Why does it seem the foods we crave the most aren’t good for us? Dessert, pizza, and deep-fried foods like french fries are almost impossible to resist. And in the meantime, we often have to force ourselves to choke down the healthy foods our bodies truly need to thrive.
What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way to trick ourselves into craving healthy, bitter greens such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and arugula? Scientists say there is. It all has to with your saliva.
Why We Crave Foods
Saliva is the liquid manufactured by the glands in your mouth. Its main function is to aid us in the digestion and swallowing of the food we eat. But scientists also say saliva has a big impact on the way we taste things. What’s more, research suggests that we may be able to essentially train our saliva to adjust to bitter flavors and make them taste more palatable.
In a joint study released by the Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 64 subjects were asked to drink a glass of either almond milk or cow’s milk with cocoa three times a day for a period of six weeks. And not the sweetened kind of cocoa, either. This was the dark, bitter stuff with only four percent residual sugar.
Each time they drank a glass of the chocolate milk they were asked to rate the flavor. What they found was surprising.
Over the course of the study, the participants began rating their milk as tasting less and less bitter even that no changes were made to the drinks themselves. What’s more, scientists noted changes in their saliva corresponded to this shift of perception. Our saliva, it seems, has the ability to adapt.
Saliva is comprised mainly of water; however, it also consists of thousands of proteins, secreted by our salivary glands. Previous studies conducted with rats suggested to researchers that these proteins can actually adapt and bind to the flavors of food, rendering bitter tastes less bitter in their mouths. The Purdue University/US. Department of Agriculture study, was, however, the first time this theory was tested on human beings.
These results suggest that both human beings and rats have the ability to adapt to certain flavors, rendering unpleasant tastes more pleasant. This is good news for anyone who avoids eating healthy greens like spinach and endives due to the bitter taste.
The downside? Sadly, the results don’t last. Our saliva only works to make bitter foods more delicious as long as it has a reason to do so. Which means if you stop eating and drinking bitter foods on a regular basis, your saliva will revert to normal.
But why would you want to stop? Bitter greens are amazing. They contain polyphenols for clean, long-lasting energy. They’re also packed full of antioxidants and nutrients. Bitter vegetables are quite simply good for our bodies.
It appears your mother might have known what she was talking about when she told you to eat your broccoli. And now science has found a way to help you enjoy it.