If you’re an avid Eat This, Not That! reader, you already know that low-fat packaged foods tend to be filled with heaps of sugar to maintain their flavor (which can sabotage your most stringent weight loss efforts)—but that’s not the only reason you may want to steer clear. “Slimmed down” treats aren't as satisfying as their fattier counterparts, according to recent research published in the journal Flavour. That’s why a single scoop of ice cream can quiet a craving, but you feel compelled to go back for seconds or thirds of low-fat fro-yo. While we’re not judging you—we’ve all been there—we do think your body deserves better.
When you look at the science behind fat, taste and satiety, it makes a lot of sense: As you bite into a full-fat food, your tongue sends your brain a signal that something filling is on the way down to your stomach. However, this message isn’t sent when you opt for low-fat foods, which is why you’re left wanting more— even though you may have just consumed a good deal of calories.
The second reason low-fat foods don’t satisfy? You guessed it: the taste. Even if you think the low-fat cookies n' cream at your local shop tastes great (and oftentimes it doesn’t), scientists say your brain knows something is off. That's why a whole pint of fro-yo can disappear without quelling your ice cream craving. Recent findings reveal that, besides having receptors that pick up on sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory foods, our mouths can also taste fat.
The difference between those single-scoop nights and furious fro-yo eating sessions is so confusing because "tasting" fat isn't a conscious perception. To come to these findings, the researchers had study participants taste two glasses of water. One was plain ol’ H20, while the other contained fatty acids. Although the participants could tell that the two glasses of water tasted different from one another, they couldn’t figure out why—likely because the flavor of fat isn’t easy to pinpoint like sweet or salty.
Researchers hope to collect more information in the coming years that will officially name fat the sixth taste and help food chemists develop more satisfying low-fat products. Until then, we suggest opting for full-fat treats over the “skinny” varieties. Just be sure to keep your serving size small. And if you need some guidance choosing the best for your figure, turn to these fatty foods that will help you lose weight.