Why Do We Love Food


New research on the biological, social, and cultural forces that shape our appetites can shed some light on food addiction, eating disorders and your strange midnight cravings

Life’s sweetest memories and toughest struggles often revolve around what goes into our mouths.
Perhaps that’s why our relationships with food can be as tumultuous as any romantic entanglement. But new research on the biological, social and cultural forces that shape our appetites could help us find harmony – at last.

There was the one you took to bed, even though you knew you’d regret it the next morning and the one you didn’t want any of your friends to know about. And – of course – the one you knew was good for you but just didn’t turn you on.

If only we were talking about men – not tubs of ice-cream, chicken wings and steamed spinach. Compared with food, romantic partners are relatively simple. Yes, they sometimes cause you to cry, swear, or toss a few shirts out onto the footpath, but you can always walk away from those relationships. You and food, on the other hand, are stuck together for life.

Even if you consider yourself “normal” when it comes to what you choose to eat, your relationship with food is probably more complicated than you realise. It might be the most complex relationship in your life, which explains why a recent poll of more than 6000 Women’s Health* readers found that nearly 30 per cent of women feel stressed about food – every single day.

Sometimes that angst can manifest in extreme ways: according to SANE Australia, approximately two per cent of Australians will be diagnosed with an eating disorder at some point in their lives (90 per cent will be women), and 27 per cent are obese, according to Roy Morgan market research. But even among those of us whose approach to food isn’t physically unhealthy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who is totally free of food issues.


For many, it’s guilt about overeating or caving in to cravings for things we know aren’t good for us. In other cases, it’s more of a quirk – such as avoiding foods with a certain texture or colour, or shuddering if our vegetables and meat touch. For most of us, it’s the fact that food is much more than the simple fuel our ancestors considered it to be. A piece of chocolate might be a sin, a reward or a comfort. Or all three. Is it any wonder that a balanced, unremorseful attitude towards food is practically extinct?

In her book Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path To Almost Everything, author Geneen Roth describes how the way women eat is inseparable from the way they feel about themselves. “No matter how sophisticated or wise or enlightened you believe you are, how you eat tells all. The world is on your plate. When you begin to understand what prompts you to use food as a way to numb or distract yourself, the process takes you to the bright centre of your own life.”

So why do we love food one minute and hate it the next? Many reasons: physiology, genetics, family, cultural baggage… But the relationship each of us has with the stuff we put in our mouths doesn’t have to be so turbulent. Once we have a clearer picture of what precisely shapes our eating behaviour, we can start enjoying our food a whole lot more.


Tip of your tongue

Tastebuds may not rank on your list of the most important body parts, but they could be partly responsible for your cave-dwelling ancestors’ surviving to fight another mammoth. Scientists have long hypothesised that because toxic foods often taste bitter, the ability to distinguish flavours is an evolutionary advantage.

If you have a sweet tooth, you can chalk that up to your genes, too, because your taste preferences are coded in your DNA. A study published in Physiology & Behavior found that as much as 45 per cent of our food preferences are determined by genetics. Among the things controlled by biology is the number of tastebuds you have, and that – in combination with genes for what you taste – can determine whether you’re extra sensitive to most foods and therefore more inclined to be picky about what you eat.

We may not be wired to like bitter flavours, but we can learn to enjoy them with repeated exposure (think back to the first time you drank coffee… or beer). And this process often starts early, even in utero. A study at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in the US found that when women drank carrot juice during pregnancy, their babies were willing to eat more baby cereal mixed with carrot juice than were the babies of mothers who didn’t drink the juice – and they presumably enjoyed it more too, since they grimaced less during their feedings.

But while a large part of what we like to eat is driven by simple biology, even more isn’t – 55 per cent, according to the Physiology & Behavior study. Some of it is learned: a baby may grab whatever is on her parents’ plates, picking up their food preferences in the same way she picks up their language. We also adopt our folks’ attitudes about food. Dr Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating and founder of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, US, recalls a colleague who grew up hearing from her mum that it’s “low-class” to eat lollies between meals. Because her mother stigmatised the practice, the woman never indulged in it herself.

