4 Brain-Fooling Foods To Watch Out For, From A Food Writer

Here’s the thing: Your brain sends signals to the rest of your body when you consume different foods, and it doesn’t like to be surprised. “You don’t use the same metabolic processes to digest protein as you do for fat or carbohydrates,” Schatzker says. “So when you taste food, the brain says, ‘Okay, this is what’s coming in.'”

And from an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are set up to associate sweeter, starchier, or fattier flavors with more calories. “If a fruit tastes sweeter, it has more calories. If a piece of meat tastes richer and fatter, it has more calories,” adds Schatzker. This credible relationship between flavors and calories is an important part of what makes your brain feel full. So when you eat food that contains artificial sweeteners or thickeners to mimic that sensory experience, it tastes like it has more calories than it actually has (that’s the whole point of low-calorie, ultra-processed foods). That’s the “brain-fooling” part of the equation, Schatzker says.

But your brain can’t be fooled for long: “It does this second level of analysis,” he says. “It goes, ‘I thought I was taking in calories that tasted sweet or rich and creamy, and I wasn’t getting the calories.” And what does the brain do when that happens? It makes us want to eat more.

Allow him to further explain: “The brain is programmed by evolution to avoid rock bottom. So when these sensory cues for food become uncertain, the brain responds by saying, ‘I’d better get more calories, because I’m just not sure, and I don’t want to be ripped off.'”

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