Food nourishes us, so it’s odd to describe it the same way we would a dangerous drug — but in reality, certain foods are incredibly addictive.
Foods, like drugs, affect pleasure centers in our brains, and can even inspire withdrawal symptoms and increased tolerance — meaning we need more and more to get the same “high." Snack food companies, know this, and engineer their offerings to be perfectly calibrated to give us the most pleasure possible and keep us coming back for more and more. Heck, the heads of America’s largest food companies even convened a meeting in 2008 to address this very issue.
Scientific studies have proven that if given the opportunity, we’ll eat unhealthy foods compulsively. A 2010 study on rats found that when given unlimited access to unhealthy food, rats just keep eating it, even after receiving an electric shock when they eat more than they should. That’s why it’s sometimes so hard to pull ourselves away from certain foods, even after we stop feeling hungry: it’s because we’re addicted to them.
So read on to learn about 9 foods you may not have realized that you’re addicted to. And the next time you’re about to go for that second serving, ask yourself whether it’s your stomach or your brain that really wants it.
Pasta and Bread
Eating carbohydrates like bread and pasta releases dopamine in our brains, giving us a natural high and stimulating the same pleasure centers that cocaine and heroin do. We crave carbs just like drug addicts crave their next fix, and there’s even such a thing as carb withdrawal, which usually manifests itself with headaches, anxiety, and irritability.
“Salty” is one of the five basic tastes we can sense, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Salty things taste good, and when we eat something that tastes good it triggers the pleasure and reward centers in the brain. No reason to stop doing something that makes us feel good, right? Your brain agrees.