Our earliest associations about food – the ones we can end up retaining for life – are formed during childhood. So if you couldn’t watch TV unless you ate your broccoli, eating it might feel like a chore now. Jessica Philips, 28, recalls how as a child she wasn’t allowed to leave the table until her plate was clean. “I grew up with images of poverty in Africa and starving children on TV,” she says. “It was ingrained in me to not allow any food wastage. So even though I’m full, I’ll carry on eating because I can’t bear to throw anything away. My husband jokes that we should get a dog to feed scraps to.”

On the flip side, the foods we find most comforting are the ones we associate with positive emotions. A woman in one of Dr Wansink’s studies loved to munch on popcorn mixed with M&M’s because it made her feel domestic, cosy, and safe – the emotions she felt as she prepared this same snack with her university boyfriend, the man she eventually married. “Even if the memories are vague,” says Dr Wansink, “the feelings they evoke pull you to these foods when you want to boost your mood or sustain a happy feeling.”


Our food, ourselves
The way we think about food becomes as much about what it symbolises as it is about memories, associations and even taste. In the same way you might wear a Rabbitohs jersey to show your loyalty to the team, you may hang on to a fondness for a certain food that connects you to your childhood or ethnic background.

“Food is part of every rite of passage,” says psychologist Dr Kima Cargill.

“It’s a way to connect to one’s ancestors and tell a story or a family or cultural narrative or to manage bereavement,” she says. In other words, food can be who you are, what you want to remember, what you hope for and what you’ve lost – in addition to what you’re putting into your body. With a relationship that intimate, how could we not get emotional about it?
Cultural and social expectations often shape the way we feel about how, or how much, we eat. Priya Ramachandran, 36, grew up in India, where her family considered it uncouth to let food touch anything but the tips of your fingers. “If I have to eat a huge slice of pizza or a long sub, some amount of palm touching is inevitable,” she says. “Inside, I’m cringing.” When she can, she cuts larger slices of pizza in half, and she won’t go anywhere near a hamburger.

In the Western world, where thinness is prized, it’s common for women to down a hefty dose of guilt along with any food they order – especially dessert, says Dr Elizabeth Lombardo, author of A Happy You. It comes down to a feeling of control, she says. If we eat dessert, we may think we have no self-restraint. We’re weak. Dessert wins.
Jane Hedman, 30, knows this battle all too well. “Every time a colleague has a birthday, I have a half hour internal monologue about whether I’m going to skip lunch in favour of a piece of cake.
My workmate, on the other hand, never skips lunch. He just eats the damn cake.”

Re-friending food
You can’t alter your DNA, change your cultural background or turn back the clock and make your pregnant mother scull vegetable juice. But now that you understand how these and other factors influence the way you eat and the way you feel about eating, you can work towards making each new experience with food a pleasurable one. It’s a matter of giving yourself permission to enjoy what’s on your plate instead of fretting over whether you’re not eating the right thing, the right amount or the right way, says Dr Lombardo. Here, some other tips to help you savour more and stress less:

FOCUS ON YOUR FOOD You may not have time to enjoy every bite of every meal, but turning off the TV and sitting at a table will help you take more pleasure in what you’re eating.

BUT DON’T BE HYPERVIGILANT “Being too aware of what and how much you eat can turn you into a food obsessive,” says Dr Wansink. “Not to mention that having a mindset of ‘If I walk two kilometres, I can eat this many chips’ is a terrible way to live.”

Deprivation will just set you up for failure. “It’s a whole lot more liberating to say to yourself ‘I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, as long as I know how much I actually want’,” says Dr Wansink. We like the way this man thinks.

If you feel like steak, go ahead and order it, even if everyone else at your table is having salad. Don’t take on other people’s emotional static. “Repeat this mantra,” advises Dr Lombardo: “I choose to enjoy this food.” See, at the end of the day, each of us has to decide for ourselves if we want food to be our enemy or a dear (and delicious) friend.


