Those of you who have participated in my Detox Your Life 30-Day Program know what I think of processed food. In the program, I spend quite a bit of time talking about how bad they are for you, and how the chemicals inside them can damage your health.
But processed foods aren’t easy to shake, as many of you probably already know. Maybe you’ve tried to quit the habit of grabbing that bag of potato chips or chocolate chip cookies and you failed. Maybe you said you were going to get water at the fast food restaurant, but then you caved and got a milkshake instead.
Turns out it’s not all your fault. According to a new study, processed foods and junk foods are addictive-in some cases, acting on the brain in the same way as heroin and cocaine.
What the Study Found
Researchers from Harvard Medical School split participants into two groups. One was given a high-glycemic milk shake, and the other was given a milkshake with the same calorie content and flavor, but a lower glycemic index. Foods with high glycemic indexes are usually more processed and refined, and break down more quickly in the body, spiking blood sugar levels and increasing risk of weight gain and diabetes.
The results showed that the group who drank the high-glycemic, more processed milkshake was far hungrier after four hours than the other group. The high glycemic response in the body seemed to cause these participants to crave foods more intensely and sooner than those who ate the healthier options.
Processed Foods Spike Pleasure-Reward System
Even more shocking were the results of brain scans. Researchers scanned the brains of all the participants after eating the shakes, and found that those who consumed the high-glycemic options had an intense response in an area of the brain crucial to the “pleasure and reward” response. This is the same area of the brain that responds to the consumption of heroin and cocaine.
When we eat these packaged, sweetened, refined, and chemical-laden foods, we’re programming the brain and the body to want more and more and more. Is it any wonder we have so many overweight people in our country today? Not only that, these changes that occur after eating these foods throw our hormones out of whack, causing other issues like mood swings, aches and pains, and energy slumps.
28 Studies Show Food Can Be Addictive
This isn’t the first study to show that highly processed foods can affect us this way. A study from the Boston Children’s Hospital in July 2013 found that subjects given high glycemic index meals showed similar changes in the brain that were comparable to those seen in people with drug addictions. Two years ago, Bloomberg reported that 28 studies so far had found that foods could be addictive.
Studies will continue, but meanwhile, if you care about your health-and I hope you do!-it’s time to take action, today.
How to Avoid Addictive Foods
If you want to avoid addictive foods, return to whole, real foods. It can be that simple. Avoid the packages and choose fresh and frozen options that are closer to their natural state.
In addition to that, here are a few more simple steps you can take to start feeling better today. As you stop the attack on your body and mind, you’ll find your energy returning, your aches and pains subsiding, and your overall health improving.
- Cut back on sugar, everywhere it appears. Read labels and choose low-sugar or no-sugar options. Cut back on sweetened foods, period.
- Become familiar with the glycemic index. Most foods have a rating on this index, which tells you how quickly they break down in the body. The faster they dissolve, the more your blood sugar spikes, which is bad for you. You want more complex foods that take more calories and time to break down into usable energy.
- To get started on the glycemic rating for your foods, try this list of foods and their corresponding ratings on the glycemic index, from Harvard Health Publications; or search a particular food at this site from the University of Sydney.
- Cut back on the most addictive foods, which include white pasta, bread, potatoes and rice; chips and other salty snacks; fatty foods like ice cream, nachos, cheese, and hot wings; sugar; and most junk foods or fast foods.
- Choose instead whole foods from your processed food section, frozen foods, and high-fiber options that take longer to break down in your system.
- Check out Alex Jamieson’s tips to beat back cravings.
- Adopt new methods to reward your brain, including exercise, yoga, meditation, regularly doing things you enjoy, and taking action toward living your purpose every day!
What do you think of this study? Will you change your eating habits? Please share your thoughts.
Picture courtesy stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net.