Hyper-Palatable Foods and Obesity

Hyperpalatable foods are a significant contributor to obesity and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  Hyper means excessive and palatable means appetizing or something that is pleasing to the taste buds.  These hyper-palatable foods contain certain combinations of sugar, fat, salt, and carbohydrates which tap into the brain’s reward system and make it hard for us to stop eating them.  Examples of foods known to be hyper-palatable include hotdogs, which combine salt and fat; brownies which bring together fat and sugar; and pretzels which contain salt and carbohydrates.

We basically crave for foods that are hyperpalatable.  Studies have been done where images of the brain show that when we are around hyperpalatable foods, ones with lots of sugar, fat and salt, the reward center in our brain lights up.  In fact, it’s pretty well known that the food industry uses this information to design food that we just can’t resist.  Hyperpalatable foods are what drive food addiction.  In fact, researchers have determined that 62% of foods in the United States are hyperpalatable.

One of the main strategies for overcoming food addiction is to avoid hyperpalatable food, at least for a period of time. At the same time, eat regular, well-balanced meals so your brain and body have a chance to get to a more normalized chemical balance.  Increasing protein intake, increasing water intake, and reducing sugar intake can be very helpful in reducing cravings.

When buying foods at the grocery store, be sure to read the ingredients and the nutrition label. Often, the longer the list of ingredients, the more hyperpalatable the food and the more fat, sugar, and sodium content, the more hyperpalatable the food.  In fact, the saying “Don’t Eat Anything Your Grandmother Wouldn’t Recognize” comes to mind.

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