Just How Many Germs Get Passed from Double Dipping?


You’re at a party, snacking on chips and dip, when you witness the disgusting: A guest takes a chip, dips it, takes a bite, then dips it right back in the same bowl of seven-layer deliciousness you’ve been scooping from for the last 30 minutes. Yep, she’s a double-dipper. And she’s likely been doing it all night—which means you’ve probably been enjoying a side of her saliva with your tortilla chips.

Sound familiar? Double dipping is a common phenomenon. An informal poll at the Prevention office found that 55 percent of people admit to double-dipping half-eaten chips, pretzels, baby carrots, and other sauce-scooping devices at dinner parties and gatherings.

The other 45 percent had one response for those who do double dip: Ewww…Protesting that the mere idea conjures images of dip bowls swarming with bacteria and viruses that could leave them sick in bed for weeks. (Here’s how your food can get contaminated even before you eat it.)

What’s the truth, though? It’s unlikely that eating out of the same bowl as a double-dipper will actually make you sick.

Sure, if the double-dipper has or has recently recovered from the flu, a stomach bug, or a virus like strep throat, it’s possible that you could get sick, as long if they’re still contagious, says Philip Tierno Jr, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU School of Medicine. But that’s only a possibility, not a prediction. The likelihood of you actually getting sick is extremely slim, thanks to the bacteria that live in your mouth.

Here’s how it works:

  • When someone double dips, they introduce a tiny, microscopic amount of their bacteria—good and bad, alike—into the dip bowl.
  • If your chip or crudité happens to come into contact with their bacteria, there’s a chance that it could make it into your mouth. But once there, those bugs will be attacked by millions of bugs in your mouth—and since everyone’s bacteria is different, your bugs won’t take kindly to any invading bad ones.
  • And because there’s way more of your good bacteria in your mouth than bad bacteria that might come from the double-dipper, those bad bugs don’t really stand a chance. (Here are the 10 dirtiest foods you can eat.)

The likelihood of you actually getting sick is extremely slim.
If the offending double-dipper is carrying a virus, there’s an even smaller chance you’ll get sick. Unlike bacteria, which are pretty hearty, most viruses don’t live outside the body for very long. A good chunk of cold and flu viruses, for example, will only survive in the dip for about 15 minutes.

The exception is norovirus, which can live outside of your body for days. Scooping up less than 100 particles of this virus can leave you with your head over the toilet bowl a few hours later.

So since there’s still a small chance you’ll pick up a virus or a disease-causing bacteria from the small amount a double-dipper adds to a communal bowl, it might be best to avoid eating from a bowl you know has been double-dipped—especially if you know your friends have been sick.

Credit: Women’s health

Three (3) Surprisingly Bad Things That Can Happen If You Eat Too Many Nuts

peanuts frame

The problem with addictively eating nuts is that there are some real health risks. Here are the three worst ways nuts can derail your diet and negatively affect your health when you eat too many.


1. You gain weight—quickly.
Yes, there’s a ton of research showing that nuts can help you lose weight. But there’s a big caveat to all the studies on nuts and weight loss: It applies if and only if you eat a moderate amount. Eat more than the recommended daily handful, and you’ll quickly accomplish the exact opposite effect by gaining weight—and much more rapidly than you might by overeating other foods. That’s because nuts are extra calorie-dense, meaning they have more energy per ounce than most other foods. For example, one ounce of almonds has 163 calories while the same weight in cooked pasta has a mere 37 calories.

stomach ache

2. You have digestive issues.

If you ever felt gassy or bloated after eating nuts, you’re not alone. It’s a common side effect, thanks to compounds in nuts called phytates and tannins, which make them difficult to digest. This is actually a survival trait for nuts, so that if an animal swallows them, they can pass through its digestive system and still have a chance of growing into a new plant when they come out the other side, largely undigested. Unfortunately, though, the trick also works on humans, causing gas and bloating if you eat too many. (These 7 foods are also making you bloated.) If that wasn’t bad enough, eating too much fat—found abundantly in nuts—at one time can lead to diarrhea, says Alan R. Gaby, MD, author of Nutritional Medicine.

