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Why You Like Processed Food - Craving for Junk Food Explained!

Updated on August 17, 2017
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Imran is an anthropologist who coaches people in self improvement. He excels in communication.

A History of Liking

When I was a child, whenever I imagined, smelled, or saw someone having chips, I wanted to have too. I used to cry until I got it.

Five years back, I had the same craving, except that the eatables in the list of processed food had increased, and I didn't cry as such (I could buy them).

Even today, as an adult (don't start guessing my age), I get tempted. Although, resistance is in my control.

I am sure you relate to my example as yours may not be any different.

Since 1960, Junk food has been enticing people of all age groups and has never lost its popularity. Although less in nutrition and high in elements like sugar, fats, and carbohydrates, Junk food is widely consumed.

People also call it canned, frozen, packet, processed, fast, or convenience food. As it is unhealthy, everybody avoids eating it. You know much information about the packet products, namely:

1) The ingredients:

  • Sodium
  • Syrups
  • Carbohydrates
  • Synthetic vitamins
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Additives and preservatives.

2) Disadvantages:

  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Uncontrolled cravings
  • Unhealthy lifestyle
  • Eating at irregular hours
  • Careless attitude
  • Laziness.

3) Health effects:

  • Acne
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Dental issues
  • Constipation.

And yet you eat processed snacks. You like it and have favorites too. Ever wondered why? This article explains why and how you like and crave to eat junk foods.


1) People say they can easily plan other tasks, but they find it difficult to figure out how to eat healthy.

2) At least 1 in 4 people consume some type of junk food every day.

Reasons to Like and Crave

1) Imagination and Flashback

Imagine eating your favorite packet snack. Imagine how you will feel while you eat it. Visualize everything about it.

Below is what happens when you imagine:

  • Your mind is able to sense the make, the appearance, the quality, the taste as well as the experience.
  • The brain senses the pleasure you would get if you ate the food.
  • The flashbacks of the memories from the past remind you of the pleasant experiences you have continually encountered, and, at the same time, encourage you to have the processed eatables again.

That is how imagination and flashback influence.

If you want to blame someone, blame 'The Basolateral Amygdala' (BLA) in the brain.

Understand it scientifically below.

Science: BLA Compels Liking and Craving

  • The Basolateral Amygdala in the temporal lobe of our brain stores pleasant and unpleasant memories.
  • Enjoyments felt from tastes and smells become a part of good memories.
  • The BLA makes a note of experiences that make you happy.
  • The mind knows you will cherish the joyous moments later.
  • 'Dopamine' (chemical that triggers pleasure) released from 'Hypothalamus' of the brain send signals and creates cravings.
  • Our brain loves pleasure, so the basolateral nucleus (remembering the history of pleasant experiences) encourages you to repeat the task.

Same is the case with convenience foods. They have a strong appeal. Disappointments are rare. The joyful moments from the past act as a motivator. As the brain loves pleasure, the 'BLA' pushes you to eat junk snacks repeatedly.


2) Taste buds:

Taste buds (an average person has around 10,000 of them) have a life cycle that usually lasts from 10 days to two weeks. Now, that's too long (of a period) to show resistance. Furthermore, the cells in your tongue reinvigorate palatability all the time. Thus, flavors never die. They grow back, so you crave for more.

3) The role of smell:

The moment you smell food somewhere, your nostrils send a message to the brain and create a desire. Your mind reacts and wants to grab a bite.

4) Too many ingredients/varieties:

You must have heard the saying 'variety is the spice of life.' That applies to the mind too. Your skillful brain loves variety, so it wants to eat different foods and enjoy the taste of assorted flavors. Not all eatables are rich in nutrition.
Because packet and canned items are abundant in ingredients and much in variety, the fascination and the excitement created by the brain tempt us to have them.

5) Quick Energy:

Your mind and body exert continuously to do daily tasks; you, therefore, need foods that have enormous energy. Junk meals are high in carbohydrates, fats, and sugar. Intake of them can quickly regulate vitality. That's because two of the main energy sources for the body are carbohydrate and fats. Processed meals have plenty of them. Initially, the body and mind use the vigor from such foods. It's only later when the body understands that the power from the source was excessive and synthetic (artificial), and then the imbalance starts.

Junk food tricks the mind and body that way. We think it's a high energy resource. Also, Relying on the deceiving information on the packet, we buy and eat them.

6) Dehydration:

When you are dehydrated, you loose water, electrolytes, and salt from the body. Your body demands immediate intake of these constituents for hydration. Consumption of salt helps to retain water levels. Canned and packet items are high in sodium, so a need and desire is created.


People assume that all sources of calories are beneficial; All believe carbohydrates, sugar, and fats are important sources of energy.

What they overlook is that the improper intake of foods with these nutrients also cause weight gain, cholesterol imbalance, and other health issues.

More Reasons

7) You are outgoing and social:

  • You are a party person.
  • You hardly stay at home.
  • You socialize very often.
  • You eat most of the meals outside.

When I turn into one of these people, my appetite is hardly healthy. In fact, my cravings become high and are insatiable. If you fall in one of the above categories, your lifestyle is unhealthy. You prefer sustenance options that are convenient. You consume those low nutritional stuff as there is no discipline in schedules and your timetable is messed up.

8) Cheat meals:

Days when you are allowed to take breaks from dieting, workout, or fitness programmes, you become very casual and ingest greasy and unhealthy eatables in excess. Temptations overstep the line of control.

9) Defined patterns:

When I go for a movie, I have to buy popcorns, wafers, soft drinks and more. Aren't these snacks full of preservatives and flavors? I assume the movie won't be fun otherwise. Is that a belief, superstition, or habitual pattern? Like this, there are many defined occasions and scenarios where junk food has its massive presence. Like me, you also have your share in feasts. You have defined patterns too. Don't you? Habits also form liking for the products.

Some most common causes (known to all) are listed below too. Have a look at them.

Popular Factors

  • 10) Anxiety and stress.
  • 11) Lack of sleep.
  • 12) Addiction.
  • 13) Sweet tooth.
  • 14) Moods.
  • 15) Alcohol consumption.

These are some drivers that I discovered through research, observations, and experience that influence people to like processed food.

The causes for craving explained above are also some reasons to like junk food more than healthy food.

© 2017 Imran Khan


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