There's a reason those low-fat or fat-free versions of your favorite foods don't satisfy your cravings
When you bite into a low-fat ice cream bar, it may not just be the texture difference that leaves you feeling vaguely unsatisfied. You might actually be missing the taste of fat, says a recent study published in the journal Flavour. In the scientists' report, they argue that emerging evidence may qualify fat as the sixth flavor (the first five are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami). (Try these 12 Umami-Flavored Foods.)
When your tongue comes into contact with food, taste receptors get activated and signals are sent to your brain, which then help to regulate your intake. When it comes to fat, this regulation may be important in keeping your weight in check; animal studies suggest that the more sensitive you are to the taste of fat, the less of it you eat. (Find out How to Work with Your Cravings, Not Against Them.)
But when a low-fat version of your favorite food hits your tongue, your brain and digestive systems never get the message that they’re getting something caloric and should therefore eat less, leaving us with that unsatisfied feeling, reports NPR.
The taste difference isn’t the only reason to reconsider full-fat foods. Recent research finds that Saturated Fats May Not Be as Bad as We Think, and unsaturated fat can help you lower your LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels. And our own Diet Doctor has weighed in on the Importance of Polyunsaturated Fat. Plus, low-fat versions of processed foods are often higher in sugar, which can mess with your appetite, lower your ability to burn fat, and can even make you look older. (Find out Everything You Need to Know About Sugar.) Moral of the story: if you're craving something higher in fat, go ahead and splurge—in moderation! A little bit will go a looong way compared to the low-fat version.