The 10 Most Addictive Foods

These are the biggest offenders to watch out for when it comes to cravings

By Ellen Breslau

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Addictive Foods

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Pizza. Chips. Soda. French fries. There are some foods we just can't get enough of.

Research from the National Institute on Drug Addiction has shown that for some people, certain foods can hijack the brain's reward center and induce cravings for more. In other words: Science is proving that food addiction is a real thing.

"These foods are called hyperpalatables, and are sugary, fatty, salty food and beverage combinations which are typically refined or processed products," says Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix: The Three Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. 

A recent study from the University of Michigan asked people to assess their food habits using the Yale Food Addiction Scale, where participants score foods between one and seven based on resistibility (one being the easiest to resist, seven being the most difficult).  Here are the study's 10 most addictive foods:

(This article appeared previously on Grandparents.com.)

1. Pizza

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Food addiction rating: 4.01

Slathered with gooey cheese and oil, pizza topped the charts as the most addictive food. According the Department of Agriculture, on any given day, 13 percent of the U.S. population eats pizza. That's one in eight Americans. The problem? A slice of pizza generally contains around 300 calories and about 10 grams of fat. Add processed meats like pepperoni or sausage and you're talking 360 calories and up to 20 grams of fat.

Keep in mind that the average woman 50 and older should consume around 1,800 calories a day and 40 grams of fat, and the average man 50 and older should have around 2,200 calories and 49 grams of delicious fat.

2. Chocolate

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Food addiction rating: 3.73

Chocolate has long been thought of as an indulgence. A study from Drexel University found that people experienced craving and pleasure when eating chocolate similar to the feeling people get when taking drugs. In terms of what it will do for your waistline, you'll consume 210 calories and 13 grams of fat from a single Hershey's chocolate bar.

2. Chips (Tied With Chocolate)

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Food addiction rating: 3.73

Tying for second place, chips are a snacker's best friend (or enemy, depending on how you see it). No one can eat just one. Research presented to the 2013 meeting of the American Chemical Society found that when given the choice between potato chips and their regular food, rats overwhelmingly chose potato chips, which had a marked effect on their brain behavior. The rats ate to excess for pleasure rather than for hunger, according to the study's main researcher, Dr. Tobias Hoch. Nutritionally, chips are loaded with fat. A serving of 30 chips will set you back 320 calories and a whopping 20 grams of fat.

4. Cookies

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Food addiction rating: 3.71

A much-touted study at Connecticut College found that Oreo cookies were as addictive as cocaine when given to rats. Though there have been several critics of this study, other studies have found that there is truth to the sugar-drug connection. Read more about it here. In terms of nutrition, four small chocolate chip cookies have 192 calories and 10 grams of fat.

5. Ice Cream

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Food addiction rating: 3.68

The creaminess is what draws you in, but it's also your undoing. By virtue of what ice cream is — cream and milk — it contains very high levels of saturated fat. That means eating ice cream regularly isn't great for your weight. One serving of Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream, for example, contains 230 calories and 14 grams of fat.

6. French Fries

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Food addiction rating: 3.60

They're crispy and delicious, which makes you crave more, but fried foods like French fries have been linked to a potentially harmful substance called acrylamide. According to the Food and Drug Administration, acrylamide has been shown to cause certain kinds of cancer in animals. While more research is being done, nutritional experts suggest cutting down on fried foods. The nutritional info on French fries is also cause to pause, with a large order of McDonald's fries having an astonishing 510 calories and 24 grams of fat.

7. Cheeseburgers

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Food addiction rating: 3.51

The cheesy goodness is enough to make you swoon, but cheeseburgers also pack a lot of artery-hardening components, including saturated fat and sodium. A Burger King cheeseburger has 270 calories, 12 grams of fat and 630 milligrams of salt, which is almost half of the daily recommended amount, according to the American Heart Association.

8. Soda

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Food addiction rating: 3.29

One thing's for sure: We love our soda. The average American drinks about 40 gallons of it a year, and if that isn't enough to blow your mind, we consume more than six tablespoons of added sugar a day, half of which comes from sugary drinks. Soda has also been linked to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer. (Read more here.) Your best bet: Stick to water!

9. Cake

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Food addiction rating: 3.26

Rich and chocolaty, red velvety, vanilla swirly — who doesn't melt at a piece of cake? One study even claims that eating a breakfast that's high in protein, carbohydrates and includes a dessert like cake can actually help you lose weight. But most other researchers agree that cake generally contains a lot of not-so-good-for-you processed sugar and fat. A slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting will set you back 506 calories and 22 grams of fat.

Rounding Out the Top 15...

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These foods also ranked high in the University of Michigan study:

11. Cheese. Food addiction rating: 3.22
12. Bacon. Food addiction rating: 3.03
13. Fried chicken. Food addiction rating: 2.97
14. Rolls. Food addiction rating: 2.73
15. Buttered popcorn. Food addiction rating: 2.64

Break the Addiction

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Stop your food addictions by trying the following:

"Before eating/drinking what is in front of you, ask yourself these questions," says Peeke.

  • If I eat this, will I feel loss of control?
  • If I eat this, will I feel shame, blame and guilt?

"If the answer is yes to both — they go together most of the time — then say to yourself, 'Whatever is sitting in front of me doesn’t work for me.' This puts the power in your hands," she says. By giving yourself a minute to think about the foods, you're putting the item on a virtual shelf and can substitute other, healthier items.

"It’s very important to get off the food or beverage product you crave in order to heal the brain’s reward center, quell cravings and manage how much food your eat," Peeke says. There is a detox period which can be easier to go through if you switch out the hyperpalatables with healthy fixes. "For example, combinations of protein and fiber, such as celery sicks with peanut butter, satisfy and curb carb cravings," she says. Click here to read Peeke's other tips on kicking food addiction.



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