Ahhh, Vitamin P - Pleasure: who doesn't want more of that in their life?
As a species, we are biologically programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain: behaviour that has proven extremely beneficial to our species from an evolutionary point of view. Having a nourishing meal by a campfire followed by a cuddle under a furry blanket is far more likely to result in your genes carrying on into another generation than heading off to fight that well-armed tribe over the hill.
Our decision-making process is usually so conditioned as to be unconscious: we learn from personal experience and tend not to repeat the behaviours that hurt; hand on hot plate, falling in a patch of nettles. And it's the same with food and eating: on a basic level we eat to avoid the discomfort of being hungry. However, the pleasure of eating can have a powerful effect on our metabolism over and above the nutritional value of the foods we eat.
In October 2000, Tufts University published the results of a study into the efficiency of iron absorption in a group of Swedish and Thai women. In the first part of the experiment, each group was fed a typical Thai meal of rice, vegetables, coconut, fish sauce and hot chilli paste; with each meal having exactly the same amount of iron. The fact that Thai women love Thai food and Swedish women don't proved to have an interesting metabolic effect: the Swedish women absorbed 50% less iron than their Thai counterparts. Equally, when a typical Swedish meal of hamburger, mashed potato and green beans was served (again with the same amount of iron), the Thai women absorbed significantly less iron than the Swedes.
The second part of the experiment divided each nationality into two groups. One group was given their national dish as described above and the other group was given the same meal blended into mush. Even though the nutritional content of each type of meal was the same, the women eating the blended food absorbed 70% less iron than those eating 'real' food.
Conclusion? Remove Vitamin P from our experience of a meal and the nutritional value of our food plummets.
So, as an experiment, think about all the foods you've learnt are healthy for you and that you love and incorporate at least three of these foods or ingredients in every meal. Eat with awareness, focusing on the pleasure - where do you feel it? How do you feel after eating these meals? Are you more satisfied? Happier with yourself?
As you focus on the healthy pleasures, it's likely your metabolism will increase and your tolerance for low-quality food will decrease.
We'll come onto talking about the 'unhealthy' pleasures and how to make those work for you in a future post!
"Food that tastes good is more nutritious", Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, October 2000, Vol 18, Issue 8 part 1