How to prevent these unpleasant problems? Stick to the recommended daily serving size, or opt for sprouted nuts, which have already began to turn into plants, making them easier to digest, says Lily Nichols, RDN.

fall hair

3. Your hair falls out, your nails get brittle, your breath stinks, and your muscles and joints might begin to ache.

These are all symptoms of selenium poisoning, which is a rare but serious condition that you can get from eating too many Brazil nuts (all other nuts are safe). One serving of these nuts, or 8 whole pieces, has 10 times the recommended daily amount of selenium (55 micrograms). They’re so rich in this nutrient, in fact, that some experts like Joel Fuhrman, MD, director of research at the Nutritional Research Foundation, recommend eating no more than 4 a day—and even then, not every day.

Credit : Prevention .com

Addictive Foods, According To Science


Food Addiction Rating: 3.73
Chocolate has long been thought of as an indulgence. A study at Drexel University found that people experienced craving and pleasure when eating chocolate similar to the feeling people get when they take drugs. In terms of what it will do for your waistline, you’ll consume 210 calories from a single Hershey’s chocolate bar, and 13 grams of fat.


2.Potato chips (tied with chocolate)
Food Addiction Rating: 3.73
Tying for second place, chips are a snacker’s best friend (or enemy, depending on how you see it). No one can eat just one. Research presented to the 2013 meeting of the American Chemical Society found that when given the choice between potato chips and their regular food, rats overwhelmingly chose potato chips, which had a marked effect on their brain behavior. The rats ate to excess for pleasure rather than for hunger, according to the study’s main researcher, Dr. Tobias Hoch, Ph.D. Nutritionally, chips are loaded with fat. A serving of 30 chips will set you back 320 calories and a whopping 20 grams of fat.


Food Addiction Rating: 3.71
A much-touted study at Connecticut College found that Oreo cookies were as addictive as cocaine when given to rats. Though there have been several critics of the study, other studies have found that there is truth to the sugar-drug connection. Read more about it here. In terms of nutrition, four small chocolate chip cookies have 192 calories and 10 grams of fat.

ice cream

4.Ice cream
Food Addiction Rating: 3.68
The creaminess is what draws you in, but it’s also your undoing. By virtue of what ice cream is—cream and milk—it contains very high levels of bad-for-you saturated fat. That means eating ice cream regularly isn’t great for your weight. One serving of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream, for example, contains 230 calories and 14 grams of fat.



Food Addiction Rating: 3.60
They’re crispy and delicious, which makes you crave more, but fried foods like French fries have been linked to a potentially harmful substance called acrylamide, which according to the FDA, has been shown to cause certain kinds of cancer in animals. While more research is being done, nutritional experts suggest cutting down eating fried foods. The nutritional info on French fries is also cause to pause, with a large order of McDonald’s fries having an astonishing 510 calories and 24 grams of fat.


Food Addiction Rating: 3.51
The cheesy goodness is enough to make you swoon, but cheeseburgers also pack a lot of artery-hardening components including saturated fat and sodium. A Burger King cheeseburger has 270 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 630 mg of salt (which is almost half of the daily recommended amount, according to the American Heart Association.)


Food Addiction Rating: 3.29
One thing’s for sure, we love our soda! The average American drinks about 40 gallons of it a year, and if that isn’t enough to blow your mind, we consume over 6 tablespoons of added sugar a day, half of which comes from sugary drinks. Soda has also been linked to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer. Your best bet: stick to water!


Food Addiction Rating: 3.26
Rich and chocolaty, red velvety, vanilla swirly—who doesn’t melt at a piece of cake? One study even claims that eating a breakfast that’s high in protein, carbohydrates and includes a dessert like cake, can actually help you lose weight. But most other researchers agree: cake generally contains a lot of not-so-good-for-you processed sugar and fat. A slice of chocolate cake with


Credit: Huffingpost