I recently wrote about salt addiction and this brought me to search about other addictive food items. I will concentrate myself today on the big ones: salt, fat and sugar. Still, I think I do not need to insist too much about sugar on a ZC blog including, hopefully, the hazards of artificial sweeteners.
When I say sugar, I mean here the taste of sugar. Because even if the “unsweeteness” of flour or rice, for example, do not create the same “instant gratification reaction” of the sweet taste, it seems the pleasure reaction on your brain is delayed and as soon as the starch is broken down in glucose (which begins already in the mouth…), your blood sugar goes up and you get the intense hit. Of course, the gluten has also an important role to play here but this is another subject…
Let’s first consider fat. It seems the human body has a “love affair” with fat. It is comprehensible as it is the macro elements that bring the most calories per gram to our body and so we were programmed to fancy fat for survival purpose. Strangely, if you try to eat coconut oil or plain butter by itself, the risk of binging are near zero. So why do we like so much fat? Well it seems fat needs to be combine to “other stuff” to trigger a sensible brain reward reaction (dopamine and endorphins release). By itself, it is sort of harmless.
For example, studies have shown that fat combined to salt becomes highly addictive. Try now adding sugar to fat, and it gets even worst. Did you notice in the last years how the food industry has created products combining the 3 elements? For example, some chocolate bars now contains, aside cacao butter and a lot of sugar, salt! And the producers are so proud of it, they even write in big letters on the wrapping “WITH SEA SALT” as if it was the discovery of the century. Sad.
So what happens now if you combine salt and sugar??? It seems not too appealing but nowadays most of commercial table salt you purchase at your supermarket or get in a restaurant contains dextrose. This kind of salt usually contains a minimum of 2 anti caking agents and added iodine, so adding sugar in there has only one purpose: reward. Now put some of this on your fatty meat and bang, you have a nice brain hit…
I recently tried to eat butter that I dipped in sea salt. I could feel instantly the “flavor booster” qualities of salt and I easily could eat more. Of course, I did not binge as my satiety levels seemed to be satisfied quite fast on this combination but still, I easily ingested 3-4 times the butter I should have because of the added salt. But… but could you believe the next day, I had “withdrawal” symptoms just like I had in the past when eating carbohydrates? I was in a bad mood, irritable and did not sleep well. I did not repeat the experience the following day and all came back to normal in less then 24 hours.
So I think that on ZC we can quietly have our fats without worrying too much, fats already in the meat and added fats. But we must be careful to check what we add to our meat when cooking. The worst being all the “natural flavorings” you may find nowadays in butters or pre-mix spices. And do not think coconut is safe: there is now on the market an organic “coconut spread” that looks good and innocent and melts nicely on a nice steak but it contains 9 ingredients including canola oil and 6% tans fats…
There is, of course, other things that makes food addictive. For example, grilling a steak will gives more flavor that broiling and certainly more then if you boil or microwave. This will be the subject of another post.
So let’s continue to eat clean and simple, one of the big and important rule on ZC.