Chocolate, along with pizza, chips and ice-cream, has been identified by researchers as one of the most addictive of foods.There are foods you cannot seem to stop eating, no matter how hard you try. The concept of food addiction has been employed without a clear definition for some time, with associations made between certain types of food being consumed and the physiological and behavioural effects of drug use, such as increased impulsivity and emotional reactivity as well as specific patterns of brain activity.
Now, recent research completed by the Icahn School of Medicine, in Mount Sinai, and published online by the Public Library of Science, has furthered knowledge in this area.
Some highly processed foods (including fast food, chocolate, ice-cream, cakes and biscuits) have post-consumption effects similar to those of drugs, therefore researchers hypothesised that they could also be linked to addictive eating behaviours. It was thought that foods that contain concentrated amounts of physiological stimulants (sugars and fats), and had quick absorption rates in the body (high glycaemic load), would create pronounced physiological, addictive experiences.
Two studies investigated which foods were rated as most and least addictive by participants. Participants then applied these highly and lowly rated foods to the Yale Food Addiction Scale.
They described their food-related experiences using statements such as “I eat to the point where I feel physically ill”.
This allowed researchers to identify links between particular types of food and associated addictive food behaviours. Foods were then rated from most to least problematic when it came to their addictive tendencies.
As expected, the most highly processed foods rated most highly for their addictive properties, while more nutrient-dense, low-calorie options such as salad vegetables and wholegrains were ranked least addictive.
The findings support the consumption of plain, unprocessed foods, which control feeding behaviour long term.
Here are some of the most and least addictive types of food:
Rich in processed carbs, fat and salt, the mix of flavour, processed starches used to make the base, and fatty ingredients, give the brain a stimulation overload. If you love pizza, control your intake by choosing thin, baked bases with minimal toppings.
We are not talking about 85 per cent cocoa chocolate here, but the sickly-sweet milk variety many of us cannot stop eating once we open a block. If chocolate is your vice, stick to small serving sizes and the darker the better.
Another carb and fat overload packed with appealing flavours, which may explain why an entire bag disappears in no time. Again, purchase smaller packets if you must indulge, and plain is much better than flavoured options.
Less popular in Australia, the mix of white flour, sugar and fat gives the brain a stimulation overload. Make your own with natural ingredients.
With so many flavours to choose from, and with confectionery, syrups, nuts and chocolate often added, it is no surprise that we cannot stop at a single scoop. Seek out lower calorie sorbets or gelato in a single scoop when the lure of ice-cream calls.
Mostly water, adding a cucumber a day to your diet will help reduce bloating and boost your fibre and potassium intake for very few calories.
Another nutrient-rich salad vegetable that will boost your beta carotene and fibre intake with minimal calories.
Legumes are a protein and nutrient-rich option that can benefit all of us, not just the vegetarians – add to salads, mince dishes and soups to boost your nutrition.
Need a sweet hit? Look no further than a humble apple, which can serve as a perfect sugar hit mid-afternoon, especially if enjoyed with a little cheese or a nut spread.
Though relatively high in carbs, for active people, a little carb with your lunch or dinner may even help to prevent sugar cravings later on.
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