Imagine if you could eat more foods like cheese and chocolate as part of a plan to cut back your overall caloric intake and possibly even lose weight.
We know, this sounds like an ad for a diet commercial, but what we’re actually talking about is a theory developed by Per Møller, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
His research suggests that people tend to overeat, not because their food is unbelievably delicious, but actually because it’s entirely tasteless.
“I belong to the minority of researchers who are at odds with the idea that food should be bland, boring, and not satisfactory in order for people not to overeat," Møller told Vox.
When it comes to following a balanced diet, we’re often taught to stick to “less-decadent,” often flavorless foods and to limit foods that are richer and, undoubtedly, more enticing. What Møller’s research shows, though, is that this approach may actually be counterintuitive.
In a 2013 study, he fed subjects two different types of soup: one was very bland and the other was very flavorful. The goal was to find out which soup was more satiating.
“We found that when they ate the spicy soup they got satiated faster and they were less hungry at the end,” he explained to Vox. "So it seems as if sensory satisfaction does not necessarily lead to a larger intake.”
In other words, eating rich, flavorful foods, or what Møller refers to as foods with “a high sensory quality,” may actually prevent overeating.
Another study from researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands also helped to support this theory.
The aim was to analyze participants’ food cravings after they consumed the same sized portion of either cottage cheese or chocolate mousse. The results showed that food cravings diminished considerably more after eating the chocolate mousse when compared to the cottage cheese.
“In other words, the researchers concluded, people were less likely to overeat after they indulged in foods they liked,” Vox reporter Julia Belluz wrote.
That’s not to say we should or could subsist entirely on bacon, cheesecake and buttery croissants, but more so, that we shouldn’t be so afraid to enjoy these foods, and more importantly, that aiming to make each meal as flavorful as possible is a smart healthy eating strategy.
“We have been taught that pleasure is not something we should indulge in — that pleasure is bad," Møller told Vox. But instead, “We should learn more from the French and Italian cultures — to enjoy food and derive more satisfaction from it.”