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Salt, Sugar, and Spice Cravings

Why is it that salt, sugar, and spice are so addictive that even the toughest fitness enthusiasts succumb to their cravings?

SUPERSTIMULUS

Snacks concentrate our favorite flavors (sweet, spicy, and salty) into unnaturally high amounts to deliver a sensory overload. An overwhelming dose becomes addictive as the body quickly develops a tolerance (Smith, 2017).

The large amount of sugar or spice in these foods are well beyond what humans have evolved to handle. When the stimulus is beyond what the body needs or is available in natural sources, it is called superstimulus. When your palate is overwhelmed with a large dose, it is stimulated much beyond what it is naturally used to (Smith, 2017).

In addition, most sweets lead to a spike in blood sugar levels due to unusually high levels of sugar. This results in the release of insulin (and a fall in blood sugar), which leads you to feel tired, sleepy, and crave more sugar (AXA PPP Health Care).

NUTRITION

When you eat food that is high in natural protein and fat, it is unlikely you will feel hungry after a few hours. However, when you eat something that overwhelms your taste buds with intense flavor, addictive flavors like sugar, and with little nutrition, you’re not giving your body real food or nutrition. Instead, you’re giving it a simulation of food. As your body isn’t getting enough nutrition, you will feel hungry a few hours later. Snacks satisfy cravings not hunger, fooling the brain, but not the body (Clear, 2018).

CONVENIENCE

Snacks are extremely convenient and easily accessible. If you live near civilization you live near snacks. Just like any addictive substance, the more accessible snacks are, the harder it is to kick the habit. The problem is that they are everywhere; advertisements and the people around us serve as a constant reminder.

AXA PPP Health Care. “Sugar Crash Our Guide to Managing Diabetes.” Sugar Crash – Identify a Diabetic or Hypoglycemic Emergency, AXAPPP Health Care, www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/sugarcrash.

Clear, James. “What Happens to Your Brain When You Eat Junk Food.” James Clear, 17 July 2018, jamesclear.com/junk-food-science.

Smith, Craig. “Uncovering Salt’s Addictive Nature.” NHMRC, nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/news-centre/uncovering-salts-addictive-nature.

Edited by Daryn Dever