Talk about the worst words to hear from your waiter. Oh, you know you shouldn’t, but you’re no match for the smell of those fresh-baked cookies wafting from the kitchen. Why is every super-palatable food of today damn near impossible to resist? “Nobody’s binging on spinach or broccoli,” says Ashley Gearhardt, PhD, assistant professor in the psychology department at the University of Michigan. As co-creator of Yale University’s Food Addiction Scale, she’s contributing to a growing body of research that puts “food”—or the processed chemicals that pass for food these days—in the same category as drugs of abuse. How can a bag of chips and a sweet little snack cake turn you into an addict? Blame sugar, salt, and fat. Our bodies have not evolved to handle this over-stimulating trifecta, says Gearhardt.
Long before Mrs. Fields was peddling cookies in shopping malls, sugar was a rare treat, found in fruit and guarded by stinging bees; salt was a simple garnish; and fat was a nutrient that had to be hunted or foraged. Now, processed foods often contain all three (remember the bacon ice cream sundae?)—minus the protein, fiber, and water that help your body handle them. And women are more likely than men to get addicted. “Women tend to restrict and then binge,” says Gearhardt. “That seems to sensitize the brain’s developing an addictive process and for you to have a psychologically unhealthy relationship with the substance.” So what are the 10 most addictive foods? Gearhardt told us the top 10. Is your biggest weakness in the countdown?
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