With global Obesity levels on the rise, and chronic diseases becoming much more common, it’s time for us humans to take a step back and work out how to stop this mess.
Now, I’m sure you’ll agree that eating unhealthy foods is partly to blame (amongst many other factors) so the question now becomes: Why are we eating so much junk food?
One reason is that unhealthy foods are dirt cheap.
The truth is, many of us simply can’t afford to eat clean protein and veg every day, so we have to resort to processed, packaged foods with a long a shelf like.
(Thanks to all the artificial preservatives of course…)
Another reason is that unhealthy foods “taste” amazing.
Obviously if something tastes good, you’re going to eat it more often.
Now you may have noticed that I’ve put quotation marks around the word taste, and this is because our brains are tricked into thinking they taste great.
So, in this article, we’re going to explore why unhealthy foods appear to taste so good, and how you can reduce your junk food intake.
Let’s get to it – we have an Obesity crisis to solve!
3 Reasons Why Unhealthy Foods Taste So Good
1. Unhealthy Foods are biologically addictive
What do the following foods have in common?
- Potato Chips
If you answered with They’re all junk food, then you’re absolutely right.
But another thing they have in common is their macronutrient ratio.
They’re all high in fat, high in carbs and low in protein.
So how does this make them taste amazing? I hear you murmur.
Well, back in the day when our great, great…, great Grandparents were around, food was much scarcer.
In order to survive, we had to either hunt down animals, or pick some fruit from trees.
(Times were much harder back then.)
Now, I’ve never tried hunting a deer with only sticks and stones, but I can imagine it’s frigging hard.
And if you failed to hunt one? Well, say goodbye to dinner.
The point is, humans would need to be able to survive without food for extended periods of time, and during this time, our bodies used stored fat for energy.
So, for this to work efficiently, our bodies had to be masters at storing energy (i.e. fat).
Not only that, but eating to store fat would need to be pleasurable for us to pursue it.
(The human race would’ve been extinct if it wasn’t…)
In other words, we’re biologically wired to seek foods that help store fat as these boost Dopamine – a neurotransmitter which makes us feel good.
So, the question now becomes: Which foods release the most Dopamine?
A: Fats and Carbs! (Source)
2. Unhealthy Foods are full of flavor enhancers
Let me ask you a question…
Which are the 2 most popular brands of potato chips in the world?
(I’ll give you a clue, they both end in ‘os’.)
If you guessed Cheetos and Doritos, then you’re absolutely right. (Source)
Now, it would make sense that the 2 most popular crisps are the tastiest, right?
Well it turns out, a lot of this “flavor” comes from a chemical called Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).
MSG was invented in Japan just over 100 years ago when a food scientist was messing around with seaweed and realised it made savory foods tastier.
He then did some Breaking Bad stuff and refined it to a white, crystalline powder.
It made savory food so delicious that he named an entire taste after it, called Umami.
Let me bring you some bad news though…
MSG has been shown to induce headaches, muscle tightness, numbness and general weakness in studies.
So, not only is this stuff making nutrition-devoid garbage appear tasty, leading you to overeating and putting on weight, but it’s also very bad for you.
3. Unhealthy Foods change your Gut Flora
Did you know that your gut contains 10s of trillions of bacteria, meaning we have 10x more bacteria than normal cells in our body?
Were you aware that there are more than 1000 bacterial species in the gut? (Source)
Out of these many species, some are helpful to the body (aka Probiotics) whereas some are harmful.
And just like any normal cells, they all need energy (i.e. food) to survive.
As you may have guessed, the helpful bacteria like to feed on healthy food, whereas the naughty bacteria like to feed on junk food.
So, by eating unhealthy foods, some of your good bacteria will die off, whilst the naughty bacteria will flourish.
The outcome of this? Cravings for unhealthy food.
Now this is where it gets interesting…
You all know that a Gastric Bypass is great for long-term weight loss, right?
Well, it was originally believed to be due to a smaller stomach size, meaning you’ll get fuller quicker.
But recent studies have shown that Gastric Bypass patients lose their taste for junk foods.
In other words, by taking out the naughty bacteria from their guts, they no longer desire unhealthy foods, and so can keep the pounds off.
How To Eat Less Junk Food
So now we know why unhealthy foods appear to be so tasty, let’s look at a few ways how we can reduce our intake.
1. Find a different Dopamine source
As we’ve covered, foods high in both fats and carbs give you the biggest dopamine boost, meaning these make you feel good.
It doesn’t have to be this way though.
By finding other healthy ways to boost dopamine, you won’t have to rely on junk food to get pleasure out of your day.
So, to give you a head start, here are a few easy ways to boost your dopamine:
- Start a new hobby
- Take a cold shower
- Set yourself big goals
- Learn something new
- Catch up with a friend
- Complete a challenging task
2. Use Herbs and Spices
There are so many different herbs and spices you can use to give any meal a zing of flavor.
Even something as seemingly bland as Chicken and Brocolli can be delicious with some Cayenne pepper added.
And unlike MSG, natural herbs and spices are really good for you!
3. Go Cold Turkey
This one’s for those who love a challenge.
By just quitting junk food full stop, your Gut bacteria will change for the better over time, meaning you’ll eventually crave it less.
However, you may notice withdrawal symptoms in the first couple of weeks, including headaches, cravings, tiredness and moodiness.
So, the question is Would you sacrifice 2 weeks of feeling crap for a lifetime of healthy eating?
I know I certainly would.
Now that you know the reality of junk food, you’ll realise you’ve been conned by food manufacturers this whole time!
So, with this new found knowledge, I urge you to take back control of your eating.
You won’t regret it.
Well that’s all I have for today peeps.
As usual, pop any questions you have in the comments below and I’ll get back to you in a flash.