Cravings. I'm constantly asked about desires and behaviors when it comes to eating. Science has some new answers for us.
Take our craving for salt. It starts early. Some of the first foods we eat as babies – cereal and crackers, for example — are high in sodium. Bread, too. Last month, Time magazine reported that research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found an association between early exposure to salt and an affinity for it later.
In a similar article in the Los Angeles Times, one of the researchers spoke of a “sensitivity window” in infancy when certain flavors and tastes seem to be imprinted on babies’ brains. It gets worse. Later in the article, the same researcher said that babies learn about flavors in their mother’s breast milk! (That would mean bad flavors, too, including too sweet.)
We need salt. But many of us eat double (or more, more, more than double) the recommended amount. It’s everywhere, especially in processed and starchy food. And you’ve seen people who use that salt shaker like a machine gun, raining bullets on their plate. But if bad habits can start early, so can good ones. Don’t you wish you’d never tasted some of the foods you love that you know are bad for you?
There are a million ways to add flavor to food besides using salt. Herbs, spices, vinegar; look for cookbooks geared toward healthy eating. Experiment. Start cutting back gradually if that’s the only way you’re going to do it.
The Institute of Medicine has recommended that the US government regulate the amount of salt in processed and restaurant food.
Can we overcome the way we’re programmed? Yes, and education is the first step. And with what we now know, be careful about what you feed your babies.