Wheat, dairy, and sugar are the most addictive foods on the planet. All three activate pathways in the brain that signal pleasure and reward. These are the same pathways that drugs like heroin or cocaine follow.

If we’re addicted to food, the addiction often begins in childhood.

After all, what are many of our kids eating for breakfast? Usually, it’s something sweet and quick, like cereal.

If you want an idea of just how much cereal we eat: this past year, three of the most popular cereal brands on the market made nearly 800 million dollars in profit.1

According to Yale Rudd Center’s Cereal FACTS 2012:

  • Kellogg’s Froot Loops made $162,182,800 in sales.
  • Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes made $267,170,500 in sales.
  • General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios made $357,013,600 in sales.

The problem with cereal is that it’s made from wheat and coated in sugar; once it’s poured into a bowl, it’s covered in milk.

Wheat, dairy, and sugar are the most addictive foods on the planet. All three activate pathways in the brain that signal pleasure and reward. These are the same pathways that drugs like heroin or cocaine follow.

In fact, studies have shown that wheat, dairy, and sugar are just as addictive as any illicit or pharmaceutical drug.

Unfortunately, these foods are literally the mainstay of the Standard American Diet.


At the National Institute of Health, Dr. Christine Zioudrou and her colleagues looked at the proteins found in wheat, specifically gluten.2

They found that the wheat protein gluten contains polypeptides, or protein fragments, that are able to bind to morphine receptors in the brain. These are the same receptors that the polypeptides in opiate drugs bind to. Dr. Zioudrou called these polypeptides that fit into morphine receptor sites exorphins.

Exorphins mimic the natural opiates that the body makes. These natural opiates, otherwise known asendorphins, are responsible for things like a “runner’s high”, and they activate pleasure and reward centers in the brain. The degree of pleasure and reward depends on how often these receptors sites are full.

This is the fundamental principle of addiction: no matter how harmful a food or substance may be to the body, the sensation of pleasure keeps us coming back for more. And every time we reach for more, it alters the brain’s chemistry.


Dairy from cows also contains exorphins. These exorphins are especially concentrated in cheese.

Like the polypeptides found in wheat gluten, those that are found in dairy are able to bind to morphine receptor sites in the brain. The exorphins that are found in dairy are called casomorphins.3

According to Dr. Keith Woodford, who wrote a book called Devil in the Milk, casomorphins are not only addictive – they can also be deadly.4

In his book, Dr. Woodford refers to over 100 papers that have been pulled from peer-reviewed journals in order to explain how and why casomorphins have been linked to:

  • Type I diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia


Since 1822, the United States Department of Commerce and the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) have kept yearly records on sweetener sales, such as cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and maple syrup.

It turns out that:

  • In 1822, the average person consumed 6.3 pounds of sugar a year.
  • In 1999, the average person consumed 107.7 pounds of sugar a year.

According to Stephen Guyenet, a neurobiologist at the University of Washington, “In 1822, we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12 ounce can of soda every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours.”5

Dr. Guyenet explains that the dramatic rise in sugar consumption comes from “a single factor: the industrialization and commercialization of the American food system.”

In other words, thanks to modern food processing, our sweets are sweeter than anything designed by nature. And the increased availability of sugar is doing us no favors. Sugar is addictive. The more we can get our hands on, the more we will have.

In fact, one 2007 study found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.6 The group of researchers conducting the study discovered that sugar surpasses what is called “cocaine reward” in most mammals, including rats and humans.

Although sugar does not contain opiate-like protein fragments, it does stimulate the release of endogenous opiates or endorphins.7

When it comes to addiction, sugar may be the most widely consumed of all addictive substances.

2 Steps to Transition Off Narcotic Foods

So what makes cereal and other common foods something that children and adults alike will become addicted to? It’s the endogenous opiates that we get from sugar and the exorphins, or gluteomorphins, that are found in wheat gluten.

Is there such a thing as wheat or sugar withdrawal? You bet there is. Consider any food with wheat gluten, dairy, or sugar an addictive substance.

Step 1:

It’s important to eliminate these foods and change the body’s cravings for them. A good first step is incorporating fermented foods and probiotic beverages into your diet.

A small amount goes a long way, as they begin to restore your inner ecosystem and the good flora that will change how the food you eat is digested and what nutrients are absorbed. The sour taste of these foods will also slowly take away the craving for sweet foods.

Step 2:

The foods that are addictive do not offer the same type of bioavailable nutrition as vitamin and mineral-dense foods. The second step is to incorporate foods like dark green vegetables, ocean vegetables, seeds like quinoa and amaranth, and antioxidant-rich berries that act as fuel to our cells.

