Why is the wrong food so tasty? It comes down to the way your brain is wired and the way that food manufacturers play with your brain.
The reward centre of the brain is linked to the pleasure pathway(s). Stimulation of this area of the brain releases dopamine which feels good and promotes repeated behaviour, ie you go looking for another hit, and another…
The reward centre rewards you for eating certain things at certain times and ultimately, will reward you for eating calorie dense foods. This is an ancient trait that developed to make sure that you never missed an opportunity for calories in a world where your next meal was never guaranteed.
Today, however, we live in a world where the next meal is rarely more than an arm’s reach away and calories are abundantly available. Your pleasure centre is highly sensitive to and addictively stimulated by the ingredients in junk food.
I don’t want to sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist, but one thing is true; the snack food industry is in the business of making money. They are not interested in nutrition, or your health. If they make a snack that is more delicious than their competitor, they will sell more snacks and make more money.
If you need energy, something fatty will taste good until your brain tells you you’ve satisfied the need for it. Then it will be less appealing and you will stop eating it. The same goes for something sweet or something salty. It is important to understand that fatty, salty and sweet foods do not occur together in nature. This is your body’s clever way of getting what it needs and not too much.
However, this mechanism can be overridden if you combine fat, salt and sugar. The ‘right’ balance of tHesse three things is unbelievably stimulating to the pleasure centre in your brain and it is difficult for the brain to realise when you’ve had enough.
When making a food product, the manufacturers employ a panel of people to taste the food and report back on which they enjoyed the most. If you are tasting a savoury pie for example, you first taste a sample of pie with no sugar, it tastes like a pie. Then you taste one with too much sugar, it’s too sweet, you don’t like it. When you taste the pie with the “right” combination of fat, salt and sugar, your pleasure centre suddenly starts to light up like a Christmas tree. This is the “tastiest” pie.
What I’m saying is, it’s not entirely your fault that you are attracted to the wrong foods sometimes. You’re not completely off the hook though, you are ultimately responsible for the decisions you make and the actions you take, like walking into Krispy Kreme and putting a box of doughnuts in your mouth. However, I know that your natural tendencies are being deliberately exploited and manipulated by the naughty food companies. So giving you a heads-up on this will help you to make sense of your cravings in order to make the best choice for you.