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As I stroll down the aisles of a new wholesale food chain specializing in organic foods, temptation continues to pull me to the snack foods section, specifically chips. Stopping and standing in front of my favorite brand of chips, I hear my inner voice state, “Stop; you know you can’t eat just one.” 

The food industry intently orchestrates the allure and addiction to snack foods for monetary purposes. Food industries consistently hire food chemists to manipulate food to create an intense desire or craving to keep us coming back for more and to entice new users. The main addicting substances are derivatives of sugars, salt, and fats. Food chemists meticulously adjust these ingredients in just the right proportions to optimize the pleasure senses within the brain. Thus, creating an environment of food addiction for these ultra-processed foods (UPF)

Food addiction refers to a condition of enjoying food and experiencing a pleasurable dopamine brain reward response like the use of recreational drugs such as cocaine. To maintain that gratifying feeling, you are inclined to excessively eat food as though you are losing control.   Some may refer to this action as chasing the high. For example, as the ad elegantly states, “you can’t eat just one  .” As a result, you may often want to overeat chocolate, candy, ice cream, milkshakes, cookies, brownies, or even potato chips. These nutrient-deficient foods are chemical formulations/by-products of sugars, fats, and salts combined with other unnatural additives, all to get us hooked and return for more.

The calculated strategic addition of these ingredients to the food chain and unnatural substances such as artificial preservatives, color, flavor enhancers, dyes, and food stabilizers make food more palatable and satisfying. However, as a result, it opens the pathway to an unhealthy craving/addiction for the nutrient-deficient industrial formulation, defined as ultra-processed food (UPF). UPF is a formulation created by food industries by refining and processing natural food, recreating it into an entirely different form through the addition of unhealthy substances. A few examples of Ultra-process foods include sweets, pre-packaged cookies and cakes, chips, chocolate, sausages/hot dogs/cold cuts, chicken nuggets, breakfast cereals, veggie burgers, soft drinks, and pre-packaged meals (microwave dinners).

UPF is detrimental to health and associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and cancer. Evidence-based research shows the additive carrageenan promotes an environment for inflammation by disturbing the gut microbiota composition. Studies are suggesting the intake of UPF could be the leading cause of childhood obesity and the rise of type-2 diabetes in children. Studies verify consumption of UFP adds 500 calories to the average daily intake. Children are consuming these foods at an alarming rate.   Data also present that 58% of calories in the U.S. are from UPF.

What exactly should we eat? First, we must address why we eat. Food is essential, and the body’s only energy source for everyday functions. Food also supplies nutrients to build and restore body tissues to maintain health. Evidence-based research recommends choosing foods that lower disease risk and promote health. These contain minimally processed foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, seafood, and whole grains.    Follow a Mediterranean-style meal-plan rich in Phyto-chemical, heart-healthy fats, and seafood. You are what you eat.

I am reflecting on my trip down the snack aisle; Popcorn kernels are convenient to the right of the chips. Popcorn, a natural with no added preservative, was chosen over chips. Air-popped popcorn is an excellent snack low in calories and rich in antioxidants and fiber.

Life is all about choices.    Choose Wisely. Your health and well-being are dependent upon it.