Read on for the foods that are most likely to trigger an unstoppable food binge. (Photo: Shutterstock)
When it comes to cooking up addictive substances, Walter White had nothing on today’s food marketers. Like the antihero of Breaking Bad, food companies and their scientists engineer the taste, feel, smell and even the sound of their products in ways that trigger our neurological pleasure centers—all while cutting out all the annoying nutrients (like fiber and protein) that might get in the way.
And as customers, we’re hooked: Processed foods now make up more than 60 percent of all the calories Americans purchase, according to a recent analysis of U.S. grocery buys. And “the highly processed foods that households are purchasing are higher in fat, sugar and salt, on average, compared to the less-processed foods,” says Jennifer Poti, Ph.D., research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the study.
The editors at Eat This, Not That! magazine have identified the primary culprits—foods that are most likely to trigger an unstoppable food binge—and provided quick, healthy, alternative snacks that will curb your addition and get you off the junk. And shed that flab for good! Lose up to 16 pounds in 14 days with these delicious and essential 9 Best Flat-Belly Superfoods!
#5 Most Addictive Food: Doritos
Like a cheap blended vodka, Doritos are designed to go down in one fast, desperate binge. The recipe for the popular chip was specially designed so that no single flavor overpowers another. When foods lack a dominant flavor, people are less apt to feel full and, in turn, consume more, say researchers. What’s more, one of the first ingredients on the food’s label is monosodium glutamate (MSG), an additive that’s been known to increase appetite and make foods taste more appetizing. And if you thought “Dorito breath” was just a coincidental side effect, think again. The powerful savory taste lingering in your mouth is an example of a tactic called “long hang-time flavor” that’s used to lure snackers into going back for more. With all of these factors working against you, it’s really no wonder you’re defenseless when Doritos come around.
Eat This Instead: Beanitos Nacho Cheese White Bean Chips. A serving of these bean-based chips have a whopping 6 grams of belly-filling fiber, which slows digestion and lets your body know when it’s eaten its fill. (A recent study found that simply adding fiber to a high-fat, high-carb diet helped control weight gain.) Plus, they’re free of MSG and other chemicals that can overpower your natural willpower. For the best weight-loss foods in your grocery store, click to read the essential Eat This, Not That! list of the 15 Best “Clean” Packaged Snacks.
#4 Most Addictive Food: Cheetos
This orange, puffy snack melts the second it hits your tongue —a phenomenon scientists have dubbed “vanishing caloric density.” And it’s no accident. Food developers know that when foods melt quickly, it tricks the brain into thinking you’re not eating as many calories. That gives our subconscious permission to eat a much larger serving. Even the sound Cheetos make when you bite into them was specially developed to get you hooked; we associate the crackling with freshness, according to a recent Oxford University study.
Eat This Instead: Blue Diamond Natural Almond Nut-Thins in Cheddar Cheese. These rice- and almond-based crackers offer a Cheeto-esque taste with three grams of hunger-busting protein per serving. More important, they are free of those tricky vanishing calories that cause us to overeat. And get and feel thinner—fast, in time for Summer—with The 7 Best Foods for Rapid Weight Loss.
#3 Most Addictive Food: Oreos
We predict a reality show called Celebrity Oreo Rehab. As it turns out, these chemical-laden disks are more addictive than both cocaine and morphine, according to a 2013 animal study. To come to this finding, researchers fed rats rice cakes, Oreos or gave them injections of cocaine or morphine, then monitored the effects of each on the pleasure center of the brain. Oreos lit up the little mice’s membranes even more than the drugs—which likely explains why it’s so hard to eat just one. A second group of researchers found that among all the foods out there, cookies were one of the most difficult to eat in moderation.
Eat This Instead: Nothin’ But Chocolate Coconut Almond Granola Cookies. Made from a delicious combination of almonds, oats, chocolate, coconut, cane sugar, spices and espresso powder, this treat will slim you down. Or try the Eat This, Not That! trick: Treat yourself to a sweet treat that also blasts fat. This Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Recipe Ever, for example, tastes like dessert while delivering loads of nutrients to power your day and shrink your waist.
#2 Most Addictive Food: M&Ms
M&Ms may well be the perfect sugar delivery vessels. According to a Swiss study, even when chocolates have identical recipes, people find the round versions to have the most satisfying texture—likely because they melt more rapidly. Shape influences perceived sweetness, too. In 2013 when Cadbury reshaped their chocolate bars to be more rounded, testers reported that the chocolates seemed sweeter—even though the recipe hadn’t been reformulated. The shape fools our taste buds, which causes us to overeat: The sweeter and more satisfying a food is perceived to be, the more difficult it is to put down.
Eat This Instead: Endangered Species Natural Dark Chocolate with 88% Cocoa. Trading in your sweet milk chocolate M&Ms for a dark chocolate bar is definitely a smart move. The slightly bitter taste and thicker, flatter shape, which causes it melt more slowly, makes this bar less addicting.
#1 Most Addictive Food: French Fries
When University of Michigan researchers did a deep dive into addictive foods and the trouble they cause with portion control, their study subjects ranked French fries at the very top of the list. The researchers found that because of their combination of fat and starch content, and their highly processed nature, French fries ranked at the very top of the list of foods most associated with problematic, addictive eating behaviors. (And can’t give up potatoes? Read this for the secret trick to Eat Unhealthy Foods and Lose Weight.)
Eat This Instead: Homemade fries. Slice a potato lengthwise into strips, top with a few spritzes of coconut-oil cooking spray (a fat less apt to be stored as flab than butter or lard), pepper, rosemary and garlic powder, and pop them into the oven on 350 degrees F until they’re crispy. When dining out, ask your server for a side of greens or a fruit salad in lieu of spuds.
AND FOR 5 FOODS THAT ARE EVEN MORE ADDICTIVE, CLICK HERE!
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