You're Addicted To Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
July 14, 2013

You’re Addicted To Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Dairy Queen’s Blizzard. Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts. Red Lobster’s biscuits. Zaxby’s chicken tenders. According to a new survey from Consumer Brand Metrics, these are some of the most addictive foods readily available to American consumers.

The survey asked people which foods they most often craved that they could only get at one restaurant. Krispy Kreme scored highly, as many people simply said they craved all the doughnuts. Though Zaxby’s chicken strips were also scored high, they’re likely most often used as a vehicle for their sauces, which were listed as unique and highly crave worthy.

But is any of this surprising? These establishments and the rest on the list can be praised for formulating a food product that is capable of bringing people to their doors. But are we really craving these foods fortnightly because they’re good or because they’ve been developed to trigger something deep within our brains?

It’s no longer a secret that American taste buds are addicted to fat, salt and sugar. It’s practically the American way.

Earlier this year, Michael Moss wrote a book entitled “Salt Sugar Fat” wherein he discusses not only how we’ve become addicted to these foods, but more importantly that big corporations realize this and take advantage of it to keep us coming back to them for more.

In an interview with CNN, Moss said these companies try to hit what they call a “bliss point,” or the amount of sugar needed in a product to make us feel good and buy up the products. When it came to fat, he claims the industry refers to it as “mouthfeel,” the smooth texture associated with fats that trick our brains into thinking we’ve really got something delicious in our mouths.

“That’s the warm, gooey taste of cheese, or the bite into a crisp fried chicken that you get. It rushes right to the same pleasure centers of the brain that sugar does, but fat is carrying twice as many calories, so it is more problematic from an obesity standpoint. There is almost no limit to the bliss point in fat. If there is one, it’s up in heavy cream some place,” explains Moss.

Krispy Kreme and Zaxby’s sell nothing but fat, salt and sugar.

These items are listed as most crave-able, and knowing what we know about the addictive nature of these foods, it’s not hard to see why.

A single Krispy Kreme doughnut weighs in at 200 calories, 110 of which are from fat. That might not sound like a lot, but if you’re on a reasonable diet of say, 2,000 calories, one small little doughnut packs in ten percent of your daily intake. By the way, that one single doughnut also contains 10 grams of sugar. For context, a single serving of a Krispy Kreme doughnut is 52 grams, meaning 19 percent of the thing is sugar. There’s also a heavy 12 grams of fat in one little ring as well. They’re small and cheap, but also perfectly formulated to trick us into thinking they’re delicious.

Zaxby’s uses the headline “Indescribably Good For Over 20 Years.” Their nutrition info does a pretty good job of describing why so many people consider their food “good.”

A regular sized chicken finger plate comes with five ounces of fries, Zax sauce, one slice of Texas toast, five chicken fingers and a side of coleslaw.

This one meal alone packs in 1,260 calories, more than half of which are from fat. It also checks in with 135 mg of cholesterol and a shocking 2820 mg of sodium. According to the American Heart Association, we shouldn’t have more than 1,500 mg of sodium each day. In one meal, you will have blown past that limit and then some.

And that sauce that people love so much? One ounce of Sweet and Spicy Glaze contains 14 grams of sugar. The BBQ contains 11 and the Teriyaki contains 12. The entire meal contains enough salt fat and sugar to drive our brains into a greasy euphoria. It’s no wonder we crave these foods anytime we catch a whiff of fried chicken in the air or drive past that illuminated “Hot and Fresh Now” signs.

According to Moss, addiction is not a word the food industry has become friendly with.

“That is the one single word that the food industry hates: ‘addiction,’” says Moss.

“They much prefer words like “crave-ability” and “allure.”

Those words sound awful familiar…

In one sense, these companies, the Dairy Queens and The Cheesecake Factories (do you even want to know how much sugar is in a slice of cheesecake? I hope not — that info is listed as “n/a” on their website.) and others have done beautiful jobs of marketing their foods and getting people hooked.

On the other hand, it’s a little diabolical to get right down to the nitty gritty science of it all to understand how our brains react to the chemicals, then work to increase the effects to bring us in more often.

I have no doubt these restaurants are listed as having some of the most crave-able foods; it’s because I know that’s exactly what they were going for. Me, I’d rather mostly eat food free of these cheap tricks and allow my body to receive some nutritional value from it rather than go on an addictive bender.

As for Moss, he offers a few pointers for helping people break the habit of eating overly processed foods and get good food in their systems.

“Make a list and stick to it,” says Moss.

He also suggests shopping on the far ends of the grocery store where the fresh fruits and vegetables are located.

“When you get into the center aisle, be careful in the middle part because that’s the highest selling area, and where they put the most heavily laden salt and sugary products,” says Moss.

He also recommends checking the labels for fat and sugar content, then making your buying decision based on these.

Though we may be chemically addicted to these substances, we don’t have to be this way forever.

Image Credit: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

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