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What if eating junk food isn’t your fault?

Are you aware food manufacturers spend a fortune on research to try to get you addicted to their offerings and so you crave, and buy, more?

There is a common belief that overweight and obese junk food eaters have brought it on themselves, that they only have themselves to blame for putting so much of it in their mouths.

This opinion can then spill over to those who are trying to have a healthy diet but then beat themselves up for slipping off the wagon, for not being strong enough to stick to a fresh food and healthy diet.  But maybe this is too harsh in the face of the concerted efforts being made by food manufacturers and their researchers to get us to eat their offerings.

A recent article [1] highlights how there is a conscious effort taking place in laboratories, marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles  to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and supposedly inexpensive.  Food manufacturers, and flavour developers, research to develop tastes and flavours that specifically give a big initial hit, but a hit that has neither a lingering tail off nor a too distinct or overriding single flavour that would tell the brain to stop eating.  This mean consumers are much more likely want to go back for more, and that they will go back sooner rather than later.  Flavour researchers work long and hard on determining what is known as the ‘bliss point’ for added flavours, sugar, salt and fat, the optimum point for satisfaction.  That is a point wherethere is not too much, not too little, but is just right; it is the point of the greatest crave. In other words flavour researchers are looking for the point of addiction.

Finding this ‘bliss point’ is used for crisps, savoury snacks and foods as well as for the sweeter offerings so those with more of a savoury than a sweet tooth are just as much a target.  The dangers of added sugars, salt and fats in foods and drinks are significant.  A recent study [2] claims sugar in drinks for example could be responsible for some 180,000 deaths worldwide, and many would claim the figure in reality is much higher.  Hidden fats and sugars can be used in so called healthy foods to make them supposedly more palatable, when in fact it really means it makes them more addictive. For example ‘health’ bars can be laden with hidden sugars and fats, canned vegetables and soups often contain high levels of sugar, low fat yoghurts are packed with it, and of course fast foods, even the salads and fries, can have plenty of those ‘bliss point’ ingredients.

It’s not necessarily that food manufacturers want you to be unhealthy or even, in truth, whether they care very much whether you are healthy or unhealthy. Their driver is to sell more product; they want you coming back for more.  They know that if you remember eating their product as a good experience then that is exactly what you will do.  That is, you will unless you see what is really happening here and decide take back control of your own health and eating patterns.

Another reason for over eating on junk foods  is that much of our food is so depleted of the essential basics our bodies need such as vitamins and minerals, that we don’t feel full after eating.  In other words it’s not just about the calories our bodies need but also the quality of the food we eat. Our bodies crave the missing essentials and so we want to keep on eating.

So how can we be sure of having a healthy and satisfying diet? How do we start cutting back on the nutritionally empty foods and stocking up on the foods that will support our bodies and therefore start to wean ourselves off junk and into health?

Here are a few suggestions

Buy fresh and local

– buy as much fresh, locally grown produce as you can, organic if possible to ensure you get as many as possible of the essential building blocks your body needs to function properly, building blocks such as vitamins and minerals.

Plan ahead

– a few minutes spent planning a week’s meals ahead makes it so much easier to provide fresh food, where you know all the ingredients, and you can save on the shopping bill as well.  Feasting on quantities of junk food can be far more expensive than  a balanced amount of quality, freshly prepared and nutritious food.

Read labels

– be knowledgeable about what is in your food and make informed choices. The ingredients have to be listed by weight, with the most first, so, for example, look out for manufacturers naming lots of different types of sugars such as honey, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, sorbitol, fruit juice concentrate, lactose, maltodextrin etc.  Individually they may appear a low level, add them up and total sugar may go to the top of the list!

A supplement that can help with reducing sugar cravings as part of a healthy eating plan is chromium picolinate

Many people say they enjoy their meals so much more when they start to take these steps.  It’s as if we forget what simple, quality food should taste like when we are eating a lot of the junk.  Start eating fresh, and tasty, and enjoy.

Happy Eating!

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[1] The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, Michael Moss  Published New York Times : February 20, 2013

[2] American Heart Association Meeting Report

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