Why you'll never crave a carrot. (but you could always eat a pizza).
How your taste buds have been hijacked to want shit food.
Once upon a time, we humans ate food to sustain ourselves. You see, we are pretty amazing. We have sophisticated systems to enable us to perform our most essential task; find food for fuel. Our taste abilities have been shaped by the ecological niches our evolutionary ancestors occupied and by the nutrients they sought. They helped us to identify nutrients to survive.
These days we still need those nutrients (more than ever before), but our eating patterns have changed. We now eat mindlessly in pursuit of calories and not nutrients. But what if I was to tell you that your pursuit of high calorie and often nutrient devoid food is not your fault, and that food has been manipulated so that you crave the shit stuff.
What do I mean ‘manipulated’?
When I say manipulated, I'm talking about the flavour. To understand the western world's constant desire to overindulge in shit food, we need to talk about flavour. The food we eat today tastes very different from the food your granny used to eat and this is all thanks to two main factors:
1. Food technology innovation - (flavour engineering in particular).
2. Food production - supply and demand.
Spoiler…. Flavour engineering is the reason you’ll never crave a carrot, but you could always eat a pizza.
Flavour engineering is a multi-billion pound industry and the clever people who create the flavours are called flavour chemists. These guys know how to manipulate foods to stimulate your taste buds and keep you coming back for more. Now, you may be wondering why flavour chemists are even a thing? Surely our food is full of flavour already, so why would we want to create a flavour?
Simple…. It’s cheaper! A synthetic flavour adds stability and consistency to a product. You know that strawberry yoghurt you pick up with your lunchtime meal deal? It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there’s nothing strawberry about it.
Where are the strawberries at?
It’s much more cost-effective to blend chemicals, oils, extracts, and essences than it is to use actual berries to flavour that yoghurt. The challenge for flavour chemists is to create the perfect mixture of compounds that hit all the right spots and make that strawberry yoghurt taste like strawberry without using strawberries.
The food industry is full of fake flavours that keep us addicted to their products. I’d go as far as saying that most of what we consider food is not food. It’s fake food. We’re eating food-like products.
Flavour is everything. We eat for flavour.
It’s important to understand that so many of the things we eat would not be palatable without synthetic flavour. We gorge on them because they taste like something they’re not. But it’s not just the processed foods that are to blame for our lack of desire to chow down a few chunky carrots. Our fresh produce has lost its 'traditional' taste due to modern farming techniques. The demand for all year round produce means it's selected to grow bigger and quicker to keep up with that demand. This leaves crops with much lower concentrations of major vitamins and minerals, high water content, and therefore often tasteless. This is known as genetic dilution. And guess what? When food tastes bland, we are less inclined to eat it.
Kale from the 1950s tasted nothing like it does today. Tomatoes are now so selectively bred that we've kicked out their ‘flavour gene’. There’s only one thing that’s going to make that tomato taste good - a nice synthetically flavoured salad dressing.
It’s crazy to think that for all the gains we've made in the quantity of food, there's been a corresponding loss in quality. Nothing tastes as it should anymore, it tastes how the big food corporations want it to taste.
By the early 1960s flavour technology science was so good that you could eat a packet of crisps that tasted like a grilled BBQ steak! Today we can eat almost any food that tastes like something it's not. We’ve got all sorts of shit on the shelves. Isolated protein powder tasting like bananas, lemon cheesecake that contains no lemons, sugar water with added vitamins. Our brains have been tricked. We no longer crave nutrients, we crave flavour chemicals.
It’s really difficult for the human body to determine or estimate nutrient levels in food without directly sensing what is ingested. If unfamiliar foods are constantly ingested, this affects metabolic responses. We’re constantly confusing the body by eating synthetically flavoured foods.
Our problem isn't that we’re addicted to calories. We’re addicted to flavours and those flavours drive us towards the calories. We’re guided by taste to over-consume poor quality food with very few nutrients. This is a huge problem because we need nutrients to help us metabolise those calories. Without a good supply of vitamins and minerals your body becomes inefficient, contributing to poor energy and poor weight control. And what's the last thing you want to eat when you're feeling sluggish with no energy? A carrot. But you could always eat a pizza. The irony is, it's the carrot (and lots of other nutritious foods) you need, not the pizza. Your taste buds have been hijacked my friend.