Have you had the experience where you were not overly hungry until you had a handful of chips or a banana, then found yourself ravenous?
Well, you can actually make your brain and gut “hungry” simply by taking a few bites of food by “activating” parts of your biology that drives your hunger for more, says Dr. Belinda Lennerz, an endocrinologist and researcher at Harvard Medical School.
“The sight, smell, or taste of some food will trigger the cephalic food response,” she explains, referring to the biological processes triggered in your gut when it thinks more food is coming. In the same way, by swallowing a few bites of food you can make your brain want to consume more in order to repeat or sustain the reward sensation.
Potato Chips, Crackers, And Bread
When you eat refined carbs your blood sugar levels shoot up. “The body’s reaction to this is to release a large amount of insulin to normalize blood sugar,” Lennerz says. This is an issue because Insulin shuttles that blood sugar into “storage,” says Dr. David Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at Harvard. Since that energy has now been locked away, your hunger for food screams back with a vengeance. (See: Science Explains Why You Can’t Stop Eating Potato Chips.)
Cookies, Cake, and Sweets
Research from Yale University School of Medicine shows that any form of sugar, including honey activates your brain’s reward and appetite pathways differently to other sources of energy.
Your thalamus, hypothalamus, and insula are the areas that drive you to eat and then relax after you’ve consumed food. But when you swallow high sugar food those areas stay active, in other words, your brain tells your body you’re not full.
Low-Fat, Single-Serve Yogurt
One recent review found that lots of chewing decreases the levels of ghrelin released when eating—the so-called “hunger hormone.” (See: The Case Against Low-Fat Dairy Is Stronger Than Ever.) So the time and the number of chews it takes you to eat something affects how full you feel.
Small cup-sized yogurt are dangerously because they are so easy to consume, quickly and without any chewing. The low-fat varieties also tend to be packed with sugar and other processed carbs, which promote hunger for all the reasons mentioned above. A good rule of thumb: the more quickly you can swallow something, the more likely you are to eat more of it.
Diet Soda and Artificially Sweetened Snacks
A recent Australian study found that when artificial sweeteners hit your tongue, your brain’s reward centers light up and signal to your gut to expect some energy to arrive. The problem is that when those calories don’t show up your brain forces you to consume more food to fill the void. In this way, no-calorie sweeteners like the ones in diet soda may send your hunger soaring.