It is no secret that people love junk food. Aside from the high rates of obesity sweeping across the Western world, evidence of our worship at the junk food alter is displayed in the amount of fast food chains and companies churning out sugary sweets and processed salty snacks. We all know that there are absolutely no health benefits associated with candy bars, French fried, and cupcakes, and yet we continue to eat them to excess. But why?
Nutrition experts believe that a variety of factors go into our love of food that is not good for us, most notably psychological factors: we crave unhealthy foods when we are unhappy, stressed, or manically happy. Junk food is a comfort food-it makes people feel good, even if only for a brief time. Time is a luxury in modern life and is a quick fix for our stress or inability to focus on eating healthy and cooking nutritious meals.
But there may also be an evolutionary reason that we crave junk food. According to Dr. Leigh Gibson, a Reader in Biopsychology at Roehampton University, cravings can be linked to prehistoric times when humans needed to acquire foods high in calories for survival. Craving high calorie, junk food type foods meant that you could go longer between meals when food was an uncertainty. The problem today is that society has evolved too rapidly for physiological evolution to catch up. In the privileged Western world, food is in excess, but we are still wired to crave it as if it were scarce. In tandem with our psychologically stressed lives, this creates a recipe for disaster.
So how do you avoid the junk food pitfall? There is no secret to avoiding those sweet and salting foods. Like most other things in life, eating healthy is a choice that is reinforced by a daily, conscious effort. A nutritious diet and exercise are the keys to living a healthier, happier life, so it is important to maintain control over your cravings for junk foods-they are a quick mental and physical fix that contribute to long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Still, don’t feel guilty if you find yourself craving a bag of crisps or a Mars bar: our love of junk food is a part of our biological make-up. But if you believe in mind over matter, then you know that you can curb your junk food cravings and stay on the healthy lifestyle path. There is nothing wrong with indulging yourself in a sweet or salty treat, but it shouldn’t become a lifestyle.