Most addictive foods? It’s a question we all ponder from time to time. As a Certified Nutritionist, I know that people, bodies, and cravings vary. But here is some interesting research on most addictive foods.

  • In 2009, researchers at Yale developed the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) to provide a validated measurement tool to assess addictive eating behaviors.
  • In 2015, researchers from the University of Michigan and the New York Obesity Research Center used the YFAS scale to measure addiction-like eating behaviors in students. They concluded high-GI, high fat, and processed foods were most associated with food addiction.

The chart below shows some of the most problematic foods for addictive eating and their glycemic load (GL).

GL is a measure that considers both the GI of a food as well as its portion size. When compared to GI, GL is typically a more accurate measure of how a food impacts blood sugar levels.

5Ice cream14
6French fries21
8Soda (not diet)16

What Do the Most Addictive Foods Have in Common?

There are some commonalities among the most addictive foods.

  • With the exception of cheese, each of the top 10 most addictive foods according to the YFAS scale contains significant amounts of carbs.
  • While most cheese still provides some carbs, it isn’t as carb-heavy as the other items on the list.
  • Moreover, many of these foods are not only high in carbs but also refined sugar, salt, and fat. Plus, they’re often eaten in highly processed forms.

Therefore, there may still be much more to uncover about the relationship between these types of foods, the human brain, and addictive-like eating behaviors.

How to Conquer Carb Cravings

Even though research shows that carbs display some addictive properties, there are many techniques you can use to overcome cravings for carbs and other junk foods.

One of the most powerful steps you can take to stop carb cravings is simply to plan for them ahead of time.

Having an action plan in mind for those moments when cravings hit may help you feel prepared and empowered to pass up carb-laden junk foods and make a healthier choice instead.

As far as what your action plan should entail, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer. Different techniques may work better or worse for different people.

Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Fill up on protein first. Both animal and vegetable sources of protein, including meat, eggs, tofu, and beans, are renowned for helping you stay fuller for longer.
  • Eat a piece of fiber-rich fruit. Not only does the fiber in fruit fill you up, but its natural sugars may also help satisfy cravings for something sweet.
  • Stay hydrated. Some research suggests that dehydration may trigger cravings for salt. Since many salty foods are also high in carbs, drinking water throughout the day may ward off cravings for both types of foods.
  • Get moving. Boosting your activity levels with steps, strength training, or any other exercise of your choice triggers the release of feel-good endorphins from your brain that might interrupt your carb cravings.
  • Get familiar with your triggers. Pay close attention to which foods are hardest for you to avoid and prepare yourself to be around those trigger foods ahead of time.
  • Take it easy on yourself. Nobody is perfect. If you give in to a carb craving, simply consider what you can do differently next time. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just like anything else, learning to navigate carb cravings takes practice.

The Bottom Line

Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy.

Some carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are very healthy. Other carbs can be very processed and high in salt, sugar, and fat.

Early research on carbs does suggest that they might display addictive-like properties. They appear to stimulate certain parts of the brain and even influence the types and amounts of chemicals your brain releases.

However, more rigorous research in humans is needed to uncover exactly how these mechanisms in the brain are affected by carbs.

Some of the most addictive carbs appear to be highly processed junk foods like pizza, chips, cakes, and candies.

However, there are various techniques you can try to combat carb cravings. Consider testing out a few to learn what works best for you.

Click here to read full article on the most addictive foods.