Food Tips

Resetting Your Taste Buds to Lose Weight: Too Good to Be True?

We asked the experts if this diet trend actually works.

KRISTEN DOLD

We’ve seen our fair share of diet trends come and go, but one that’s been having an extended moment (via serious chatter on Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and other forums) is the Whole30 program. The concept: You cut out all sugars, alcohol, grains, dairy, legumes and processed foods for 30 days—no slip-ups—to reset your palate, change your tastebuds, and eliminate cravings.

Though the plan was created by sports nutritionists Melissa and Dallas Hartwig—who aren’t registered dietitians—patient testimonials on their website claim that the diet has improved or cured issues for some people (we’re talking depression, asthma, migraines, or even infertility), in addition to helping them crave healthy foods instead of sugar.

The Truth About Your Tastebuds and Cravings 
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that an elimination diet like this would cause physical transformations to your taste buds and nix cravings, says says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D. “Cravings are not necessarily related to taste,” she says. “Instead, it’s neurotransmitters that release hormones and stimulate the pleasure centers in your brain when you eat your favorite junk foods that cause your cravings.” What might actually be happening during those 30 days is that you’re changing habits, like reaching for that post-dinner piece of chocolate, into new ones, like brushing your teeth after you eat.

Additionally, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cutting way back on sugar does make sweet foods taste even more saccharine, but it doesn’t make you want the sugary stuff any less. In other words, if you love Diet Coke before going on a low-sugar diet, you’ll probably love it just as much afterward.

Why Elimination Diets Don’t Work
On top of that, the rigid rules of the Whole30 diet don’t exactly sit well with some dietitians. “I can’t think of one benefit of removing grains or beans from your diet,” says New York City-based nutritionist Keri Gans, R.D. “You’ll be missing out on satiating fiber, protein, and other nutrients.” She also notes that eliminating entire food groups can lead to weight loss because there’s simply less available to you to eat.

Elimination diets might be the latest weight-loss trend, but they’re certainly not the first. Check out some of the craziest diet trends throughout history.

How to Actually Fight Your Sugar Addiction
That said, Gans does believe that eliminating added sugars, which offer no nutritional benefit, from your diet for 30 days could help sugar addicts develop healthier eating habits. If you do something else when that craving hits, like brush your teeth or have a healthy alternative, after a while, it’ll stick.

That being said, the best way to retrain your body when it comes to eating healthy is to cut down on portion size. “Learn what a healthy bowl of whole-grain pasta looks like or how many servings of veggies you should be eating each day,” says Gans.

And that news is sweet relief since saying buh-bye to things like black beans or even a splash of milk in your coffee for a month sounds pretty miserable.

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