“It’s true that a calorie is a calorie,” Dr. Louis J. Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Loss Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells The Wall Street Journal. “But what that doesn’t take into account is how some calories affect what people eat later on.”
The idea that certain foods disrupt chemical signals in our bodies and cause intensified, unwarranted cravings for food is gaining traction in the scientific field. Research continues to suggest that specific substances in our food cause the suppression of some hormones while triggering others, essentially “tricking” our brains into believing that we feel hungry — even if we’ve just stuffed ourselves.
Here are five food types that you would do best to avoid in order to prevent these kinds of cravings.
1. White bread
White bread is a refined carbohydrate known for triggering food cravings, writes Men’s Health. Many white breads and pastas contain high fructose corn syrup, which deregulates blood sugar, causing spikes and crashes, which in turn activate hunger. It’s been shown that this also triggers the reward and addiction centers in your brain, causing further cravings for processed foods.
In fact, according to WebMD, a recent Spanish study tracked the eating habits and weights of over 9,000 subjects. The study found that those subjects who ate two or more portions per day of white bread were 40 percent likelier to become overweight or obese over a five-year period than those subjects who ate less than one portion of white bread per week. This is, perhaps, because of the cravings triggered by a diet so heavy refined carbs.
2. Salty snacks (chips, pretzels, etc.)
Salty snacks like chips, pretzels, and crackers are simple carbohydrates that digest at a rapid rate, meaning that as soon as you finish munching, your insulin rates will spike and then crash, according to Health. Your taste buds and brain associate fast-acting energy with sweet foods, so as soon as you start feeling the lethargy set in after a sodium-heavy snack, your brain will snap into a sweetness craving mode.
Another reason it’s so easy to fill up on sweets after you’ve just completed a salty nosh is because of a concept called sensory specific satiety (SSS), writes the Guardian. This means that we can have enough of one type of food (salty), but still feel “hungry” for another type (sweet). In essence, we’re eating two stomachs’ worth of food to satisfy those combined cravings.
As Randy Seeley, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati, tells Time, drinking has not been scientifically proven to stimulate appetite. However, consumption of alcohols does lead to impaired judgment, often causing people to eat more than their bodies require — often without realizing it.
Furthermore, boozing tends to affect our leptin levels. Leptin is a naturally occurring hormone that suppresses appetite. When its production is stifled, so are its effects, meaning that alcohol consumption can give individuals a case of the munchies, according to Women’s Health.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
According to the Mayo Clinic, monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a flavor enhancer that is best known for being added to Chinese food, soups, and processed meats. As Health points out, research published in the medical journal Obesity suggests that subjects who consume the greatest amounts of MSG are almost three times as likely to be overweight than those who consume no MSG.
Again, a deficiency in leptin effects may be part of the problem here: Dr. Sue Decotiis, MD, a weight-loss specialist and board-certified internist, tells Health that “The effects of leptin…may be blunted by the damaging effects of MSG on the hypothalamus.”
5. Excessive sugar
As Dr. Aronne tells the Wall Street Journal, foods with a high sugar and fat content promote “fullness resistance.” This means that such foods interfere with the balance and regulation of our body’s complex hormonal messages. While the body generally tries to send messages to the brain to signal it’s time to stop eating, certain additives and substances cause these messages to get jumbled and intercepted, making us feel hungrier — even when we’ve just eaten.
According to Women’s Health, the hormones leptin (appetite suppressant) and ghrelin (hormone that tells the brain you’re hungry) get thrown off balance after the excessive intake of sugar, causing unwarranted and unnecessary hunger signals to be sent to the brain.