Fully loadedAlmost everyone has experienced late-night cravings or eaten more in a single sitting than they may have intended, but certain foods can actually increase the likelihood of overindulging.
“In general, its foods that are digested very quickly,” says Jamie Pope, a registered dietician and instructor of nutrition at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She explains that these foods don’t take much effort to eat and are less difficult for the body to break down, leading to spikes or dips in blood sugar that can increase your appetite and make you feel hungry not long after they’re consumed.
Read on to find out which foods are more likely to lead to some inadvertent binges. Just keep in mind that these foods aren’t necessarily bad for you, as long as you can control the cravings they may induce, and some people will be more sensitive to their effects than others based on body chemistry.
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Ramen NoodlesRamen noodles are a staple among college students because they’re easy to make and rather inexpensive, but they won’t do anything to satisfy your hunger. In fact, thanks to the fact these products typically contain the flavor enhancer Monosodium glutamate in their flavoring packets, they just might be making you hungrier than you were before you ate them.
According to Nicole Kuhl, a certified clinical nutritionist and director of nutrition at holistic medical group LifeSpan Medicine, the adverse health effects some people associate with MSG are still open to debate. MSG has been shown to increase appetite by inducing an insulin response, though, an assessment is supported by numerous studies linking the ingredient to obesity in humans as well as in rats and mice.
“It drops your blood sugar,” Kuhl says, explaining that this leads to cravings as your body seeks to restore its sugar levels.
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PastriesSugar, in general, can stimulate the pleasure pathway to the brain and, for many people, become addictive.
“There’s no shut-off valve,” Kuhl says, adding that sensitive consumers should be especially cautious around foods that contain white or refined sugars, including cakes, brownies or other pastries.
“You need to secrete more insulin to process [white sugar],” says Elizabeth Trattner, a Miami-based acupuncture physician. The increased amount of insulin, in turn, processes the food too quickly and can cause a person to feel hungry two hours later after their blood sugar plummets back down.
To minimize the chance of constant cravings, Trattner suggests looking for sweets that are also high in fiber or contain nuts and other fats that will slow down the sugar’s absorption into your bloodstream.
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Plain BagelsRefined carbohydrates made with white flour will invoke a similar response and can lead someone to overindulge well past the point of being satisfied. To minimize the carbo-loading, Pope suggests pairing a similar portion of your favorite white breads with a bit of protein. For example, consumers can try topping half of a bagel with peanut butter.
“It will alter the rate of absorption and mitigate the effects of the carbohydrates on your blood stream,” Pope says.
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Fried ChickenPope explains that while foods high in fat can take longer to process and spare you the insulin spike, they don’t “add a lot of volume to a diet.” This can inadvertently lead a person to consume more calories than they need to. (Consider, for instance, that you can eat a grilled chicken breast in the same amount of bites as a fried one, but the latter is slathered in oil.)
“You can eat a lot more calories without making a dent in your appetite,” Pope says, suggesting people stick to the grilled versions of their favorite proteins.
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AlcoholAlcohol, Kuhl says, can cause a person “to eat foods they normally wouldn’t even think about eating” by lowering a person’s inhibitions and triggering the same insulin response as the other items on this list. (Many liquors, after all, are full of sugar.) Whether you overeat, though, will ultimately depend on your personal tolerance, she adds.
“It’s a dose response,” she says, adding that consumers should figure out how many drinks they can have before their appetite kicks into overdrive and they start looking for a fourth meal.
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Diet SodaAccording to Kuhl, the aspartame used to sweeten many diet or sugar-free drinks can stimulate hunger by spiking a person’s insulin and by reducing serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked to feelings of happiness.
“It can increase hunger,” says Gloria Tsang, a registered dietician and founder of the online nutrition network HealthCastle.com.
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Regular SodaBut Pope says regular soda is what’s to be avoided, as are many other foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup. While, similar to MSG, the adverse health effects that have become associated with this type of sugar are still being debated among health professionals, it can lead to insatiable cravings, especially in sensitive individuals.
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10 Not-So-Healthy Health FoodsWhat foods do people commonly turn to when on a diet that aren’t as healthy as they think they are? Find out in this MainStreet roundup!
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