5 Highly Addictive Foods and Their Surprising Swaps
By Janet Early
It’s not very shocking that things like candy, coffee and pizza can be addictive. Such foods and drinks contain certain ingredients (high sugar, caffeine, etc.) that trigger the brain’s reward mechanism and make you crave more and more.
These types of foods – foods that are usually highly refined and are packed with sugar, fat and salt – are known as “hyperpalatables.”
Pizza and coffee aren’t the only food sources that fall into this category. Did you know that common things like cough drops and processed meat are also known to promote compulsive attitudes towards food?
Here are 5 common foods that contain ingredients that are the culprits behind these addictive qualities that you should know about.
#1. Cough Drops
Many people report feeling addicted to cough drops, with explanations revolving around their high menthol content. Menthol is responsible for that cold, soothing feeling you experience at the back of your throat when you eat one of these drops.
To illustrate the effects of menthol on the brain, several studies have found menthol-containing cigarettes to be more addictive than regular cigarettes. Plus, store-bought cough drops tend to be comprised largely of sugar or artificial sweeteners and flavorings, which also drive cravings.
Better Choice: Organic herbal cough drops using honey and herbs. Find the recipe and steps here.
#2. Diet soda
Regular soda is addictive due to its high sugar content – sugar, many health experts believe, is as addictive as illegal drugs. In fact, according to a study by The University de Bordeaux in France:
“At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine”.
This brings us to diet soda, which, even though is rid of sugar, is still highly addictive. These “zero” and “skinny” products are filled with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose. Fake sugar replacements have been found to be up to 600x as addictive as sugar! No wonder the diet soda business is booming – customers are physiologically tricked into coming back for more.
Not-so-fun fact: The common sweetener, sucralose, was discovered accidentally when scientists were developing a new insecticide. No joke.
Better Choice: All-Natural Magnesium Anti-Anxiety Elixir Soda – fizzy and sweet enough to satisfy your soda cravings, while also calming your body rather than drumming up incessant cravings.
#3. Burgers And Processed Meat
Depending on the quality of the meat, very processed meat contains high combinations of fat, salt and sugar. This kind of combo can trigger the pleasurable effects of the ingredient on the brain’s receptors, manipulating you to desire more and more of the sub-par products.
In a rat-based study conducted by the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, the responses to fatty meats were similar to those of the rats that consumed cocaine or heroin.
Better Choice: Grass-fed, organic meat that is untouched by heavy manufacturing methods. If price is an issue, you can find a dozen cage-free organic eggs for under $5 to use as the main protein source in your meals throughout the week.
#4. Cough Syrup
You may have heard about cough syrup addiction, which in recent years swept the country as a gateway drug of choice for experimental teens.
These medicines can become addictive because of their inclusion of dextromethorphan, which is used to treat chronic coughing caused by colds, flus or other ailments. Cough syrup also tends to be high in sugar, which we already know can induce cravings.
Better Choice: Homemade cough syrup using essential oils.
#5: Bread, Pasta And Other High-Carb Foods
Essential Oil Homemade Cough Syrup
- 1 drop lemon essential oil
- 1 drop frankincense essential oil
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
- 1 drop lavender essential oil
- 1 spoonful of honey
- Mix the oils together and take like cough syrup.
When I went gluten-free and adopted a lower-carb diet, the transition definitely affected my energy levels for a little while. For the following week, I had lower energy and brain fog. The effects felt very much as though I was going through a withdrawal – in this case, it was from foods like cereal, sandwiches and pizza.
Carbohydrates account for such a significant portion of a typical American’s diet, that many people unknowingly become reliant upon them.
Better Choices: Gluten-free complex carbohydrate sources such as sweet potatoes, squash and coconut flour-based recipes (without the sugars, etc.).
With so many healthy ingredients provided by Mother Nature herself, there are plenty of positive alternatives to food products that lead to poor diet choices.
Highest on the list of addictive foods are – no surprise – hyperpalatables such as pizza, chocolate, chips, cookies, ice cream, french fries, cheeseburgers, soda, cake and cheese. Generally, highly processed foods and drinks with high amounts of sugar, fat and salt will make you reliant upon them. In such cases, you may find a processed food detox to be incredibly helpful to transition toward a healthier you!
Have you come across any surprising food addictions or know any other alternatives to these common foods listed above? Please share below!
Janet Early is a health enthusiast living in Los Angeles and working as a researcher for a major television company. An aspiring writer, Janet discovered her passion for wholesome nutrition and natural healing while navigating the struggles of balancing food sensitivities in a modern world. In addition to nutrition, she enjoys traveling, storytelling and embarking on daily adventures.
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