Health Eating: Just can’t get enough

From sugary sweets to salty treats, five foods that will get you hooked.

By KATHRYN RUBIN
January 29, 2013 17:11
4 minute read.
Sweets

Health Eating: Just can’t get enough . (photo credit: Wikicommons)

 
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From popcorn and pretzels, to doughnuts, coffee and chocolates, we all have foods that we crave and rely on to get through the day. But is it more than that? You often hear people claim that they are addicted to certain foods, but can you actually be addicted to a food or ingredient, as in physically addicted?

Here is rundown of five of the most addictive foods:

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Sugar addict

We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth and can cause us to gain weight – so why do we crave it all the time? Even the strictest of dieters will get a craving for something sweet now and again. So what power does sugar have over us? Studies have found that sugar can actually be addictive. Consuming sugar causes the body to release dopamine and serotonin, which cause us to feel pleasure. But once sugar leaves the bloodstream, our bodies begin to instantly crave the feeling again and so the cycle repeats itself.

The more sugar you consume, the more you crave it, which causes you to have to eat more to get the results you want. When sugar enters the bloodstream it causes the pancreas to release insulin. Unfortunately, excess insulin also encourages fat storage. So, the more sugar you eat, the more insulin you produce, and the more likely you are to gain weight.

Compulsive gum chewer


For many, gum is an impulse purchase – something you perhaps buy to freshen your breath after lunch out with friends or to have a nice flavor in our mouth for a few minutes. But for some, chewing gum can actually turn into an addiction.

Many people use gum to stop them from snacking on food, and when you repeatedly chew gum to stop yourself from eating it can become somewhat addictive. Now it’s great if you pop a piece of sugar-free gum instead of downing a croissant in the morning or a bowl of ice cream in the evening, but excessive gum chewing is not healthy in the least. Constant gum chewing causes aching jaws, dental problems and even bloating.

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Caffeine dependency

When waking up in the morning, aside from getting dressed and brushing teeth – what else do most people do? Pour (or buy) a cup of coffee. Many of us feel that we can’t start the day without some sort of caffeinated beverage – whether it be a cappuccino, an espresso or just a regular cup of coffee. The day just doesn’t feel right without the stuff.

Caffeine is a mild stimulant, and so it makes us feel more energized. So when we skip our morning coffee, we may feel less pumped than if we had had it. Another reason though for our caffeine dependency may be more physiological than physical. We may actually be addicted to the belief that we can't function without our morning cup of coffee. Unlike some of the other culprits on this list, caffeine (in moderate intakes) can really do no harm, In fact, studies have found that it helps to reduce headaches and also helps make pain relievers act quicker and more effective at treating headaches.

Chocoholic

You have probably heard your friends (or even yourself) confess to being a chocoholic. Chocolate by far is one of the most widely craved foods, but can you really be a “chocoholic”?

One reason that many people claim to have an addiction is that chocolate does contain mood enhancing chemical compounds including serotonin and tryptophan. However, before justifying your cravings as an addiction, studies have found that many other foods that are less “appealing” than chocolate have higher concentrations of these compounds.

Salty foodlover

You’ve probably heard Pringle’s slogan “Once you pop you can’t stop?” While a very catchy advertising message, there may actually be some truth behind the saying. Snacks such as chips, pretzels and popcorn are high in salt, one of the most easily recognizable flavors in food. We crave salt on our food because it tastes good, and that pleasurable feeling reacts with the reward center of our brain, which makes it hard to cut back and stop even though we know that we should. As a result, most of us consume too much of it on a daily basis. Eating too much salt forces our kidneys to work overtime and can lead to water retention (bloating), high blood pressure and even congestive heart failure.



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