Anyone who's tried to cut down on high-fat foods and sugary snacks knows it's not easy. Now, a new study has shed light on why giving up these bad-for-you foods is so difficult. The study, which was published in the journal PLOS One and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, involved polling over 500 participants on the addictiveness of certain foods. The results might not necessarily be shocking, but they confirm what you've probably long suspected: high-sugar and high-fat foods are truly addicting.
Of the 35 foods ranked by participants, the top nine were all defined as "highly processed" foods. The study's authors defined "highly processed" foods as those that have been "designed to be particularly rewarding through the addition of fat and/or refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, etc.)"
The top five most addicting foods included chocolate, ice cream, pizza and cookies.
On the flip side, the bottom nine foods (the ones ranked "least addicting") were low- or non-processed foods like carrots, brown rice, bananas, salmon and cucumbers.
"We observed that highly processed foods with added levels of fat and/or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar), were most likely to be associated with addictive-like eating behaviors," the study's authors wrote. "Highly processed foods are altered to be particularly rewarding through the addition of fats and/or refined carbohydrates."
The findings might explain why half of the average American's calories come from highly processed foods. Once you get into the habit of eating these foods on a regular basis, it's very difficult to stop. Imagine trying to quit smoking once you're hooked.
The trick is not to give up highly processed foods altogether, since that's an unrealistic goal for most people. Rather, it's to learn which highly processed foods you can handle well and eat in moderation and which ones you cannot. If you can limit yourself to a scoop of ice cream every couple of days without binging, you can probably find a place for it in your diet. But if you can't open a bag of chips without finishing them, you know that's a food to avoid.
The full list of foods included in the study can be found below, ranked in order of their addictiveness.
5. Ice Cream
6. French Fries
8. Non-Diet Soda
12. Fried Chicken
13. Plain Rolls
14. Buttered Popcorn
15. Breakfast Cereal
16. Gummy Candy
21. Chicken Breast
23. Plain Crackers
25. Granola Bar
27. Corn (Unsalted, Unbuttered)
31. Plain Brown Rice
33. Beans (No Sauce)
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