If your sweet tooth has a tendency to take over your entire jaw when there’s chocolate cake nearby, or your love of salty snacks has never let you eat just one, than you’ve probably been holding your insatiable taste buds accountable for your inability to lose weight.
However, it may be time to bite your tongue. According to the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, not only could “low tasting” be a prime cause for weight gain, but using various strategies to sensitize your taste buds more acutely to food could be exactly what you need to start shedding major pounds while learning to enjoy food again, creating a more positive and healthy relationship with food.
A Tired Tongue Leads to Weight Gain
Dr. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, states that properly functioning taste buds are able to pick up the subtle flavors in natural foods without the need for additives or flavor enhancers, such as salt, sugar and fat. Healthy taste buds also play a role in satiation, helping you stop eating even before your stomach begins sending a satiety signal to your brain.
Unfortunately, the processed, packaged foods that predominate our diets have been the downfall of proper taste bud health. Chock full of artificially enhanced chemical flavorings, as well as unnaturally overlapping flavor contrasts, our taste buds are forced to chronically overwork. This overabundance of intense flavor signals eventually causes the taste buds to start to malfunction and to lose their natural sensitivity. In order to register taste sensations, the buds begin to constantly require every heightening intensity levels of flavor, and natural flavors quickly lose their appeal and seem “bland.” Moreover, dropping flavor sensitivity means that people no longer receive satiety signals from their taste buds as quickly, leading to higher caloric eating in order to satisfy a flavor fix and, consequentially, more weight gain.
This is why Dr. Hirsch claims that people who have a less acute sense of taste – “low tasters” – are, in fact, more prone to putting on weight than people who are able to appreciate and enjoy the distinct flavors in their foods.
Lose Weight with Taste Therapy
Dr. Hirsch asked 2400 overweight individuals to begin seasoning their regular foods with “tastants,” which were salt-free savory flavor crystals designed to taste like cheddar cheese, parmesan, spicy taco, ranch or horseradish, or with sugar-free sweet flavor crystals designed to taste like strawberry, malt, cocoa, banana, raspberry and spearmint.
Six months later, Hirsch documented that the study participants had lost an average of 30.5 pounds while their BMIs dropped down to an average of 5, for a total body fat loss of nearly 15 percent. Hirsch attributed this weight loss to the heightened flavors provided by the tastants, which caused the group to taste their foods more acutely and to experience fullness more quickly. By cutting down on processed foods and exposing one’s taste buds exclusively to the organic flavor levels and flavor blends of natural foods, Hirsch predicts that one’s taste buds will eventually adapt to natural flavor and begin functioning normally again. This leads to a lessened desire for fat, sugar and salt, and causes appetite and cravings to shut off more quickly, leading to weight loss and better health.
5 Ways to Enjoy Eating While Losing Weight
You can wake up your senses to enjoy your food more while losing more weight with these 5 strategies:
- Smell your food before you eat it. This prepares your tongue and brain to properly register and digest food, while also enhancing its flavor.
- Spend more time chewing your food. This allows the food to linger on the tongue, giving you more opportunity to taste it while also breaking it down more efficiently, leading to better digestion.
- Select natural herbs and natural seasonings other than salt and sugar. Seasoning herbs and seeds contain no calories, and while salt and sugar can cause appetite hormones and minerals to become unbalanced, alternative seasonings can bring out a variety of pleasant flavors from your food without fueling toxic flavor addictions the way salt and sugar do.
- Use spicy, heat-producing seasonings. Research shows that various compounds found in spicy, heat-producing seasonings – such as cayenne pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, black pepper, turmeric, curry, ginger, cinnamon, etc. – can make you feel fuller faster while also boosting your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat.
- Limit flavor combinations in each meal. A combination of strong, competing flavors in the same meal has been found to prevent satiation from being experienced by continually re-stimulating hunger and appetite over and over again. A good example is the common pairing of very sweet and very salty flavors. While eating salty popcorn eventually leads to a feeling of fullness, a sip of sweet soda creates a reward circuit in your brain that re-stimulates the desire for salt again, which then leads you to crave sweetness again, and etc.
Teach your taste buds to appreciate the wonderful flavors and wholesomeness of natural foods, so that you can start to truly enjoy the experience of eating while losing weight and feeling good about your diet.