Have you ever described a cookie or double-fudge brownie as addictive? Ever claim to be “jonesing” for a cheeseburger or a soda, or admit that you needed to get your daily french fry “fix”? Food addiction may sound light and funny, like a harmless cousin to more serious drug, alcohol, and behavioral addictions. But food addiction can be just as serious. It can lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and fatigue, and it can have other serious effects on mental and emotional health.
What’s more, evidence suggests that food addiction is very common. A survey of past studies using the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) suggests that as many as 20% of people may have a food addiction. Another recent study, also using YFAS, measured the addictiveness of different foods. The findings confirmed that the most addictive foods were heavily processed foods with more fat and sugar.
The 10 Most Addictive Foods
According to participants in the study, who rated a wide range of commonly loved foods, the 10 most addictive foods were:
- Ice cream
- French fries
- Soda (not diet)
Also near the top: Bacon, fried chicken, plain rolls, buttered popcorn, breakfast cereal, gummy candy, steak, and muffins.
How to Resist Food Addiction
Food addiction, like any addiction, has to do with your body chemistry and your brain. Not only are the foods above tasty and fun to eat, they also trigger massive sugar imbalances in your blood and dopamine reactions in your brain—two factors linked with food and other addictions. You get a short-term reward, frequently followed by a hollow feeling and craving for more.
The solution? Eat more whole, single-ingredient foods. Meet the 10 least addictive foods, according to that same YFAS-based study:
- Beans with no sauce
- Brown rice
- Corn with no butter or salt
Also near the bottom in terms of addiction: granola bars, crackers, pretzels, chicken breasts, eggs, and nuts.