Yes, you can be addicted to junk food.

Quick Notes:

  • Researchers studied the effects of eating junk food on participants.

  • Individuals can be addicted to junk food, just like they’re addicted to cocaine.

  • Tips on how you can stop cravings for unhealthy junk food.

Have you ever sat down to eat a handful of potato chips and then you end up eating the entire bag? Junk food can lead to addictive behavior. You never know how or when to stop. While you might think this is a harmless addiction, you need to be careful.

A recent study shows that processed “junk” food is more addictive than natural, organic foods. Eating more junk food results in more adults suffering from obesity. In fact, statisticians estimate that by 2030, 85% of U.S. adults will be obese. Isn’t that a scary prediction? So, what can you do about the growing concern?

Addicted to snacks

As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason people love to eat snacks. Researchers at the University of Michigan’s psychology department and the New York Obesity Research Center collaborated to study 120 college students and a diverse group of 398 online participants. Researchers hoped to determine which snack foods participants gravitated towards on a daily basis.

Participants were presented side-by-side images of two different kinds of snack food. For example, they would have to compare salty pretzels to sour cream and onion potato chips. They were asked to identify which of the two foods they were most likely to experience “problems” with. In other words, which foods do they recognize aren’t the healthiest for their nutrition? On the other hand, participants identified the snacks they would grab before lounging on the sofa.

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The snack foods were separated into four categories: high fat with refined carbs, high fat without refined carbs, high carbs but no fats, and low fat and no refined carbs. Once the study was complete, researchers determined which snacks people prefer. The results probably aren’t that surprising.

Make us drool

Researchers learned that the foods participants had “problems” with were the highly-processed foods with refined carbs, sugar, and processed fat. These foods may appeal to our brain, but they’re not good for our bodies. They excite the neurotransmitters and convince your brain that you need to eat more, even after you’re full. You shouldn’t eat anymore, but your brain is tricked into thinking you need more. This is a dangerous mind game.

According to the study’s results, the most addictive foods are pizza, chocolate, ice cream, cheeseburgers, cookies, and French fries. Do you enjoy these foods? Do they make you “happy”? Be careful. You might be addicted.

Why we’re addicted

When your blood sugar drops, your body wants more carbs. Processed sugar activates the brain in ways that are dangerously similar to addiction to cocaine and other narcotics. When you consume these foods in high doses, you might feel a “sugar high” and your brain becomes dependent on this immediate stimulation.

We don’t want it to stop. We don’t want the “high” to end. You may be addicted to junk food and not even fully realize it.

But how can you improve your health? How can you find less addictive food options? Can you substitute grilled cheese for fried chicken? Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate? Can you avoid French fries altogether? Below are a variety of ways to help you stop cravings for unhealthy junk food.

  • Drink more water. If you feel the urge to eat junk food, try drinking a large glass of water and wait a few minutes. You weren’t hungry. Your body was actually thirsty.
  • Eat more proteins in your diet to reduce your appetite and cravings.
  • If you feel a craving, take a brisk walk outdoors or take a shower. Distract your mind by staying busy.
  • Plan your meals for the week and stick to this schedule. If you eat according to a schedule, you’ll avoid spontaneous meals.
  • Eliminate stress and get more sleep. People tend to eat more junk food when they’re feeling tired or overwhelmed. Try to minimize stress by meditating, taking a break, or simply slowing down. Don’t turn to food to heal you. There are other options. All you have to do is find them.

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