If you find yourself constantly ordering fettuccine Alfredo at your favorite Italian place, or can’t resist that piece of cake your co-worker brought into the office, you’re not alone. There’s a scientific explanation behind these common temptations.
A recent study asked hungry participants to bid on different types of foods. The food options ran the gamut from candy bars to cheese. When people saw foods that were high in both carbs and fats—like pasta or cake—they started bidding. What’s more, a screen monitoring their brain activity lit up like a Christmas tree.
The study also found that when introduced to this type of food, participants were willing to bid even more money for other snacks that also contained higher percentages of carbs and fat.
Just in case this article is starting to set off those same signals in your brain, here’s a roundup of most decadent chocolate cakes. Go ahead, indulge!
Why you have intense cravings for comfort food
To put it simply, your cravings are caused by reward signals sent to the brain. Think of these like tiny pulses telling your body “yes!”. Foods with high fat content tend to send reward signals to the brain via a particular route, while carbohydrate-heavy foods send reward signals on and entirely different route. When it comes to a food that’s heavy with both carbs and fat (hello, Big Mac!) all of those routes are activated at once, giving the food an addictive quality.
You can curb cravings by keeping your body well-fed. Read up on 10 hunger-fighting foods will help you feel full.
While almost everyone loves a good helping of fries, (try making them yourself next time) eating foods with large amounts of unhealthy carbs and fat can backfire. Many processed foods are so cognitively scrumptious that people tend to overeat them. They are a huge contributing factor to problems with obesity. If you’re trying to overpower science, here are ways to trick yourself into hating junk food.
This is the only natural fat-carb combo
You won’t find many fat- and carb-heavy combos in nature. (Though we dream of Devil’s food cake growing in the cornfield!) While it makes sense that these culinary concoctions are our own doing, there is one exception to the rule: breast milk. In fact, it’s the only non-processed food that falls into this category. You can imagine how the reward signals that a baby receives from its mother can help an infant learn to crave food, just as we do now.
However, cakes, fries and other favorite treats are by no means necessary in our mature diets—but they sure are enjoyable. Our conclusion? Indulge in moderation. And blame all that drooling over chocolate cake on science!
Next, check out our lightened up versions of classic comfort food.