Whether you realize it or not, chances are that most of your caloric intake comes from highly processed foods.
Nearly 60% of the calories that make up a typical American diet come from ultra-processed foods like french fries and cookies, according to data from a 2017 study published in the journal Population Health Metrics.
And not only are these foods unhealthy, they’re also addictive, according to Joan Ifland, processed food addiction expert and founder of The Food Addiction Reset.
«When you concentrate [foods]when you put them in a state where they can be absorbed very quickly, then they become addictive,” says Ifland.
«Processed foods are foods that don’t look like [how] they looked like when they were first harvested,» she says. This includes foods that are made from «powdering, liquefying, processing into syrup or crystal, removing fiber, and grinding into flour. [and] heat to such a high temperature that the nutrients are vaporized.»
This chart shows simple swaps for popular processed foods like donuts and pizza
Why are processed foods addictive?
Endorphins are released when consuming processed foods, and this causes a «high» experience that inevitably leads to a crash, according to Ifland. «And in the crash, you become desperate to get out of the crash,» she says, prompting you to eat more processed foods.
Unprocessed foods give you a high boost, thanks to an endorphin release as well; it just doesn’t end in a serious accident, she notes.
When you stop eating processed foods, «you get better emotional control because you don’t have all that adrenaline and cortisol in your bloodstream. You get better digestion,» says Ifland.
«We’re seeing all kinds of things go into remission, and that’s because cells all over the body are starting to work again.»
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