What makes certain foods addictive? From salty snacks like potato chips or cheeseburgers to decadent desserts that provide instant comfort food. But what exactly makes them so highly sought-after?
Food addiction may seem harmless at first glance; however, it can quickly lead to serious health issues, including obesity and binge eating disorders.
1. Fast food
While some may argue that food isn’t addictive, fast food consumption among most Americans can create an addiction. Fast food’s combination of salt, sugars, and fats triggers the pleasure circuits in the brain and leads to addiction; manufacturers use marketing research and tactics designed to foster emotional attachment to food products that fuel this cycle of addiction.
Fast food’s convenience also makes it easy to become addicted. Ordering through a drive-thru window and having it arrive within minutes is all it takes, while many fast foods serve sugary soda drinks that have been shown to trigger the exact same addictive mechanisms as drugs.
However, eating fast food too frequently can have adverse health effects. If you’re having difficulty breaking your fast food habit, writing down and rating your feelings of addiction on a scale of 1-10 might help identify times when you are most likely to indulge in fast food and simplify breaking the habit.
Just the aroma of freshly baked pizza baking in the oven is enough to make anyone drool – and according to one recent study, pizza was even ranked as one of the foods most associated with addiction indicators.
One study shows that pizza’s combination of fat, sugar, and salt enhances reward potential in ways that do not occur naturally. Though it might seem extreme (many people smoke cigarettes without suffering severe repercussions), we are quite susceptible to these addictive foods and must remain mindful when selecting food products to provide pleasure.
Pizza, for instance, is a perfect example of a food that does not fall under either category of good or bad for our brains to recognize as “good”; it is made up of white flour bread combined with high levels of dairy fats that destroy homeostasis (the process that makes us feel full) physiology. Not only are its effects felt in your mind, but those delicious cheese-stuffed slices release casomorphins, which activate opioid receptors to control pain control and reward.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that many foods that many consider nuts (like peanuts, water chestnuts, and acorns ) don’t fit this definition of what constitutes nuts. Botanists define nuts as any dry, one-seeded fruit enclosed within a hard shell that does not split open upon maturity, such as walnuts and hazelnuts, which meet this criterion.
Though most experts consider eating nuts relatively safe, some potential issues are still associated with their consumption. Nuts contain high-calorie counts, which could contribute to weight gain if overconsumed; additionally, they’re often coated in salt, sugar, vegetable, or seed oils — so be careful with portion control!
So, when selecting the appropriate nuts, try whole varieties with unsalted surfaces or light roast versions to avoid additional fat and salt content. Crunchy nuts also help satisfy hunger by stimulating serotonin production for an uplifted mood!
If you find yourself entering a fast food restaurant with good intentions but end up ordering a bacon cheeseburger and fries anyway, don’t feel bad; food marketers use phrases such as “finger-lickin’ good” and “hot n’ juicy” to boost the traceability of menu items and people are 27 percent more likely to order something described this way.
Muffins are an easy and nutritious treat to create at home, packed with fresh fruit or vegetables. If you want to go the extra step and make them even healthier, swap out some of the fat with applesauce or mashed banana and use whole wheat flour or oats instead of all-purpose flour, as well as add protein-rich eggs, buttermilk, yogurt, or nut milk as ingredients. Or add different flavor variations by switching vanilla extract with lemon, lime, or orange zest or folding in chopped dates, raisins, or cranberries into the dough before baking!
5. Red meat
Red meat provides essential proteins, iron, and vitamin B-12 nutrients for cell function in our bodies. Many health organizations advise limiting red meat consumption to lower risks associated with heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.
Red meat can be highly addictive. It contains numerous chemicals that stimulate opioid receptors in your brain, and excessive consumption can make you fat. If red meat addiction is an issue for you, try switching it out for chicken or turkey instead – both options work great in soups, stews, or casseroles.
Another alternative is to stick with processed meat only, which will help reduce fat and cholesterol intake. You could also opt for seafood or plant-based proteins like tofu or beans as alternatives to red meat – something weightlifters are sometimes attracted to due to its umami (savory taste caused by glutamate) and saltiness; they believe that eating red meat regularly makes them stronger; unfortunately though if your goal is overall health it would be wiser to cut back.