Why is food addictive?
You know the food you just can't stop eating once you start...

Why is food addictive?

What foods are your Achilles heel? The ones you just can’t stop eating once you start.

Did you ever wonder if maybe it’s not that you’re just too weak to resist them but that there is powerful work at play in the food labs to make this food totally irresistible?

Food companies rely on science to understand how we’re attracted to food and they spend millions of dollars on how they can make their foods appealing to us.

It’s crazy how much science and analysis goes into finding the perfect balance of ingredients for food products that will keep us wanting more, buying more and eating more.

Fast food and processed or pre-packaged foods are addictive due to the large amount of sugar, fat, and salt packed into each serving.  In fact, top scientists in the U.S agree that for some people, highly loaded salty, sugary, fatty foods are every bit as addictive as some narcotics.

Person in gloves holding Burger
Food scientists want you to keep eating

These ingredients are known as trigger substances meaning when all three are combined into a food product, they keep you coming back for more until your body becomes addicted to a food product, such as fast food. This addiction spikes when other flavor enhancers are added into the mix.

That is not to say that salt, sugar, and fat is bad for you. Quite the opposite.  Your body needs a certain healthy amount of each one every day to function, so it’s important not to cut out salt, fat or sugar completely from what you’re eating.  That takes you back to your diet prison. 

The point I am making is that it’s HOW MUCH WE’RE EATING and that we don’t even realize it, thanks to fast-food restaurants and processed packaged food at the supermarket.

  • Mouthfeel (how it feels in your mouth)
  • Maximum bite force (the crunchiness), and
  • Sensory specific satiety (when you start to get bored with it and it loses its appeal)

The last one is the one they really sweat over. 

When a food has a specific strong flavor and if it’s tasty to us initially, you’ll eat it, but after a while, you’ll get tired of it really fast.  So, food companies make a concerted effort to make their foods well blended, so that they’re not bland, but that you also don’t get too full too fast and, heaven forbid stop eating too soon. This is when food becomes more-ish. Yep, I’m looking at you bag of potato chips.

Bowl of potato crisps
That’s why potato crisps are so more-ish

If the taste builds too much and too quickly, we stop eating, and according to food company mandates, that’s bad as snacks need to be eaten non-stop until the packet is finished!

The crunch is also crucial.  You can hear the crunch quite loudly when you bite and it’s also pleasurable to chew on something with a crunch sound to it. The value of the “crunch” of a food was studied a couple of years ago, where the scientists tested whether people’s perception of a potato chip was changed by the sound it made when they bit into it. They found that potato chips were thought to be both crisper and fresher when … the overall sound level was increased, which in turn makes them more appealing to eat.

The scary thing is, all this happens in the background of our brain, and we don’t even realize that it’s causing us to eat more than we need.

Another Jedi Mind Trick food companies play is how fast the food dissolves in your mouth. If the food dissolves quickly in the mouth, this tricks your brain into believing that no calories have been eaten.  They have a fancy name for it: ‘’Vanishing caloric density.’’  Your brain gets fooled into thinking the calories have vanished, so you keep eating before your fullness hormone Leptin sends a message to your brain to say, “Hey, you’ve had enough”. 

Where the heck did all those chocolate buttons go, right?

Woman with red lipstick, close up, eating chocolate
Melt in your mouth chocolate

And then there are flavor enhancers….

To mask the bitterness or sourness that some manufactured foods can cause, the food industry uses flavor enhancers. These pesky invisible ingredients trick the brain into tasting something that isn’t there, and not tasting something that is there. These are often labeled as ‘’artificial flavors” or something even less noticeable such as ‘’natural flavors’’.

There is a tremendous amount of money spent behind creating tastes and smells that feel real, but in reality, they are completely artificial.

Think about this:

Have you ever eaten a jellybean that tastes just like watermelon or buttered popcorn? 

Jelly beans multicolored
How can this candy taste like fruit?

Without flavor enhancement, no one would eat it. It would taste horrible. You’d want to spit it out.

This isn’t even real food anymore. It’s synthetic.  Our bodies are tricked and when our bodies are tricked repeatedly dramatic things can happen, like weight gain or diabetes or high blood pressure.

You’re fighting against powerful wizardry, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to get out of Oz. 

Reduce the amount of fast food and processed food you eat.  You don’t really know what’s in them, so it’s hard to control what you’re eating because of all the flavor-enhancing chemicals included in them.

By cooking meals with fresh ingredients and using small to moderate amounts of ALL or ANY ingredient, you’ll be eating foods in the right amounts, without your brain being seduced and tricked into eating more than your body needs.