Has this ever happened to you? You’re bored and you know the kitchen is right in front of you. You aren’t even hungry, but feel like you’re in need of a boost. You try to ignore the feeling, making an effort to remember your 2018 resolutions. But, you start imagining the taste of that cookie in the box second shelf on the right. You keep thinking about how much you would enjoy just having one bite. Just a little bit… Then, you end up eating the entire box.
Why don’t we just eat something healthier? Maybe a fruit, some vegetables… Why sugars, fats, and salty foods?
Don’t feel so guilty, it isn’t really your fault. The majority of processed foods, which our society loves so much for their practicality and portability, are actually created to be addictive.
In 2013, The New York Times published an article called “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” that analyzed how multinational food companies struggle to maintain their profits in the face of growing evidence that their food is causing a health crisis. However, these chains have advanced science on their side: using food engineering, they create products that generate addiction in the body.
This is achieved through masterful uses of addictive ingredients such as salt, fat, sugar, and a wide variety of other flavorings which cause an alteration in the reward system of the brain similar to that produced by drugs (according to the results of a research conducted with rats for three years), leading to many compulsive overeating habits which can develop to issues like obesity and Type II diabetes.
In “The Jargon of Junk Food,” Canadian writer Paul McFedries analyzes the codes used by the junk food industry to shape products that keep consumers in a state of physiological addiction thanks to the science behind their preparation. He explains there are mainly five “points” of addictive unhealthy food:
As a first point, McFredries explains pillars ingredients which he defines as the balance between three ingredients that, together, create “food that makes you feel good.” These ingredients are fat, sugar, and salt. He describes the “bliss point” as the optimal mixture of fat, sugar, and salt that make us get so hooked.
McFredries’s third point has to do with the mouthfeel. The “mouthfeel” sensation is described as the way food feels inside a person’s mouth. By adjusting variables such as texture, humidity, crunchiness, or melting, producers can create food that behaves in a way that is very satisfying to the customer.
Another of the key factors is flavor hit. For example, producers manipulate the size and shape of the salt crystals in fast food so that a flavor stroke occurs saturates the taste buds in an instant.
Lastly, McFredries explains the importance of the dispersion of caloric density as the mother of all the science behind junk food. It is nothing more than the process by which food melts in the mouth so quickly that the brain believes that it is consuming fewer calories than what is really going into the body. It allows the brain to believe that it is still not satisfied so that the person continues to eat, even though he or she does not need so many calories. This results in the danger of automatic eating, that is, continuing to eat without thinking about what you’re ingesting; eating because the food tells you to keep eating.
So, the next time you feel bad about falling into the clutches of these foods, know the reason and realize that it is not your weakness alone that makes you act like this, but the large processed food industry that is manipulating your desire. Taking into account all this information, you will probably experience a greater rejection and you will feel “desire to rebel” before them and choose a fruit or vegetable to better satisfy your hunger or craving.
Edited by: Kaylynn Crawford and Daryn Dever