The answer to the question БWhy do we eat? Б seems an obvious oneБto obtain the energy we need to support our everyday activities and, ultimately, promote our survival. However, many of our modern day food choices suggest another answerБone that actually stands to threaten our
and well being. Many times, the reason we eat has less to do with sustenance and more to do with taste. Moreover, our daily food choices are influenced by a variety of other factors including the social situations we find ourselves in, our budgets, schedules, and levels, as well as the amount of time we have to prepare and eat a meal. A quick comparison between the food landscape of our ancestors and the current shows dramatic changes on both sides of the energy balance equation (energy expended vs. energy consumed). In more primitive times, hunters and gatherers foraged for vegetation and hunted animals to eat. They worked hard and expended energy to obtain foods that were not typically calorically dense. As a result, their energy expenditure was more closely balanced with their energy intake. Advances in agriculture and modern farming techniques have provided the opportunity to grow massive quantities of food with far less effort than before. On the other side of the equation, there has also been a dramatic change in our food sources. Today, many food items are highly processed combinations of several palatable ingredients and chemicals. The food industry creates and markets food and beverage products that are engineered to be both desirable and inexpensive.
For instance, foods such as corn and wheat are transformed from their original form and combined with salt, fat, sugars, and other ingredients to produce the low cost, high energy food and beverage items that line our grocery store shelves. Even though food is essential for survival, not all foods are created equal. Eating certain foods, especially in excess, can produce the opposite effect of sustaining life by compromising our health. Overeating and are on the rise in both the United States and around the world. Despite warnings of the physical health risks associated with increased body weight, the plethora of diet books and programs available, and the stigma associated with excess weight, many people find it difficult to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Thus, it is important to consider what other factors are driving weight gain or sabotaging weight loss efforts. It is impossible to avoid the fact that the pleasurable aspects of foods are powerful motivators of our choices. The basic biology underlying food intake is closely linked to pleasure. Since food is necessary for survival, eating, especially when hungry, is inherently reinforcing. However, eating can be reinforcing even when it is not driven by a caloric deficit. This is why we continue to eat past the point of satiation and eat highly palatable foods like cupcakes and candy bars that arenБt filling. Unfortunately, our natural inclination to consume these types of foods collides with the many influences in our modern food environmentБsuch as convenience, cost, social influences, etc.
Бto ultimately encourage the overconsumption of highly palatable foods. My new book, Hedonic Eating, examines the various behavioral, biological, and social factors associated with highly palatable food consumption in an effort to offer greater insight into what promotes this behavior and shed light on the different factors that may be involved in perpetuating current obesity epidemic. In the book, expert contributors cover topics ranging from the neurochemistry of food reward to the hotly debated concept of Бfood,Б providing relevant and up-to-date information from the current body of scientific literature. To learn more, a copy of the bookБavailable today! Dr. Nicole Avena is a research neuroscientist, author and expert in the fields ofб , diet andб addiction. She received a Ph. D. inб б and Psychology from Princeton University, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular biology at The Rockefeller University in New York City. She has published over 70 scholarly journal articles, as well as several book chapters and books, on topics related to food, addiction,б obesity andб eating disorders. She also edited the books,б (2012) andб (2015), coauthored the popular book of food and addiction called (Ten Speed Press), and recently finished her new book,б. Her research achievements have been honored by awards from several groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, the National Institute on Drug, and her research has been funded by the National Institutes ofб Healthб (NIH) and National Eating Disorders Association.
Website: Twitter: : Without proper nutrition, your body canвt survive. When you eat a balanced diet, your body obtains the fuel and nutrients it needs to accomplish various bodily tasks. For example, your body needs minerals to make hormones, build bones and regulate your heartbeat. Examples of minerals include calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, iodine and copper. Water is another essential component of your diet. Without it, your body canвt flush out toxins, transport nutrients to cells or perform other vital bodily processes. Protein in the diet can come from meats, nuts, beans and certain whole grains. Your body uses protein to build and repair your muscles, skin and bones. In your digestive system, proteins break down into the amino acids that constitute them. Your body can produce most of the amino acids that it needs, but there are eight amino acids that you must include in your diet. The eight are called essential amino acids. Typically, if you eat 50 to 65 g of protein each day and choose a variety of protein sources, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds, your body will obtain each of the essential amino acids it needs. When you digest carbohydrates, your body converts them into glucose and uses them to fuel various body processes. Fruits, vegetables and dairy products contain simple carbohydrates, or sugars.
Whole-grain products, starchy vegetables and legumes are complex carbohydrates, and these often contain fiber. Fiber aids in digestion and helps lower bad cholesterol. Not only do fats make food taste better, but they also provide energy, help your body absorb vitamins and aid in growth and development. Healthy fats — such as are found in fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil — help you control your cholesterol levels, but saturated and trans fats are unhealthy, especially when you eat them too often. Saturated fats include lard, butter, solid shortening and fatback. Trans fats are common in vegetable shortening, certain types of margarine, cookies, crackers and any foods that use partially hydrogenated oils. Eating too many bad fats increases unhealthy cholesterol levels, which could lead to cardiovascular problems. Your body needs 13 types of vitamins to accomplish various bodily processes, including digestion, growth and nerve function. Without certain vitamins, you may develop medical problems. For example, without vitamin D, you might develop rickets, which weakens your bones. Typically, a balanced diet that includes all the major food groups should supply your body with all the vitamins it needs, including A, C, D, E, K and the eight types of B vitamins. If for some reason your diet doesnвt supply you enough of a certain type of vitamin, you can take a supplement or a multivitamin, though you should consult your doctor first to be safe.