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Why do we crave the foods we know aren’t good for us?

Dr. Joan Ifland, lead editor of the textbook Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment and Recovery, says processed foods impact our brains the same way as alcohol and drugs.

Have you ever had an intense craving for processed foods? Ifland says we know exactly what occurs in our brain chemistry when we crave and eat processed foods. In fact, the chemical reaction is remarkably similar to cocaine, heroin, and alcohol.

The word ‘processed’ refers to highly concentrated foods. Usually, sugar or salt is a main ingredient. On top of that, various additives are introduced which can also be highly addictive. According to Ifland, dairy and gluten even contain small amounts of morphine-like chemicals. When these foods are concentrated the amounts of highly addictive chemicals greatly increases and your brain reacts accordingly.

So what should you eat? Ifland says looks for unprocessed foods like animal proteins and vegetables. Basically, anything that is not altered into a concentrated state is a much healthier option.

Due to the fact that so many people eat processed foods, Ifland says addiction to them is widespread. Intense cravings for processed foods are the first sign of addiction and according to Ifland abstinence is the best remedy. Our society is so geared towards processed foods that the cultural pressure to consume them can be overwhelming and extremely difficult to overcome.



  • Dr. Joan Ifland, lead editor, Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment and Recovery

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