A balance of diet and exercise is an important aspect of life. However, there are certain foods that we find very attractive and addictive. On the other hand, there are foods that are consumed for only the essential nutrients by some people. Do you find yourself binge eating a full bag of chips in less than an hour? It might be because of the rise in dopamine levels in your body. And, people then have uncontrollable cravings when the brain signals for certain foods. At times, even your conscious mind knows that the food item is unhealthy, but the lack of willpower can put you in a difficult situation. A lot of people do not even realise when they are having a good addiction.
Up to 20% of people might have a food addiction or have an addictive eating behavior. The numbers are even more in people who are obese. According to researches, most addictive foods are either processed or sugary. Some foods are highly likely to cause addictive behaviour than others. These foods should not be restricted altogether, but it is suggested to consume then in moderation. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Anjali Phatak, Director Nutripulse and Senior Clinical Nutritionist, Nutripulse, about addictive foods and why they are an addiction.
Mostly, the addictive foods are processed foods, and are either high in sugar or fat. It is important to be aware about the health problems that these foods can cause, if not consumed in moderate quantities. According to Dr. Anjali, here are 5 most addictive foods and drinks:
1. Caffeinated and carbonated drinks
Carbonated drinks are loaded with sugar, they are mostly considered to improve energy levels in body. Caffeine is also very addictive because it tends to improve concentration and alertness, it can lead to dependency if caffeine is consumed on regular basis. When someone cuts on caffeine they also might experience irritability and problem in sleeping and concentrating. Sugar on the other side is very palatable and hence it can give you sugar cravings. Addictive caffeinated and carbonated drinks include cold coffee, sodas, alcohol, etc.
2. Ice cream and cookies
Ice cream and cookies contain a lot of fats and sugar. According to studies conducted, it give less pleasure and more craving every time you eat it. Such behavioural pattens have been seen with most addictive items. Sugars also help in lifting up your mood. If you don't mind your sugar intake, it can cause serious health issues. It basically helps in release of dopamine in the brain and your body gets used you to the altered amount of hormones.
3. Chips and wafers
Salt is equally addictive and harmful for our body. Excess consumption of salt may lead to weakening of bones at times. Mostly, fried products contain high amount of salt. Once we start eating higher amounts of salt in our food, we won't be able to enjoy food with less salt. These foods also contain a lot of fats. Salt also tends to increase the amount of dopamine in brain, which gives us a happy feeling.
Chocolate is obtained from cocoa pods and it helps us a lot in enhancing our mood because they alter our blood sugar and hormonal balance. Most of them contain high amount of sugars and even fats. Dark chocolates have less sugar and are a healthier alternative but you must mind the quantity always. White chocolates or milk chocolates should be avoided because they are mostly made from cocoa butter and may contain much calories.
Also read: How to Quit Junk Food Addiction
5. Refined food items (pizza, fries etc)
Refined food items like pizza and fries are loaded with preservatives and high amount of salt is used to prepare these food items. Fried foods are also addictive. Sometimes, extra salt is required to make food like ham, bacon and sausages. Outlets may also sell fries containing MSG or monosodium glutamate to enhance the flavour of the product. MSG has been linked with various diseases like obesity, metabolic diseases and even neurotoxic effects, and is very addictive.
Why are some foods addictive?
The addictive foods are mostly high in fat, sugar and salt. An addiction happens when there are certain chemicals in foods that cause biochemical reactions in the body. The crunchy or fluffy texture attracts more people and they are highly likely to have an addiction of eating something crunchy or fluffy. Basically, the main reason behind addiction to foods is the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.
It is produced by the body and is adapted by neurons in the nervous system. It is also called the 'pleasure hormone'. Dopamine is found in certain foods such as pizza and cookies. Therefore, it leads to addiction of some food items. For this reason, more comfort foods fall into this list. You enjoy the food and it enhances your mood, thus, the urge to have it again!
Dr. Anjali said, It is important to include high fiber foods in your diet. And, even if you are craving for junk food or ice cream, then try reducing the quantity of your food or eat a salad along with it. This is keep your stomach full, thus avoiding the cravings. Sharing food and replacing processed food ingredients with healthier substitutes can also help in less consumption of food. Try having as much natural foods as possible and include probiotics and good day foods in your diet. These variations can help in fighting food cravings, which mostly leads to addiction.
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