Have you ever wondered what kind of role the food industry plays in what you eat, and even what you crave? I have, and the information I’ve found when I looked into it is quite discomforting.
Food companies obviously want to sell food to you, the consumer. Now, I am not talking about vegetables, whole grains, fruit, fish, and other types of foods that are generally considered healthy. I am referring to foods that are of highly questionable nutritional value and are just plain unhealthy.
It’s in the food industry’s best interests to sell you food with more sugar, fat, and sodium, which are all detrimental to your health! In fact, many people say North Americans are addicted to sugar and salt. What we need to ask is “where did these food addictions come from?” Is the food industry capitalizing on these food addictions, or have they even created them to your detriment?
How the Food Industry Creates Unhealthy Food Addictions
Well, according to New York Times and Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Michael Moss, this is exactly what the food industry intends. Foods that contain large amounts of sugar, fat, and salt are engineered and manufactured by highly skilled people who understand the chemistry of human addiction and purposely put the “right” amount of sugar, fat, and salt into your foods to get you to crave these foods—and thus buy more.
Moss, who wrote a book entitled, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, interviewed food company executives and scientists and reviewed a large number of documents. He uncovered that the food industry has very deliberately engineered certain foods, designed for our taste buds to salivate at the mere thought of them, and encouraged us to continue buying them. And, of course, these foods are far from healthy.
Of course, they want us to buy as much of their food as possible, so why wouldn’t they try to manufacture food addictions? It sounds just like what the tobacco industry did: get young people hooked on unhealthy substances, and you’ve got customers for life.
But the food cravings that companies manufacture go even further. A former food industry consultant, Thorton Mustard, explained in his book, The Taste Signature Revealed, that the products these food companies produce alter the “mouth feel” of certain food products to create food cravings and addictions. He claimed that by altering the way the food feels in your mouth, it could influence your chewing and make you feel like you need to constantly keep consuming the product.
Food Addictions: Worse Than Drugs?
There is no doubt in my mind that foods can affect your brain the same way that certain drugs do. There is also no doubt that food addictions are real. Do you have a food addiction, or is there a food that you start eating, and before you notice, it’s gone? Well, if you have this condition, please don’t be too hard on yourself, because these foods were designed to do exactly that.
It starts when you see and smell the food. The appearance and the smell a particular food has stimulates parts of the brain, which influences your salivary glands, causing them to produce more saliva. Just seeing or smelling certain foods can cause your gastrointestinal tract to contract and secrete digestive enzymes. It can also send a signal to your cerebral cortex telling you that it’s time to eat.
If you ignore that impulse, your body can also speed up your heart rate and blood pressure to make you move and acquire that food faster. These are signals your body can produce that are there to protect you from starvation, and they happen without any conscious control; however, they pose a problem when they tempt you to eat foods filled with salt, fat, and sugar.
The feel of the food in your mouth, its texture, its crunchiness, and, of course, the flavor all influence your brain’s pleasure centers. Not only will your brain tell you how much you enjoy eating this food, but it will also provide you with feedback regarding how much of it you should eat.
What Food Addictions Do to Your Health
This is how the food addictions begin, because when the food is removed from your body, your brain will tell you to eat more, creating food cravings. The more you give in to the cravings, the more addicted you become. Does this sound familiar?
Food addictions can lead to compulsive eating behaviors and cause a host of health-related problems, including increasing your risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and eating disorders. That’s why what the food industry is doing is so dangerous: they’re creating food addictions to nutritionally dangerous food that can hurt or kill you.
How to Avoid Food Addictions
Fill your diet with healthy choices like dark-colored and green leafy vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish, lean protein, yogurt, raw nuts, seeds, avocados, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and olive oil. Filling your diet with healthy food will make you feel better and give you a sense of power over your health.
Eat small meals every three to four hours containing a complex carbohydrate like brown rice and vegetables, and a lean protein, such as poultry or fish. This will keep your blood sugar balanced, prevent you from snacking, and reduce your food cravings for less nutritious foods.
Choose healthier types of snacks: baked whole grain nachos with salsa, homemade trail mix, and air-popped popcorn are always good alternatives. This will satisfy your interest for salty, crunchy, and sweet foods.
Moss, M., Salt Sugar Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us (New York: Random House, 2013).
Mustard, T., et al., The Taste Signature Revealed (Herts: Ecademy Press, 2012).