You likely have a huge bowl of candy ready for Halloween trick or treating tonight. And as much as children love these tiny sweets, so do adults.
Often eating one little candy leads to many, many more
And believe it or not, there’s actually a scientific reason why we can’t stop eating Halloween candy.
We all know that sugar tastes great and yes, this ingredient is pretty powerful all by itself. But when you combine it with fat and salt, it really tantalizes our taste buds. And this combination revs up what’s called our “hedonic eating system”. Which means we’re eating for pleasure and not because our stomachs are growling with hunger.
Science tells us that when we eat sugar and fat, certain pathways in the brain that are linked to pleasure are activated. And this can be so strong that it can trigger you to eat an endless array of bite-size candy bars.
Just seeing the candy makes it hard to resist. What does science say about this?
First of all, any type of food can cause this type of response. But when it comes to Halloween in particular, nostalgia and those fun memories of when you were a kid, all excited, getting dressed up and running house to house collecting loads of candy, can really trigger an intense reaction.
Those thoughts and feelings along with the brain’s memory of pleasure when eating treats can really make Halloween goodies hard to resist. It can even cause your mouth to start watering the minute you see your favorite candy.
How can we outsmart these bodily mechanisms?
Just understanding that we can all have this powerful physiological and psychological response to candy can be very beneficial. Recognizing this can help you make better choices before you’ve completely overindulged.
And don’t think there’s no hope, that you’re bound to overindulge every time Halloween comes around.
Research suggests eating healthy foods over time may actually rewire your brain
And you may eventually prefer nutritious foods which can help you overcome any treat temptations.
- Try not to buy too much candy so you don’t end up with lots of leftovers. And pick out candy for trick or treaters that you don’t really crave or care much for.
- Once Halloween is over, control your personal food environment. Keep candy and unhealthy foods out of sight, or give leftovers to charitable organizations.
- When eating candy, be sure to savor it. And set aside time to really focus and enjoy eating it, otherwise, you may mindlessly overeat.
- Since eating a piece of candy can ignite your brain’s reward center and lead to more and more candy, I’d recommend you eat treats after a meal. Otherwise, if you’re hungry, you may end up over-indulging.
When it comes to these seasonal treats, some are certainly better than others. Learn more here.
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