Even people with busy lifestyles who don’t have time to cook, or kids who need a quick energy boost for their brains in the morning, have options that make it easy to get their superfood kick. Potent superfoods that can be mixed into a breakfast smoothie or easy-to-mix superfood powders are great when you’re in a hurry.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Addicting foods like cereal are raking in millions of dollars in profit each year. The reason why? Foods that contain wheat, dairy, and sugar are just as addictive as any illegal or pharmaceutical drug, following the same pathways as heroin and cocaine to signal pleasure in the brain.

No matter how harmful a food may be for the body, this pleasure or reward sensation will keep us coming back for more. When we continue to eat addicting foods again and again, it can actually alter the brain’s chemistry. One study confirmed that sugar in food is more addictive than cocaine; sugar could be considered the most widely consumed addictive substance in the world.

To wean your family off addictive narcotic foods, you can put 2 steps into practice today:

  1. Eliminate harmful, addicting foods and change the body’s cravings by eating fermented foods and probiotic beverages instead. These sour foods will help to neutralize the craving for addictive sugary treats.
  2. Eat nutrient-dense foods like ocean vegetables, antioxidant-rich berries, and seeds. Busy people on-the-go can benefit from easy-to-transport nutrient dense breakfast smoothie or simple stir-in superfood powders that make drinking your nutrition easy.

  1. JL Harris, et al. Limited progress in the nutrition quality and marketing of children’s cereals, Cereal FACTS. Yale Rudd Center For Food Policy and Obesity. 2012.
  2. C Zioudrou, et al. Opioid peptides derived from food proteins. The exorphins. J Biol Chem. 1979 Apr 10; 254 (7): 2446 – 2449.
  3. Y Jinsmaa, et al. Enzymatic release of neocasomorphin and beta-casomorphinfrom bovine beta-casein. Peptides. 1999; 20: 957 – 962.
  4. Woodford, Keith. Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health, and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk. Nelson NZ: Craig Potton Publishing, 2007.
  5. S Guyenet. By 2606, the US Diet will be 100 Percent Sugar. Whole Health Source. Feb 18 2012. http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2012/02/by-2606-us-diet-will-be-100-percent.html
  6. M Lenoir, et al. Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE. 2007; 2(8): e698.
  7. CC Johnson. Sucrose Analgesia During the First Week of Life in Neonates Younger Than 31 Weeks’ Postconceptional Age. Pediatrics. September 2002; 110 (3): 523 – 528.


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5 thoughts on “The Top 3 Most Addicting Foods, Why They’re Destroying Your Health, and 2 Steps to Transition Off Narcotic Foods

  1. Right – I’m going back to steel-cut oats and almond milk. Thanks for the article, guys.

    I noticed that honey didn’t get a mention in the USDA sales tracking – does it act the same as sugar neurochemically?

    And what are some ocean vegetables? The first thing that came to my mind was sea cucumbers, but nothing else has come to mind to replace it. Help!


    1. Breakfast of champions! Just be sure to get some protein with that mean (stir in a spoonful of almond butter for one idea).

      Honey is a healthy alternative to sugar, but can still be overdone. But it brings with it a host of health benefits like being a natural antibiotic, containing many enzymes, and some people swear by it as a natural way to avoid seasonal allergies. Not sure about its classification of its tracking with the USDA, though. Good question.

      Ocean vegetables is a fancy way of saying sea weed. Have you ever tried a seaweed salad at a sushi place? It’s actually really good. We always have wakame, arame, and dulse in the pantry. Soak them in hot water for a few minutes, and you’re ready to go. All of them are huge in iodine, and arame is a great source of fiber.

  2. Ok, so sugar is bad, but then you recommend breakfast smoothies? Even if you only use fruit, you’ve just pulverized all the good fiber in them, while keeping all the sugars (fructose). Whole fruit at least balances the fiber and sugar (except in grapes), but juices and smoothies are not as healthy.

    1. Hey thanks for your comment. Take a second look, and you’ll see that the smoothie recommendation says “use superfoods.” You’re right, a straight fruit smoothie or juice, especially the juice, is much too high in sugar and will spike blood sugar to dangerous and damaging levels. A breakfast smoothie done right needs to contain plenty of fiber and protein. Dark leafy greens, almond butter, a scoop of protein powder, and a little bit of low-sugar fruit like berries is a fantastic start to the day.

      Pulverizing the fiber in a blender doesn’t lessen its healthfulness or its ability to block the rate at which the sugar in fruit is absorbed, as would be the case with juicing, where the fiber is removed. Check out our recipes for green juices. Very healthy for you. Juicing actually allows nutrients to get to the blood stream more quickly. So there is certainly a place for well balanced juices with lots of vegetables and superfoods.

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