Why your Favorite Foods are so Addicting


Ahh I love me some chips and salsa, ice cream, French fries… basically anything that is unhealthy. Once I start eating these kinds of foods I find myself getting addicted and craving more. I know I’m not alone in this as I’m sure you have experienced something similar. All of our favorite foods such as Mac n Cheese, burgers and fries, sodas, even Starbucks coffees keep us wanting more, but WHY?

Well, there are three ingredients all of these foods have in common and they are WHY we want them so bad. Those ingredients are:

  • Sodium
  • Fat
  • Sugar

If a food has these ingredients they trigger the sense of pleasure in our brains. This is why you feel so good drinking that Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte so much and why you associate it with good things. And that is why you cannot stay away from it! Think about it. All the food you simply just cannot stay away from are because they have two or three of the above ingredients.

Soda has loads of sugar and also loads of sodium. Cake has a ton of sugar and a lot of fat. You get a burger, fries and Coke and you also get sodium, sugar and fat. Most drinks at Starbucks have sugar and fat (mostly the Frappuccinos, pumpkin spice latte and other specialty drinks). Even regular coffee with cream and sugar (depending on how much and where you get it from) has a ton of fat and sugar. Dunkin’ Donuts puts a lot of sugar and cream in their coffees and I was totally addicted to their Hazelnut coffee with cream and sugar for the longest time. Fries alone have sodium and fat. Chips and salsa have all three. I could go on forever, but I think you get the point.

Time Online did an interview with Michael Moss, author of “Salt, Sugar, Fat” and Moss had some incredible things to say that I just could not say any better:

One of the things that really surprised me was how concerted and targeted the effort is by food companies to hit the magical formulation. Take sugar for example. The optimum amount of sugar in a product became known as the “bliss point.” Food inventors and scientists spend a huge amount of time formulating the perfect amount of sugar that will send us over the moon, and send products flying off the shelves. It is the process they’ve engineered that struck me as really stunning.

When it came to fat, it was the amazing role of what the industry calls the “mouth feel.” That’s the warm, gooey taste of cheese, or the bite into a crisp fried chicken that you get. It rushes right to the same pleasure centers of the brain that sugar does, but fat is carrying twice as many calories, so it is more problematic from an obesity standpoint. There is almost no limit to the bliss point in fat. If there is one, it’s up in heavy cream some place. So the companies discovered they could add as much fat as they wanted to products, and unless people looked closely at the nutrition facts, they are going to totally love it more than they would without the fat.

When it comes to salt, what was really staggering to me is that the industry itself is totally hooked on salt. It is this miracle ingredient that solves all of their problems. There is the flavor burst to the salt itself, but it also serves as a preservative so foods can stay on the shelves for months. It also masks a lot of the off-notes in flavors that are inherent to processed foods.
— Michael Moss

So, now you know WHY you feel like you need these foods. It gives you comfort and it’s hard to let go comfort. Well, what if you don’t have to? There are a lot of natural foods that have these ingredients, but in smaller amounts that can give you the similar feeling of comfort, but you will be healthier. Healthy and comfort – I like that. Eggs naturally have quite a bit of fat and sodium, but won’t make you feel like you NEED to eat them – they’re not mechanically made to do that, but fries and fast food are made so you will get addicted, after all, that is how they make their money.

So, how can you stop eating these things? Well, it’s not easy. It’s a habit you’ll have to break and it can be hard and you will more than likely be craving them, BUT after about a few weeks of not eating these kinds of foods (they say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit) you won’t have cravings anymore or at least the cravings will be very little. The best thing to do is to swap fast food with healthier food. Instead of the French fries, make your own sweet potato fries by baking them. Instead of that deep dish pizza, make cauliflower crust pizza. No, it doesn’t taste EXACTLY the same, but it tastes similar and you feel good about it! There are many healthier alternatives available – just Google or search Pinterest!

I also want to mention that it is okay to have some of these foods every once in awhile. I stick to healthy food almost all of the time, but of course there are times when I want a real pizza. So I get it, but I don’t let it control me. Yes, it tastes amazing, but having the knowledge that I’m only feeling this moment of pleasure because of the fat and salt makes it easier for me to not eat it every day. Knowledge is power; ignorance is not bliss.

For more information on fat, sugar and salt and what it does to us, Click Here to see an interview Without Bullshit did with dietitian Kerri Hawkins.

What are your thoughts on fat, sugar and salt?