Most of us would love to eat healthy all the time. However, it seems that the food we crave and end up buying from vending machines is none other than the food we try to avoid the most: junk food. Even when locations specifically request healthy items, we find that our highest selling items are junk food. However, you shouldn’t feel bad about craving a bag of chips every now and then, as it is actually just part of our biology. Our body can’t help but crave the junk food that makes it salivate and remember how good it tasted the last time you ate it!
The science behind junk food cravings
There is more to a craving than just being hungry, because us feeling hungry is just our body telling us when we need to eat, not what to eat. Cravings actually have to do with chemicals in our brain, like dopamine, which cause us to associate certain foods with pleasure. Our brain also requires a lot of energy to function, which explains why it is drawn to high caloric and fatty foods, giving us plenty of energy. However, even though junk food is high in calories, it doesn’t tend to fill us up. This is why we can eat embarrassing amounts of chips and not feel full, making them the perfect snack but not enough for a whole meal.
As you walk past a vending machine and think of your favourite flavour of chips, your mouth starts to water…
This is a common experience many of us have, and it actually helps explain why we crave junk food found in vending machines! Junk food is pleasurable to our brain, as it is usually fatty and causes us to salivate, spreading the taste all over our taste buds. Your brain also stores memories of previous eating experiences, so chances are that when you see that bag of chips and salivate, your brain is reminding you of the last time you ate those chips and how wonderful they tasted.
Why does our brain find junk food so pleasurable?
One thing that our brain finds pleasurable about junk food found in vending machines is the texture and feeling of it. The variety of sensations in one food is called dynamic contrast, when a food has a crunchy outside and softer inside. Think fried mozzarella cheese sticks, Oreos, or pizza. All these foods are crunchy when we first bite into them, but soft or creamy once we reach the inside. Our brain loves it!
People might say they want healthier food in vending machines, but in reality not many people choose “healthy” snacks over their junk food cravings when buying from vending machines. At least now we know there’s some science behind it!