Why we crave junk food flavours

Getty Images Image by: Getty Images Author: Canadian Living


Why we crave junk food flavours

Have you ever stared at a single Dorito chip and wondered when it became a flavour-bomb, with more spice, cheese and salt that you’d need in a whole dinner? Well, that’s the nutrition puzzle author Mark Schatzker explores in his new book The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavour.

He asks the inverse question, too: "Have you ever wondered why those perfectly red tomatoes from the supermarket taste like tap water? And did a simple roast chicken always require half a pound of seasoning?"

Schatzker writes that the foods we eat have been undergoing massive flavour shifts in the past 50 years. “Tomatoes, chicken, strawberries—everything we grow is bigger and cheaper, but blander than ever,” he writes on his website. “At the same time, technology now lets us produce in the lab the very flavors that have been lost on the farm. And the result is that we have utterly transformed what, and how much, we eat.”

It used to be that flavourful food meant healthy food, but that relationship has been turned on its head by factory farming, mass production and our society's quest for cheap food. As Schatzker told the National Post, the taste explosion of artificial flavours on our tongues can trick our brains into thinking we’re eating foods with the nutrients we need when we’re really not. If those flavours are packed into the airy (and inexpensive) Dorito chips we crave, we just keep on eating them because we’re not getting the full feeling we would with, say, a meal of flavourful meats and veggies that would take up more space in our stomachs.

"No matter how much you like peaches," Schatzker told the Post, "there’s no way you could eat 1,200 calories' worth of peaches" because your body gets its nutritional quota in two or three.

Flavour's link to obesity
On the other hand, you might feel like you could eat flavourful junk all day. That's where obesity and its ills come in. All those calories “build up in our bodies and interfere with our circulation, choke off parts of our hearts, wear out our joints and blow out our pancreases,” he writes.

"For half a century, we’ve been making the stuff people should eat—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unprocessed meats—incrementally less delicious," he writes. "Meanwhile, we’ve been making the food people shouldn’t eat—chips, fast food, soft drinks, crackers—taste ever more exciting. The result is exactly what you’d expect."

Now there's something to consider the next time you’re out grocery shopping and lured by the latest flavours in the chip and cracker aisles.

Read on for five craving-busters and healthy snack ideas.


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Why we crave junk food flavours