Why are we addicted to certain foods? First of all, you aren't alone when it comes to being addicted to particular foods. There's a reason why Lays, the huge potato chip company, used the slogan, "Bet you can't eat just one!" A Connecticut College study of rats showed that Oreo filling, morphine, and cocaine all stimulated the pleasure portion of the brain. However, when rats were given the choice between the three, they chose the Oreo filling!
The food industry has scientists working around the clock to reveal what your body craves and to create products that will keep you coming back for more. However, the secret to outsmarting the food industry is simpler than you might think.
When you ingest sugar and fat, you increase the level of opiates released in your brain.These opiates stimulate your brain to release dopamine (the "feel good hormone"), which gives you pleasure, alertness, concentration, euphoria, and motivation. The problem is that too much can overstimulate the dopamine switch (dopamine receptors). Then, they stop working, which forces you to eat even more.
The food industry has been able to create "food-like products" with concentrated addictive tastes, all without having any nutritional value.Remember, it's their job to make you eat more of their company's food, whether it's healthy or not. These concentrated tastes overstimulate your taste buds in such a short period of time that your brain doesn't have time to register how much you have actually ingested. Instead, it is concentrating on releasing the opiates and dopamine, creating that pleasurable feeling it has been looking for.
Typically, the food industry eliminates a food's dietary fiber, dehydrates it, and then processes it at extremely high temperatures (which strips its nutrients). Addictive foods tend to be packaged to look tasty, convenient, and attractive to consumers. Try looking for unpackaged foods, usually found on the perimeter of grocery stores, to avoid these processed foods and food-like products.
I like to use the example of a parachute when referring to addictive vs. whole foods. Foods with a parachute (whole foods) digest slowly, assimilating and absorbing into your body at a rate that allows you to fully receive all of the food's nutrients. Additionally, your body is going to be aware of how much of these foods it has ingested. Foods with no parachute (food-like products, processed foods) immediately digest, spike your blood sugar, cause chronic high insulin levels, and typically provide you with little to no nutrients. Think of it like this: every time you eat, it's like you're jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Obviously, you would want to jump with a parachute, which can safely control your fall and guide you to the ground nice and easy. However, if you jump with no parachute, there's just the free-fall. That is what processed foods are doing to us!
Let's take back our power! Focus on ingesting foods that are high in fiber (vegetables, small amounts of fruit), healthy fat (nuts, grass-fed butter, avocado), and small amounts of lean protein (wild caught fish, grass-fed meats). Consuming fiber, fat, and protein will slow the digestion process, stabilize your blood sugar, help with satiety, and increase your energy. You should always accompany each meal with vegetables since these will provide you with vitamins, minerals, and fiber to keep you healthy and full.
While we as a society have not demonized the food industry as we have done with the tobacco industry, there really isn’t much difference. They are both causing disease to spread like wild-fire throughout the world!