Why do we Love to eat? What is Good Food or Bad Food


The 19th Century poet Elizabeth Browning was probably not thinking about food when she wrote her sonnet 

“How do I Love thee, Let me count the ways” but her words fit perfectly to the love affair a common man has with food.

Imagine, you’ve a plate of scrumptious, juicy stake in front of you with toppings of mushrooms, cheese and stir friend vegetables on the side.

“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height”

Isn’t that how you would feel? I know I wouldn’t be able to resist it. We foodies love our food with passion, but have you ever wondered why do we love to eat so much?

For one thing, it’s genetics. A study published in the Physiology & behavior found that as many as 45% of our food preferences are determined by genes. This shows us that while our eating preferences are controlled by biology, an ever larger portion (55%) of our love for food is learned and developed over time.

Dr. Edward Abramson who is an internationally recognised authority on emotional eating, and eating disorders says that we eat for mainly three reasons:

  1. Physical Hunger
  2. External Cues
  3. Emotional Arousal

Physical Hunger

We get hungry simply because our body requires energy, this is the one reason that every kid on the block knows and one we can’t control. We just need food to function.

External Cues

External cues are the cues that we get from the environment such as seeing someone else eat around us or on TV, seeing an ad on a magazine or newspaper etc. Did you know that people make about 221 eating decisions each day? Most of these decisions are the caused by external cues.

Emotional Arousal

Emotional Arousal brings us back to our love affair with food. We eat food because it arouses our emotions. You may be lured to food due to the tempting odor of a chicken being fried nearby. You just can’t resist the odor you have to eat!

Now not only do we love to eat, we also love to try out different cuisines and experiment cooking in different ways. Cooking has actually led to many evolutionary changes in the human body, you can learn more about that in this short video by Darren Curnoe, an evolutionary biologist.

Like any relationship, love affair with food is a complicated. We must control our diet, and limit ourselves. Many people have lists of food that they can and they can’t eat. I don’t agree to that, limits are important in any relationship and so they’re important to have with food too but it can’t be set in black and white.

What is good food, and what is Bad Food?

I wish I could give you a black and white answer that distinguished between good and bad food and the truth is that there is none. No food is good or bad, it’s how you eat it that makes it good or bad.

For example, we know that sodium is important and essential for life, none of us can live without it; however, too much sodium can be disastrous. So you see it’s not just about what you eat, it’s also how you eat it.

As long as you’re eating in moderate amounts, almost all food is alright.

What you eat is also determined by your lifestyle. A couch potato will have different nutritional needs that an athlete. Classifying the same food as good and bad for both is like getting a fit-for-all T shirt that actually fits no one.

Eat healthy and moderately in small portions, don’t limit yourself to only a specific category of food. All food eaten moderately is good food, and all food eaten excessively is bad. Find the balance, and enjoy your food with passion. It’s one of the joys of life, don’t make it more complicated that it has to be!

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