This study suggests that it is the speed of our cognitive processing, rather than mere willpower, that influences our food choices (via LSE). People are more likely to choose something delicious, even if it is unhealthy, because they can determine very quickly that the food item will taste good. It simply takes longer for our brains to process the fact that a food is healthy. Very often, we might start to snack on an unhealthy treat, before information about its healthfulness even has time to enter our minds.
“Our findings suggest that it is often not our fault that we give into unhealthy foods—our brain is simply slower at processing how healthy a food is compared to how good it tastes,” said Dr. Nicolette Sullivan, professor at London School of Economics and lead author of the paper. “We may well know how healthy or unhealthy a food is, but our brain thinks first about what the food tastes like. We end up making unhealthy choices because it takes us too long to process the information about whether a food is healthy.”