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04 Jun 2022

Science of Frying : The Cravings

why do we all have such cravings for fried foods?

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Dinda Pramesti
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Luqi Lukman
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Science of Frying
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The Cravings
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Honestly though, resisting fried food when you’re on a diet might be the hardest part of the whole journey. Imagine having an okay salad that cost a bit more than your daily budget, while watching your colleagues munching on fried chicken with fries on the side. One..two..five fries wouldn’t add up too many calories, would it?

The reason why it’s super hard to resist the juiciness of sinful fried food is because humans have evolved. Back then, our ancestors spent their days gathering food to survive. Of all things edible they could find, they eventually learn that fat is the best source of energy. Today, we know that we do need fat to survive, and consuming fatty foods make us feel full. When we feel full, the brain releases hormones that make us feel relaxed, content, and sometimes sleepy. That satisfying crunch that you feel when your teeth hit the food could also be an evolution from back then, a sign that your food is still fresh. When people had to hunt for their food, biting something stale or mushy with a funky smell might be a sign for a food that’s gone bad. 

According to John S. Allen, a research scientist at the University of Southern California and author of The Omnivorous Mind, “One reason why crispy food might be appealing on a more personal level is that crispy or crunchy adds a whole new sensory quality to a food, beyond taste.” He adds, “When we eat a lot of one food, there is a tendency to habituate to its flavor, making it less and less palatable as we consume it. With crunchy food, the sensory experience encompasses sound as well as taste.” 

Coming back into the present, today we know that fat enhances flavor in general. Something small, such as a thin layer of butter on toast or a thin batter on your tempura makes a huge difference in terms of taste, feel, and aroma. All the fat that goes into us — with the perfect amount of salt and richness — stimulates our brain’s reward system. Crispy batter alone packs on caloric density, which is satisfying. Moreover, fat and salt invites more saliva to be produced, allowing us to break down that crispy skin more and ease our digestive processing.

Pre-packed fried food such as Cheetos that melt in your mouth, however, tricks our brain in an interesting way. Since they dissolve on the tongue without really having to chew, our brain thinks that we aren’t consuming too much calories. This effect is called Vanishing Caloric Density and this is mainly why it’s super hard to stop munching on those snacks.Let’s be real though, fried food is one of the good things in life that never fail to make us excited. It’s as if it was invented for us to crave them. Speaking of, looking forward to your next piece of fried chicken yet?

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