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Want to be Healthier? Change Your Taste Buds

How can we overcome our built-in hunger drives for salt, sugar, and fat? We now have evidence showing that if we go a few weeks cutting down on junk food and animal products, our tastes start to change. We may actually be able to taste fat—just like we taste sweet, sour, and salty—and people on low fat diets start liking low fat foods more and high fat foods less.

Our tongues appears to become more sensitive to fat if we eat less of it. And the more sensitive our tongues become, the less butter, meat, dairy, and eggs study subjects eat. We also get a blunted taste for fat if we eat too much. This diminished fat sensitivity has been linked to eating more calories; more fat; more dairy, meat, and eggs; and becoming fatter ourselves. And this change in sensation, this numbing of our ability to taste fat, can happen within just a few weeks.

As you can see in the above video, when researchers put people on a low-salt diet,  over the ensuing weeks study subjects like the taste of salt-free soup more and more, and the taste of salty soup less and less. Our tastes physically change. If you let them salt their own soup to taste they add less and less the longer they’re on the diet. By the end, soup tastes just as salty with half the salt. For those who’ve been on sodium restricted diets, regularly salted foods taste too salty and they actually prefer less salty food. That’s why it’s important for doctors to explain to patients that a low-salt diet will gradually become more palatable as their taste for salt diminishes. The longer we eat healthier foods, the better they taste.

That’s why I’ve always encouraged my patients to think of healthy eating as an experiment. I ask them to give it three weeks. The hope is by then they feel so much better (not only physically, but in the knowledge that they don’t have to be on medications for chronic diseases the rest of their lives after all!—see Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants) and their taste sensitivity has been boosted such that whole foods-as-grown regain their natural deliciousness. To see how a healthy diet can make you feel, check out the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21-Day Kickstart program at http://www.21daykickstart.org/.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Related:
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Antioxidants: Plant vs. Animal Foods
Why Meat Causes Inflammation

Read more: Health, Alternative Therapies, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Men's Health, Natural Remedies, Videos, Women's Health, , , , , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

95 comments

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2:42PM PST on Feb 3, 2014

Thanks for sharing

2:36PM PST on Feb 3, 2014

Hey Dr. Greger -

The 1970s called, they want their nutrition misinformation back.

I'd love to see someone who got fat eating too much meat, eggs and butter.

4:40PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

Interesting! Thanks.

1:33PM PST on Jan 20, 2014

It's easy just take every day less salt or sugar, soon you get used to it, then one day you discover that you don't like to have sugar in your coffee anymore!
Same with salt soon you are going to say not too much salt for me, or even if you use herbs you don't need no salt at all anymore!!

1:29AM PST on Jan 18, 2014

TY

11:33PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

THANKS FOR THE GOOD INFORMATION. IT'S, CERTAINLY, WORTH A TRY IN ORDER TO BE HEALTHIER.

12:32PM PST on Jan 14, 2014

Hmmmmmm.........

3:47PM PST on Jan 13, 2014

Remember, the human body requires certain vitamins, minerals, nutrients, etc in order to stay alive and work properly. When the body craves salt, for example, it means there may be a sodium deficiency, possibly associated with dehydration, low aldosterone (an adrenal hormone), or other health issues. Reducing sodium too much can lead to low blood volume, irregular heart beat, heart attack, stroke, death...

8:55AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

Thanks for posting

7:10PM PST on Jan 12, 2014

I don't think you alter your taste buds but just become adjusted to using less salt. Just as switching from drinking sweet tea to unsweetened tea. I used to drink sweet tea then went to unsweetened and now can't drink sweet tea. That doesn't mean I don't like sweets though. I love chocolate candy and ice cream, I just prefer my tea be unsweetened. Same thing with coffee, I used to use sugar then went to black only. This does not curb my appetite for sweets at all.

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