The Ten Most Addictive Foods That You Can’t Stop Eating

Its consumption activates the reward systems in the brain and triggers pleasurable sensations that lead to compulsive consumption.

Taking care of your diet with a healthy and balanced diet is an essential requirement for leading a healthy lifestyle. And it is not always easy; when it comes to shopping, it takes a lot of courage to face those hundreds of sweet and salty temptations that claim our attention through all five senses.

It takes a lot of willpower not to throw away all those ultra-processed foods, tasty products that give us great pleasure to eat. Their low cost, the fact that they are an easy source of fast food and their attractive taste make them gain ground in our daily diet.

However, these types of products owe their success to the combination of fat, sugar, and salt, ingredients that make them irresistible and that, when consumed in large quantities, will end up creating addiction.

Reward systems

And why are they so addictive? Precisely the refined sugars, saturated, refined and partially hydrogenated fats, salt, and other additives contained in these foods activate the reward systems in the brain, triggering pleasurable sensations that can lead to compulsive consumption behaviors. Thus, just like drugs, gambling, or alcohol, these types of foods make the person always want to consume more.

Bizcocho y croissants con chocolate junto a un vaso de leche.

Cake and croissants with chocolate and a glass of milk.

Processed foods

A study conducted by the University of Michigan (USA) compiled a list of the 10 most addictive foods. To do this, 35 food options were offered to 500 participants, who had to rate between 1 and 7 whether they considered them to be not at all or very addictive.

The research showed that many of the most addictive foods were processed and that their consumption could lead to excessive consumption. In addition, those who stopped consuming them experienced symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, sadness, or compulsive behaviors, all of which are similar to those suffered by a drug addict in the withdrawal phase.

The consumption of this type of food, in addition to generating addiction, is related to health problems such as diabetes, obesity, arteriosclerosis, cholesterol, some types of cancer, and other cardiovascular diseases, as well as being attributed to a negative impact on mental health.

The most addictive foods

In the list of the 10 most addictive foods compiled by the University of Michigan, it can be seen that most are ultra-processed products, that is, industrial preparations made from substances derived from other foods, created to generate pleasure. These are:

1- Pizza. It combines refined carbohydrates, fats, and salt, creating a combination that activates the reward centers in the brain.

2- Chocolate. It contains compounds such as phenylethylamine and theobromine, which can stimulate the release of endorphins and dopamine, generating feelings of pleasure and well-being. Milk and white chocolate are especially addictive.

3- Potato chips. They contain monosodium glutamate or E-621, a flavoring and preservative substance that can create addiction.

4- Cookies. They are high in sugar and fat, which can activate reward centers in the brain in a similar way to chocolate.

5- Ice cream. Its sugar and fat content can stimulate the release of dopamine, which is associated with feelings of pleasure.

Apetitoso cucurucho de helado de chocolate.

Appetizing chocolate ice cream cone.

6. Homemade French fries. Their combination of fat and salt can trigger reward responses in the brain, making them hard to resist.

7- Hamburgers: They contain saturated fats and can trigger reward responses due to their taste and texture.

8- Soft drinks. With high levels of added sugars, they can trigger reward responses similar to other sugar-rich foods.

9- Cakes. Rich in sugars and fats, they can activate the reward centers in the brain.

10- Cheese. It contains casein, which when broken down in the body produces opioid peptides that can generate pleasurable sensations.

How to overcome addiction

To overcome addiction to these types of ultra-processed foods, you must first know how to identify and avoid them; instead, you should always choose healthy foods that provide nutrients and satiety, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

If you are not able to do it alone, it is best to seek help from your environment (family, friends, health professionals…) to achieve a change in eating habits.

It is also advisable to increase physical activity to reduce stress and improve your mood, thereby avoiding compulsive consumption of these types of products. If you still cannot resist, always consume them in moderation