Integrative Nutrition Blog

How Science Perfected Addictive Junk Food

February 24, 2013

It’s no secret that eating nutrient-poor processed snack foods won’t keep you healthy. Laden with sugar, salt, and fat, indulging in them fill us up and take the place of foods that have the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that give us energy and keep our systems running.

Though serving sizes and nutritional information are clearly labeled on packages, most people have trouble putting down snacks after eating one serving. Why is this?

The truth is that food manufacturers carefully study what makes a snack crave-worthy to make them more addictive. Researching which colors, textures, flavors and levels of sweetness or saltiness maximize the bliss point, scientists design foods to create constant cravings and boost profits for food manufacturers.

A recent New York Times article reveals that the food industry has used science for years to create addictive junk food. The results of their science experiments have altered the way we eat – fewer set meal times and more frequent grazing or all-day snacking. The consequences have yielded a growing health crisis with increasing numbers of people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

The good news is that you can break the habit by eating real meals containing whole foods. By abstaining from processed salty and sweet snacks, you can retrain your taste buds so that the cravings no longer have a hold on you.

How to do this? Here are a couple of tips:

Cook more: When you prepare your own meals, you know exactly which ingredients are on your plate. Experiment in your kitchen by trying new recipes.

Crowd out: instead of cutting out your snacks, add in wholesome foods. You won’t have as much room for the junk if you’re eating the good stuff, too. Leafy greens can help cut your cravings for sweets.

Substitute: Use a natural sweetener like honey or stevia instead of refined white sugar in sweet treats. Try a new dessert recipe that has more healthful, whole ingredients.

What’s your favorite healthy snack?

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