Closing the Gap between Local and Elite

Mind-Body Series: Why we really are what we eat

By Jaimi Acourt

“You are what you eat”

We have all heard this saying over and over but what does it really mean?

Recently, I have been doing some research into this and have found out some interesting information which I wanted to share with you all.

Turns out, the first taste of food is always with our eyes. Food selection is primarily guided by our visual system. The sight of food elicits a wide range of physiological, emotional and cognitive responses.

The sight of food prepares the body for ingestion and digestion = Physiological.

The sight of food can elicit feelings of excitement = Emotional.

The sight of food gives rise to memory retrieval based on information stored during previous experiences of eating = Cognitive.

“For humans, choosing food is not an easy task. Unlike Koalas who chew only eucalyptus leaves or Pandas who consume only bamboo, humans are omnivorous. Rozin (1976) was the first to introduce the concept of the state of anxiety experienced by individuals when they have to decide what to eat, especially affluent countries where there is an excessive availability of food” (Rumiati & Foroni, 2016).

Perception relies on previously acquired knowledge. This is where things can get tricky. If your previously acquired knowledge is associated with negative feelings such as shame or guilt future food decisions will be driven by these feelings. These associations are what can lead to a negative relationship with food and your body.

Research shows that sensory information such as colour, texture and consistency guide our food decisions. The jury is still out as to the exact role our visual system plays as to how the concept of food is organized in our brain, the relationship this has to the perceiver and effects on our eating behaviors. What is clear is that food is essential for our survival but along the way it has acquired additional and deeper emotional, social, and cultural meanings.

Stay tuned for the rest of the PEAQ Mind-Body Series coming soon!

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Rumiati, R., & Foroni, F. (2016). We are what we eat: How food is represented in our mind/brain. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review23(4), 1043-1054.

van der Laan, L., de Ridder, D., Viergever, M., & Smeets, P. (2011). The first taste is always with the eyes: A meta-analysis on the neural correlates of processing visual food cues. Neuroimage55(1), 296-303.



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