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Why we can’t get enough

Why we can’t get enough
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What is it about the three Cs: Chocolate, cheese and chips? For some reason, we can never get enough of them. But wanting to chow on a particular food is one thing, being addicted to it is another. Fact is, you can become addicted to a certain food, and you can blame your brain’s response to it. That’s because certain foods elicit a release of dopamine in the brain, which can lead to more cravings for that particular treat, especially when it comes to foods that are high in sugar, salt and/or fat. Addictive foods are ones that hit your brain right in its pleasure centre, ostensibly telling you that you need more, more, more.

“When this pleasure/reward centre is stimulated, the brain starts secreting dopamine and other chemicals that make us enjoy the experience even more,” says registered dietitian Ashvini Mashru. “Because your brain loves the sensation caused by that dopamine release, it seeks more of it by creating cravings, that if listened to can cause a vicious cycle of addiction.”

Chocoholics take note

Chocoholics take note
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That bowl of Smarties sitting on your colleague’s desk is a delicious temptation, a crunchy chocolatey treat that’s hard to resist. What we know is that chocolate is one of the most addictive foods around because it binds to the same pleasure centres in the brain as alcohol and certain drugs, according to a 2011 study conducted by Drexel University. It also boasts a nice ‘mouth feel’, which stimulates oxytocin production, another feel-good hormone, according to Dan DeFigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies. “Over time, our brains start looking for that dopamine hit, and every time we eat chocolate, it reinforces that ‘wiring,’” he says.

Here are 10 things that happen to your body when you stop eating sugar.

More cheese please

More cheese please
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If you’ve hovered over a cheese platter and piled up the cubes, you’ll be relieved to know that it’s not just you. Cheese, which is generally high in fat and cholesterol, also contains a substance called casomorphin that binds to the opioid or feel-good receptors in the brain. “Casomorphins attach to neurotransmitters in our brains and release dopamine, feel-good chemicals, that often lead us to wanting more,” says Dr Neal Barnard, author of The Cheese Trap. “While cheese does have its health benefits, it also can be seriously addictive.”

Carb fix

Carb fix
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Reach into that bowl of potato chips, tortilla chips or pretzels over and over again, and you’ll know something is happening on the addiction front. And, while there’s no particular compound in these foods that bind to specific brain receptors to cause a euphoric, stimulating, or addictive behaviour, there’s something else at play. “Simple carbohydrates are seen as ‘addictive’ because they cause a quick glucose release, and this quickly increases a person’s energy, says nutritionist Celina Jean. “This energy will quickly be used up, and then you’ll be forced to eat more simple carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar raised.”

Now discover some high-quality carbs, foods that are low in GI.

Oh, sweet sips

Oh, sweet sips
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Not only do sugary soft drinks (including sweet tea) provide us with very little nutrients, but one 375mL can contain a staggering 43 grams of sugar. Like sugary treats, fizzy drinks can stimulate the release of dopamine. Add caffeine and you’re getting a double-energy hit. “Once you’re hooked on caffeine, you can suffer symptoms of withdrawal if you try to stop, including sluggishness, headaches and emotional distress,” says Mashru.

Pass the fries

Pass the fries
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Hot chips or French fries are typically crisp, hot and salty. This is a triple-threat that signals the tongue and the brain to eat more, Mashru says. The fat content in fries triggers receptors in our mouths that send a signal to our brain and gut reinforcing the desire to eat more. “These little potato sticks are also a comfort food,” Mashru says. “Therefore, every time you go through the line in a restaurant and see them on the menu, you may find the urge to order them as a side to your entrée irresistible.”

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Ice cream, you scream

Ice cream, you scream
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Cravings for ice cream can be insatiable – it’s all about the sugar content and creamy texture, and researchers agree that foods like ice cream, which is basically cream and milk, stimulate the brain in the same way drugs do, inducing behaviours that resemble addiction, says dietitian Keri Glassman. “The sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ you experience are consistent with sugar ‘dependency’,” she says. “When your body gets used to sugar, you feel out of sorts when you consume less, which causes you to eat more.”

Pizza

Pizza
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Whether it’s the stringy salty mozzarella cheese, the fluffy dough or the sugar in the tomato sauce, pizza ranks first in food addiction, according to a recent University of Michigan study. That’s because when you eat it, your blood sugar zips up quickly and then when it drops, you feel hungry again and want more.

Now guess what foods are on the list of the 8 worst foods for your brain.

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Source: RD.com

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