What makes junk food addictive?
Addictive-like eating behavior involves a lot more than just a lack of willpower, as there are biochemical reasons why some people lose control over their consumption. This behavior has repeatedly been linked to processed foods, especially those high in added sugar and/or fat. Processed foods are usually engineered to be hyper-palatable so that they taste really good. They also contain high amounts of calories and cause significant blood sugar imbalances. These are known factors that can cause food cravings. However, the biggest contributor to addictive-like eating behavior is the human brain. Your brain has a reward center that secretes dopamine and other feel-good chemicals when you eat. This reward center explains why many people enjoy eating. It ensures that enough food is eaten to get all the energy and nutrients that the body needs. Eating processed junk food releases massive amounts of feel-good chemicals, compared with unprocessed foods. This yields a much more powerful reward in the brain. The brain then seeks more reward by causing cravings for these hyper rewarding foods. This can lead to a vicious cycle called addictive-like eating behavior or food addiction.
Foods that can cause addictive-like eating
Not surprisingly, most of the foods rated as addictive were processed foods. These foods are usually high in sugar or fat — or both.
5. ice cream
6. french fries
8. soda (not diet)
12. fried chicken
13. rolls (plain)
14. popcorn (buttered)
15. breakfast cereal
16. gummy candy