Why do we keep eating once our basic energy needs are met? Science has uncovered some important instigators of overeating. Three food components in various combinations tantalize taste buds: fat, salt, and sugar. Think about a typical American chain restaurant meal.
Different Types of Fats
Trans fats are manmade fats created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil to make a more solid substance that extends shelf life and preserves taste. When you see the words “partially hydrogenated” or “shortening” on the label, these refer to trans fats. Saturated fats (found in animal products like red meat and butter) and trans fats actually raise the level of low-density (LDL) cholesterol—the “bad” cholesterol—in your blood, and decrease the level of high-density (HDL) cholesterol—the “good” cholesterol.
What Sorts of Foods Have “Unhealthy” Fats?
Foods in which saturated and trans fats are typically found include crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, baked goods, fried foods, and processed foods. Of course it is not just what you eat, but how much you eat that affects your weight.
Always portion size your food! Many people focus so much on avoiding “fat” calories and forget to monitor total calories. Portion size is always important, even if a food is low-fat or low-calorie—and especially if it is not. Restaurants serve large portions to attract customers, even though the “serving” normally provided is actually equal to multiple servings.
What Causes You to Become Addicted to Unhealthy Food?
Start with tortilla chips—lots of fat and salt. (Try putting some chips on a paper napkin or in a paper bag and see what happens; the grease quickly seeps into the paper.) Add cheese dip for the chips; the ingredients are heavy cream (fat), and cheese (fat), plus some onion or spices.
How about a bacon cheeseburger for your entree? Ground beef has a high fat content, bacon is fat and salt, cheese adds more fat, and finally the sauce is mostly fat and salt.
And to drink—what about one of those flavored coffee drinks? A flavored frozen cappuccino drink such as a Frappuccino is made up of a coffee mix that might include sugar, whipped cream (fat and sugar), chocolate chips (fat and sugar), and some chocolate drizzle (sugar).
Why Do These Foods Win Over Our Appetites Rather Than Healthy and Weight-Reducing vegetables?
Because they are mouth entertainment! Humans eat, at least in part, for stimulation. The environment gives us lots of cues to eat. And food is entertainment in itself.
The three ingredients just mentioned that drive consumption — fat, salt, and sugar—also stimulate the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, making us want to eat. Any combination of these “big three” produces a roller-coaster sensation of taste in the mouth that is very satisfying.
The sight of food that has texture, color, temperature, and mouth-feel can trigger appetite when you are not really hungry. Just a photograph of good-looking food can do this alone, and the smell of fatty food cooking is very compelling even to people without overeating problems.
How Can You Avoid Foods That Aren’t Good For Your Body?
First, you need to develop a new way of eating that is your own definition of healthy—and happy—eating that keeps the three taste teasers in check. That means you should eat foods that contain any of these ingredients (salt, sugar, and fats) in moderation.
What satisfies is personal, but a good strategy is to focus your eating on foods that occur in nature, like whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit, combined with lean protein and an appropriate amount of “good” fats—that is, monounsaturated fats such as canola oil and olive oil.
It is best to avoid prepared foods as much as possible. It is also necessary to plan ahead to deal with temptations and to be on the alert for emotions that might make you more vulnerable to inappropriate eating and the use of food as a means of self-soothing. You need to define your own internal guidelines for what you eat (without making these into hard-and-fast rules).
About The Author: Mike Tytus is a writer centralized on health and fitness for Getting a Flat stomach website that helps readers with their weight loss problems and how to understand how their own body works.