Chips, chocolate, cheese. There are some foods we simply can’t get enough of.
And turns out there’s good reason why we’re hooked.
Why we can’t get enough
What is it about the three Cs: Chocolate, cheese, and chips? For some reason, we can never get enough of them. But wanting to chow on a particular food is one thing, being addicted to it is another. Fact is, you can become addicted to a certain food, and you can blame your brain’s response to it. That’s because certain foods elicit a release of dopamine in the brain, which can lead to more cravings for that particular treat, especially when it comes to foods that are high in sugar, salt, and/or fat. Addictive foods are ones that hit your brain right in its pleasure center, ostensibly telling you that you need more, more, more. “When this pleasure/reward center is stimulated, the brain starts secreting dopamine and other chemicals that make us enjoy the experience even more,” says Ashvini Mashru, a registered dietitian in Malvern, Pennsylvania. “Because your brain loves the sensation caused by that dopamine release, it seeks more of it by creating cravings, that if listened to can cause a vicious cycle of addiction.”
Chocoholics take note
That bowl of M&Ms sitting on your office mate’s desk is a delicious temptation, a crunchy chocolatey treat that’s hard to resist. What we know is that chocolate is one of the most addictive foods around because it binds to the same pleasure centers in the brain as alcohol and certain drugs, according to a 2011 study conducted by Drexel University. It also boasts a nice “mouth feel,” which stimulates oxytocin production, another feel-good hormone, according to Dan DeFigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies. “Over time, our brains start looking for that dopamine hit, and every time we eat chocolate, it reinforces that ‘wiring,'” he says. You’ll feel less guilty munching on these next-level chocolates with added superfoods.
More cheese please
If you’ve hovered over a cheese platter and piled up the cubes, you’ll be relieved to know that it’s not just you. Cheese, which is generally high in fat and cholesterol, also contains a substance called casomorphin that binds to the opioid or feel-good receptors in the brain. “Casomorphins attach to neurotransmitters in our brains and release dopamine, feel-good chemicals, that often lead us to wanting more,” says Neal Barnard, MD, author of The Cheese Trap, adding that the average American today consumes 30 pounds more cheese per year than we did 100 years ago. “While cheese does have its health benefits, it also can be seriously addictive.” (If you’re having some wine with your cheese, here are the best pairings to try.)
Reach into that bowl of potato chips, tortilla chips, or pretzels over and over again, and you’ll know something is happening on the addiction front. And, while there’s no particular compound in these foods that bind to specific brain receptors to cause a euphoric, stimulating, or addictive behavior, there’s something else at play. “Simple carbohydrates are seen as ‘addictive’ because they cause a quick glucose release, and this quickly increases a person’s energy, says Celina Jean, a nutritionist in Austin, Texas. “This energy will quickly be used up, and then you’ll be forced to eat more simple carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar raised.” These are the silent signs you’re eating too many carbs.
Oh, sweet sips
Not only do sugary sodas (also lemonade and sweet tea) provide us with very little nutrients, but one 12-ounce can contain a staggering 35 grams of sugar. Like sugary treats, soda can stimulate the release of dopamine too. Add caffeine and you’re getting a double-energy hit. “Once you’re hooked on caffeine, you can suffer symptoms of withdrawal if you try to stop, including sluggishness, headaches, and emotional distress,” says Mashru.
Pass the French fries
French fries are typically crisp, hot, and salty. This is a triple-threat that signals the tongue and the brain to eat more, Mashru says. The fat content in French fries triggers receptors in our mouths that send a signal to our brain and gut reinforcing the desire to eat more. “These little potato sticks are also a comfort food,” Mashru says. “Therefore, every time you go through the line in a restaurant and see them on the menu, you may find the urge to order them as a side to your entrée irresistible.”
Ice cream you scream
Cravings for ice cream can be insatiable—it’s all about the sugar content and creamy texture, and researchers agree that foods like ice cream, which is basically cream and milk, stimulate the brain in the same way drugs do, inducing behaviors that resemble addiction, says Keri Glassman, RD, a dietitian in New York City. “The sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ you experience are consistent with sugar ‘dependency,'” she says. “When your body gets used to sugar, you feel out of sorts when you consume less, which causes you to eat more.” Here’s how to crack your sugar addiction.
That slice of ‘za
Whether it’s the stringy salty mozzarella cheese, the fluffy dough or the sugar in the tomato sauce, pizza ranks first in food addiction, according to a recent University of Michigan study. That’s because when you eat it, your blood sugar zip up quickly and then when it drops, you feel hungry again and want more. These are the healthier pizza crusts that won’t blow your diet.
