When you read a food label, what are you looking out for? There’s a lot of information there, from ingredients to calories and added sugar, but one nutrition expert says there’s one thing we should be checking for, but probably aren’t.
Dr. Amy Shah, a Harvard-trained doctor and nutritionist specializing in food allergies and gut health, warns that a lot of foods we buy have toxic additives in them that can actually make us hungrier. She explains that they “hijack the brain to worsen your emotional eating habits,” so avoiding or limiting them can “do your body a whole world of good.”
These are the food additives to be on the lookout for:
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) - It’s added to many flavored foods and it “antagonizes your pancreas into pouring out more insulin,” Shah explains, which makes you feel hungrier. Research has also linked MSG to diabetes and obesity.
- Refined flour - The refining process allows products to stay on shelves longer, but it also takes away the natural vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Refined flour also “jacks up your blood sugar levels fast, spiking your insulin levels and then making them crash,” Shah explains. That reaction makes you hungry very quickly, which is why you may want to eat again after having a bagel.
- Refined sugar - Similar to the way refined flour affects the body, it sends your blood sugar sky-high and then makes it crash soon after, leaving you with intense sugar cravings. Studies show that one form of refined sugar - high fructose corn syrup - slows down the release of leptin, known as the “I’m full” hormone.
- Gluten - It’s a protein in wheat that can also make you hungry because of its “sugar-like properties when refined,” Shah explains, adding that it’s also a gut irritant.
Instead, she encourages us to make polyphenols your best friend - These are a type of micronutrient that helps clear our bloodstreams and toxins and they help control hunger and cravings for unhealthy, additive-filled foods. Foods high in polyphenols include avocados, berries, broccoli, cherries, chili peppers, coffee, dark chocolate, garlic, nuts, olives, onions, and spinach.