Why we love junk food – Have you ever wondered why we like junk food so much? Well, we tried to bring some answers.
It is common knowledge that junk foods such as pizza, ice cream, and cheeseburgers all cause an array of health problems which include, but are not limited to, high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity and even an increase in depression.
So, why then, do we crave such unhealthy food and not the likes of carrots and broccolis?
We love fats and carbs. Why?
The short answer would be that these nutrients contain the much needed energy that we use for day to day activities.
But it is more complicated than that.
Why exactly do we love junk foods?
We, unlike many animals, are omnivores. We can get energy from an assortment of sources, be it meat or grain. Vegetables such as beans and cucumbers can also provide energy, and they should be an effective replacement, as they very healthy and provide vitamins and minerals.
This begs the question, why then, do we crave fats at such a basic level. The answer has a lot to do with evolution.
The direct ancestors of us (of the first members of genus Homo), had a very different body compared to ours. Their brain was 35% smaller than ours.
Brains require a lot of calories. These direct ancestors, they did not have access to fire and therefore meat and cooked food. Before the agricultural revolution, they were eating mostly fruits and vegetables, low in calories in this resulted in their brains being considerably smaller. As soon as our ancestors were able to avoid festered meat and raw food, over a time period, their brain increased about 50%.
This is all to say that, since then, our brain size has multiplied considerably. Our brains are expensive; they require a steady supply of fats and carbohydrates for maintenance. This is why our instincts have evolved to love high-energy food.
Some recent studies reveal that junk food affects our brain in a similar way to cocaine. Both cocaine and high-fat foods, both activate out brain’s pleasure centre. Not only that, junk food also activates our touch centres, the same places that light up when we receive hugs from our moms!
How the matters are worsened?
As if this was not enough, food companies spend millions of dollars to make their products more pleasurable to eat and harder not to eat again.
One way they do this is by manipulating food meltdown. When you eat Cheetohs or Kurkure, each chip melts in your mouth to some extent. When food rapidly vanishes in this fashion, it signals our brain that we are not eating enough and that we are still hungry despite consuming sufficient calories.
This type of food is designed so that your brain gets fooled into thinking it is getting enough nutrition, but not actually stanch your hunger. The mixture of carbs, fats and proteins are received and they convince your brain that your requirements are being met. This is by manipulating the calorie density in the food item. In the end you crave food more and more, but it takes time before you realize that you are actually full.
Make a smart move
It is not often realized how complex eating habits can be. It is hard to refrain from eating junk because it is designed specifically to keep you coming back for more. To live a better and healthier lifestyle, it is more often than not enough to just “have willpower”.
But now that you understand the intricacies of your cravings, you are well equipped to improve your eating habits!