For years you’ve been telling your friends, family, co-workers and anyone who will listen that you’re addicted to cheese. It’s a part of every meal or snack, and you think about it constantly. According to a new study from the University of Michigan, cheese crack is a real thing. And so is your addiction.
The study, published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, examines why certain foods are more addictive than others. Researchers identified addictive foods from about 500 students who completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale, designed to measure if someone has a food addiction.
Pizza, unsurprisingly, came out on top of the most addictive food list. Besides being a basic food group for kids, college students and adults, there’s a scientific reason we all love pizza, and it has to do with the cheese.
According to a new study, cheese is as addictive as certain drugs.
The study found certain foods are addictive because of the way they are processed. The more processed and fatty the food, the more it was associated with addictive eating behaviors.
Cheese happens to be especially addictive because of an ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins.
“[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element,” registered dietitian Cameron Wells told Mic.
So there you have it. Your cheese addiction has been validated by science. This may be better than that time science said your addiction to Oreos is real. Just maybe.
Do you think the government should be supporting dairy?
Tons of unhealthy dairy junk food gets through the new junk food guidelines set up by the government! These guidelines try to deal with the declining health and poor diet in the United States. The government ends up propping up the dairy industry because the dairy industry has convinced everyone that all milk and dairy products are nutritious.
Public health advocate Michele Simon has created a stir with her detailed report: ‘Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods’. She highlights how there has been a big shift from plain milk to dairy products filled with sugar, fat, and salt.
Here is an example of what her report says:
“About half of all milk is consumed either as flavored milk, with cereal, or in a drink;
Nearly half of the milk supply goes to make about 9 billion pounds of cheese and 1.5 billion gallons of frozen desserts–two-thirds of which is ice cream;
11 percent of all sugar goes into the production of dairy products.”
Today, most milk, cheese, yogurt, and milk products are not healthy foods because they are full of sugar and saturated fat. It is possible this sugar and fat are major factors in the obesity epidemic, especially among children.
Does that sound at all healthy?
What’s worse is how the government is supporting the dairy industry with its National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Program. The government runs a “dairy checkoff program.” It collects 15 cents for every hundredweight of milk sold or used in dairy products. The money is then used to promote milk and cheese. It is paid for by dairy farmers through checkoff fees, but run by the USDA.
There is no way that the “checkoff” program is here to promote childhood health. Here are a couple of examples of what it really is doing:
This USDA program helped Taco Bell introduce its double steak quesadilla of 750 calories, full of saturated fat and 78 percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. Taco Bell then achieved a 4 percent increase in dairy sales.
Dominos added more cheese and benefited from a $35 million partnership with the dairy checkoff program.
You would almost expect the dairy industry to promote its junk food as healthy. On the other hand, the actual U.S. government supporting these products is shameful!
The big question is: how important are dairy products for the health of children and adults?
Research indicates milk is not all it has been hyped up to be.
The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine reviewed this research in its Health Concerns about Dairy Products. Those concerns included:
1. Bone Health
Research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bones, neither the bone integrity in children,nor to decrease the fracture risk in adults. (Harvard Nurses’ Health Study). The link between dairy calcium and healthy bones is not there.
Dairy products (cheese, ice cream, milk, butter, and yogurt) contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat to the diet. The cholesterol content of three glasses of milk is equal to what one would get from 53 slices of bacon.
Dairy products have been linked to higher risk of Prostate cancer and breast cancer.
4. Lactose Intolerance
Symptoms of lactose intolerance include gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and flatulence due to the lack of the enzyme lactase to digest the milk sugar lactose. Lactose intolerance is more common than we realize95 percent of Asian-Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African-Americans, 53 percent of Mexican-Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians.
Milk is full of naturally occurring and synthetic hormones which can affect normal hormonal function.
6. Milk Proteins and Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is linked to consumption of dairy products in infancy. American Academy of Pediatrics found up to a 30 percent reduction of type 1 diabetes in infants who did not have cow’s milk protein for the first three months of their lives.
7. Health Concerns for Children and Babies
Feeding a baby cow’s milk is not recommended. Up to 28 percent of infants suffer from colic during the first month of life. Breastfeeding mothers can have colicky babies if the mothers consume cow’s milk.
Also, food allergies are common in children who have been given cow’s milk.
Why Bother With Milk?
The Physicians Committee suggests something that we at Real Food For Life strongly agree with … that you can easily get your nutrients, including calcium from eating lots of vegetables, fruits, gluten free grains, and nuts and seeds.
Leafy vegetables that contain vitamin K, like kale, spinach, broccoli and cabbage also contain calcium!