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Nutrition » Does Healthy Food Taste Bad? Debunking The Long-Standing Myth

Does Healthy Food Taste Bad? Debunking The Long-Standing Myth

Does Healthy Food Taste Bad

Does Healthy Food Taste Bad?

Healthy food tastes bad. Seems like this is the statement that’s being reinforced by your fellow dieters, friends, parents, and fitness blogs, isn’t it? This myth has been around for ages and it’s not an easy one to dispel, as there are both cultural and biological reasons why you prefer a boatload of fried nuggets over a low-calorie vegetable salad. But is it true? Does healthy food taste bad? Read this article to unravel this issue and find out how you can live a healthier lifestyle without giving up the taste.

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Why does healthy food taste bad?

You make steamed veggies hoping to enjoy your plateful of nutrients, but nine out of ten times they taste nasty. Why is it so? The answer is a bit complicated. 

French Culture

It is well known that obesity is not an equally distributed health issue around the world. Leaving aside low-income countries, the direct comparison between the US and other developed countries shows stark differences. For instance, about 17% of adults in France were obese as of 2008, while in the US the number was 34%, so twice higher (6). Of course, Americans are not more biologically prone to chew on potato chips. These rates are the results of cultural and social practices related to health. Here are some other comparisons:

healthy meals that taste good
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About 44% of the French consume more than 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day. Approximately 24% of Americans do that. 

About 70% of the French drink less than one glass of sweetened beverage per day,  only 37% of Americans meet this guideline. 

About 65% of French walk briskly for 30 minutes 7 days/week; only about 50% of Americans walk briskly 5 days/week. 

This data reveals that cultural issues might be working in defining whether healthy foods taste bad. It seems that this indeed is the case. Recent research points to the fact that the majority of Americans consider unhealthy food tasty, while the majority of French feel the opposite (5). Americans are subjected to marketing messages that glorify unhealthy foods, so unsurprisingly this idea seeped into their subconscious. Indeed, the food considered American worldwide is largely really unhealthy (like hamburgers or greasy steaks). If these are the emblems of national cuisine, what is to be expected from the citizens?

healthy vs unhealthy food
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American Culture

The US culture and marketing produced a distinction in favor of unhealthy foods. When healthy products are promoted, all you hear about is their numerous health benefits and not one mention of their taste. When fast food, candy or sodium-packed snacks are being advertised, their addictive taste is at the forefront of every ad campaign. This seems obvious, yet it creates the stereotype of tasteless healthy foods. That is why the first thing you need to do is unlearn the cultural prejudice that’s being imposed on you via television, internet and their marketing ploys. Healthy food does taste good, and you can prove it yourself.

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healthy food that doesn't taste bad
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Nature

As you’ve seen, one of the reasons the statement «healthy food tastes bad» is so popular is due to the peculiarity of American food culture. The culture, however, cannot take account of the whole problem on its own. Despite the immense difference in obesity rates between France and the US, the obesity rates are growing in France too, as well as literally everywhere around the world. This suggests that there might be natural factors causing obsessions with junk food. After all, when you’re disgusted by cauliflower, you’re not tasting prejudice. Or, at least, not exclusively. 

Healthy food sometimes tastes bad while harmful foods taste good because of evolutionary reasons (7). Ancient humans had an abundance of plants around them, so their body didn’t need to develop a mechanism which would spur them to eat more plants. What humans really did require, and what was then in short supply, is sodium. Why does salt make food taste better? Because it triggers serotonin. The same goes for fat and sugar that are great and dense sources of energy. With the modernization humans learned to make foods next-level salty, fatty, and sugary – the combination that sends our brains into a pleasure overdrive. Yet it is simply too much, and inflicts irreparable harm on our body. 

The cravings for these extra-flavored foods can be so strong, that many scientists now consider it an addiction (4). As with other drugs, your tongue develops tolerance, so it starts craving for more.

why does salt make food taste better
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Does healthy food taste bad? Tasty AND healthy food for weight loss:

If you take a break from junk food, you will not only reap health benefits and shed extra pounds, but develop sensibility to intricate tastes of natural foods. Here’s where you should start:

Nuts

Put away that package of Doritos. Nuts are perfect and super-beneficial snacks for you to chew on in-between meals. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, and many others – each has its own benefits. Nuts provide your body with essential nutrients, proteins, healthy fats, and antioxidants. They may increase life expectancy, aid in cholesterol reduction, reduce the risk of heart disease, and protect against diabetes (1).

why does healthy food taste bad
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Seafood

Shrimps, mussels, salmon, scallops – the richness of the sea is marvelous, and the taste is fantastic. You can cook quite a number of dishes with seafood, and yield a host of health benefits. Seafood contains nutrients that help maintain your eyesight, rejuvenate skin, boost your brainpower, and lower the risk of depression (2). 

Berries

Berries are one of the healthiest foods on Earth, and they are incredibly delicious. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries – you can eat them raw, make smoothies, or even bake cakes (although the last option is not so great for weight loss). Berries are full of fiber and antioxidants that help improve blood sugar and insulin response, fight inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels (3). 

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Final thought: does healthy food taste bad?

To sum up, it is a myth that you need to unlearn in order to become healthier and leaner. Junk food not only harms your health, but blocks your perception of taste, and keeps you on the hook because of all the artificial flavors, salt and other additives. The variety of delicious healthy foods is unlimited, and you definitely should start exploring it right now.

Do you know that your body needs some exercise in addition to a proper diet? Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Almond consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in adults with prediabetes (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Dietary fish, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid consumption, and depression risk in Japan: a population-based prospective cohort study (2017, nature.com)
  3. Effects of black raspberry on lipid profiles and vascular endothelial function in patients with metabolic syndrome (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction (2010, edition.cnn.com)
  5. How to Combat the Unhealthy = Tasty Intuition: The Influencing Role of Health Consciousness (2015, journals.sagepub.com)
  6. Lifestyle in France and the United States: An American Perspective (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. This Is Why Junk Food Tastes So Bloody Good (2016, huffingtonpost.com.au)
Alex Porter

Alex Porter

Alex is a professional writer who takes pride in helping people achieve their health goals and motivates others to start taking care of their bodies through exercise and proper nutrition. Being a part of the BetterMe Team, he is extremely inspired by our mission to promote a healthy lifestyle, which includes not only physical, but also mental well-being. Alex emphasizes the importance of safe yet efficient workouts and healthy diets. His main goal is to make more people realize how essential these aspects are, and how drastically they can improve their lives.

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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