It's late at night and you're itching for a fix. You're obsessed with your drug of choice so you head to the … the kitchen?
Yes, food addiction is real. Studies have found that food addicts and drug addicts experience similar feelings of euphoria. They also experience corresponding crashes. A recent study finds that people who try to cut back on highly processed foods have some of the same withdrawal-type symptoms as people who quit smoking cigarettes or using marijuana.
So which foods launch those cravings and late-night pantry raids? (Hint: It's not broccoli.) Here's a look the foods most likely to trigger addictive feelings.
It's not just college students looking for a gooey, cheesy midnight snack. Called the most popular food in the world, pizza is on the menu for about one in eight Americans every day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Pizza also tops the list of most addictive foods, according to a 2015 University of Michigan study that used the Yale Food Addiction Scale, a survey with questions about eating habits.
Any self-professed chocoholic knows the fulfilling joy of a chocolate candy bar or milk shake. And studies have shown that chocolate can lower your stress levels and help you live longer. Maybe that's why this sweet treat is so soothing. Romantics also swear it acts as an aphrodisiac.
Potato chips and French fries
The trifecta of starchy potatoes, deep frying and saltiness makes for a tempting combination. Canadian obesity researcher Dr. Arya Sharma mentions a study that found receptors in our mouths trigger an addiction-type mechanism in our guts when they come into contact with fat. "This is probably why, just eating one piece of fatty food (say one potato chip or French fry) is so hard – simply eating one makes you want to continue eating till the whole bag or plate is empty."
Cookies and cakes
It's the sugar in these foods that draw you back time and time again. Studies have shown that rats can become dependent on sugar and develop tendencies similar to those associated with addictive drugs. We often tend to reach for a quick sugar fix when we're tired and end up with a quick (but fleeting) burst of energy.
The high-fat content in many ice creams ignites the brain's pleasure center, making you eager for your next serving. A study with teens and milkshakes found that ice cream was as "addictive as drugs."
With 28 grams of fat and 885 milligrams of sodium, a juicy burger dripping with cheese is hardly a nutritional craving. Yet, according to PBS, on average Americans eat three hamburgers per week. That's a national total of almost 50 billion burgers per year.
About one in five Americans drink at least one sugary soda every day. A regular 12-ounce can of cola can have 39 grams of sugar. That's nearly 10 teaspoons! In addition to sugar, soda can have loads of caffeine and excessive amounts can lead to anxiety, insomnia and overall crankiness.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated.