Don’t we hear that our whole lives? We have it engrained in our heads that we should “just say no” whenever anyone offers us a substance that will ultimately alter our brain chemistry and leave us with a nasty, irrational addiction. But guess what? Almost all of us indulge in damaging, brain-altering, addictive substances every day in our food. I’m not a fan of using the fear tactic when it comes to health, but this particular topic seems to practically lend itself to horror stories.

The healthiest diet you can have is one comprised of whole, natural foods. Unfortunately, our health and our food have “industries” attached to them, and it’s hard to creatively market and mass produce products that are cultivated naturally in the way that it is to do so for artificial “fun” foods. I say “fun” because it seems that most people “use” food for recreational purposes rather than for fuel to live and nourish their bodies… much like “using” drugs for recreation. While you might think that weight-gain is the only detriment to indulging in these foods, studies have shown that “High-fat processed food consumption causes damage to the hypothalmus part of your brain – an area responsible for levels of hunger, thirst, and the body’s natural rhythms and cycles” (Read more here).

Here are some tips to prevent and take control of food addiction:

  • According to Food Addiction Summit, a website dedicated to information abut food addiction, “all addictive substances start out as natural substances which are taken through a refinement process. These addictive substances are quickly absorbed, alter brain chemistry, and change mood”(Food Addiction Summit)… one of these addictive substances is fat! I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but be careful about fat being in places you wouldn’t expect because something is labeled as “healthy” or “natural”. Smoothies at Jamba Juice or Smoothie King, for example, pack ice cream into most of their drinks… and ice cream is one of the most chemically addicting foods there is! The fat AND sugar make it a double no-no. However, remember that this isn’t the 90’s, and eliminating fats altogether is also not healthy… stick to good fats found in foods like nuts, avocados, fish, and olive oil.
  • Gluten. Even though you may not be a Celiac or have gluten sensitivity, products with gluten listed in the ingredients are normally way overprocessed and most likely contain substances that your body doesn’t need. Though it isn’t always the case (and some gluten-free foods are just as processed and sugary), you can most likely assume that foods containing gluten will cause a quicker blood-sugar spike than a natural whole food, causing inflammation (the leading cause of most chronic diseases). If you’re used to eating bread, pasta, oats, or other foods that contain gluten, trying to eliminate them can actually cause you to experience a sort of brain fog and cause you to overeat. Healthier grains to try are millet, buckwheat, and brown rice.
  • Lastly, everyone knows that sugar is addictive, but do you know how to avoid it when you’re shopping for groceries or are dining out?  You might think that ordering a salad at a restaurant is healthy, but most of the dressings they use are chock full of sugar (and gluten, which is definitely something that people who ARE diagnosed with Celiac disease should watch out for). Instead of the dressing, try asking for a lemon on the side or a side of oil and vinegar, which is something I do regularly and it doesn’t seem to be a problem. When it comes to sugar in your food, don’t let anyone make the choice for you– eating products or dishes at restaurants that have sneaky traces of sugar is different from making homemade marinades and choosing on your own to put that tablespoon of sugar or brown sugar in the mix. Be smart!

It’s YOUR body and YOUR life… you get out what you put in. Make sure you’re putting in the best!