The 18 Most Addictive Foods (and the 17 Least Addictive)
This number is even higher among people with obesity.
Food addiction involves being addicted to food in the same way as someone with a substance use disorder demonstrates addiction to a particular substance.
People who have food addiction report that they are unable to control their consumption of certain foods.
However, people don't just become addicted to any food. Some foods are much more likely to cause symptoms of addiction than others.
Foods That Can Cause Addictive-Like Eating
Researchers at the University of Michigan studied addictive-like eating in 518 people.
They used the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) as a reference. It's the most commonly used tool to assess food addiction.
All participants received a list of 35 foods, both processed and unprocessed.
They rated how likely they were to experience problems with each of the 35 foods, on a scale of 1 (not at all addictive) to 7 (extremely addictive).
In this study, 7–10% of participants were diagnosed with full-blown food addiction.
In addition, 92% of participants exhibited addictive-like eating behavior toward some foods. They repeatedly had the desire to quit eating them but were unable to do so.
The results below detail which foods were the most and least addictive.
In a 2015 study, 92% of participants exhibited addictive-like eating behavior toward certain foods. 7–10% of them met the researchers' criteria for full-blown food addiction.
The 18 Most Addictive Foods
Not surprisingly, most of the foods rated as addictive were processed foods. These foods were usually high in sugar or fat — or both.
The number following each food is the average score given in the study mentioned above, on a scale of 1 (not at all addictive) to 7 (extremely addictive).
- pizza (4.01)
- chocolate (3.73)
- chips (3.73)
- cookies (3.71)
- ice cream (3.68)
- french fries (3.60)
- cheeseburgers (3.51)
- soda (not diet) (3.29)
- cake (3.26)
- cheese (3.22)
- bacon (3.03)
- fried chicken (2.97)
- rolls (plain) (2.73)
- popcorn (buttered) (2.64)
- breakfast cereal (2.59)
- gummy candy (2.57)
- steak (2.54)
- muffins (2.50)
The 18 most addictive foods were most often processed foods with high amounts of fat and added sugar.
The 17 Least Addictive Foods
The least addictive foods were mostly whole, unprocessed foods.
- cucumbers (1.53)
- carrots (1.60)
- beans (no sauce) (1.63)
- apples (1.66)
- brown rice (1.74)
- broccoli (1.74)
- bananas (1.77)
- salmon (1.84)
- corn (no butter or salt) (1.87)
- strawberries (1.88)
- granola bar (1.93)
- water (1.94)
- crackers (plain) (2.07)
- pretzels (2.13)
- chicken breast (2.16)
- eggs (2.18)
- nuts (2.47)
The least addictive foods were almost all whole, unprocessed foods.
What Makes Junk Food Addictive?
Addictive-like eating behavior involves a lot more than just a lack of willpower, as there are biochemical reasons why some people lose control over their consumption.
This behavior has repeatedly been linked to processed foods, especially those high in added sugar and/or fat.
Processed foods are usually engineered to be hyper-palatable so that they taste really good.
However, the biggest contributor to addictive-like eating behavior is the human brain.
Your brain has a reward center that secretes dopamine and other feel-good chemicals when you eat.
This reward center explains why many people enjoy eating. It ensures that enough food is eaten to get all the energy and nutrients that the body needs.
Eating processed junk food releases massive amounts of feel-good chemicals, compared with unprocessed foods. This yields a much more powerful reward in the brain.
The brain then seeks more reward by causing cravings for these hyper-rewarding foods. This can lead to a vicious cycle called addictive-like eating behavior or food addiction.
Processed foods can cause blood sugar imbalances and cravings. Eating junk food also makes the brain release feel-good chemicals, which can lead to even more cravings.
The Bottom Line
Food addiction and addictive-like eating behavior can create serious problems, and certain foods are more likely to trigger them.
Eating a diet that mostly comprises whole, single-ingredient foods can help reduce the likelihood of developing a food addiction.
They release an appropriate amount of feel-good chemicals, while not triggering the urge to overeat.
Note that many who have food addiction will need help to overcome it. Working with a therapist can address any underlying psychological issues contributing to food addiction, while a nutritionist can design a diet that's free of trigger foods without depriving the body of nutrition.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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