.
Modern sweet flavores come from artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, and high fructose corn syrup. Fatty tastes come from the bubbling deep-fryer or yellow tub of spread. Salty tastes come from an elegantly designed salt shaker.
The nutrient content of today’s foods is incomparable to the foods our ancestors ate.
“Modern technology has stripped the nutrition from these foods, replacing it with empty calories and synthetic chemicals that fool our bodies into giving us the same powerful biological signals to keep eating.” [It Starts with Food]
The calories haven’t changed. But the nutrients have almost completely disappeared.
And although today’s food is calorically-dense and still triggers the same taste neurotransmitters, these foods are anything but good sources of nutrition.
“These “Franken-foods”, as they’ve been dubbed, still light up pleasure and reward centers in the brain, but for a very different reason than nature intended – not because they provide vital nutrition, but because they are scientifically designed to stimulate our taste buds.” [It Starts with Food]
Yup. This is as bad as it sounds.
Someone has successfully figured out how to rewire your connection between nutrient-dense foods and your endorphin-releasing pleasure center.
And it sucks.
These people are making fools out of all of us and making money doing it.
But, hey – it gets worse (doesn’t it always?).
These so-called Franken-foods are classified as supernormal foods because they initiate a supernormal stimulus. Supernormal foods arouse your taste receptors more intensely than anything found in nature.
This is precisely why you no longer find whole, nutrient-dense foods tasty anymore.
This is why you think “real food has no flavor”.