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Common Foods: Gateway Drugs?


For those of you who don’t know what a “Gateway Drug” is, allow me to define it in its most common use.  A gateway drug is a substance that when frequently introduced to the body may cause one to desire more potent doses of the same or require a stronger substance to be satisfied.  Though, this post is not about actual drugs, I want you to recognize that the addicting properties of some foods and how they act in the body can be similar.

The Bad In the Good

My husband and I eat well (lots of veggies; fruits; fresh, unprocessed foods), practice relaxation techniques, and overall do what we can to keep our bodies healthy. And we enjoy this lifestyle.  The other weekend, however, we found ourselves at the grocery store and decided to “treat ourselves.” We had not had dry cereal in 6 months or longer, and we were craving it. Though many people think cereal is healthy, it’s actually a highly processed food and therefore more like candy. We bought granola cereal, and the rice milk to go with it (dairy does not agree with us). What a treat!

The Crave

Little did we know that titillating our taste buds would lead to cravings for more luscious foods. Since then, we’ve had a fair amount of chocolate, more bread than usual, and regular servings of crackers with peanut butter and honey. My husband called the granola a “gateway drug.”  Don’t think that these foods are all “bad for you.” However, the reality is, our taste buds, if indulged regularly, will keep on asking for more and more “yummy” foods. Forget the beans and cabbage; even spinach salads (which I normally love) lost their appeal, though I continued to eat it them dutifully.


The moral of the story is that there is a time to indulge (in my native Romania, that was during the Christmas and the Easter holidays). The rest of the year people did not eat desserts or much bread (ladies were especially careful with those items). Find out what your weakness is in terms of food, and eat that food only at special occasions. Remember, taste buds, like kids, will push the envelope and ask for more and more if you don’t train them well.

Winning the Battle

We have two choices: either to indulge the palate (i.e. taste buds) and respond to its cravings for MORE sugar; MORE salt; MORE fat; or to use food as fuel, train the buds to enjoy simple nourishment, and live a healthy life. My husband says that the best meal of his life was a bowl of rice after a three-day fast. While not everyone can do a complete fast (water only), we can all choose to fast from foods that weaken our bodiesfoodsthatharmfoodsthatheal and use that fasting time to grow spiritually as well.

So now it’s time for me to put the breaks on, before the clothes get tighter. I enjoyed my treats, but I look forward to enjoying the beans and the leafy greens. And I will retrain my taste buds, to the point that spinach salads taste amazing again. No need to wait until the next Lent to fast from utterly hedonistic foods.  The book Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants a lifestyle of healthy eating.

In Good Health,

Anca Lamse, MD
Lamse Wellness Clinic

Photo by http://acidacuarella.deviantart.com/

About Anca Lamse, M.D.

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  1. Dr. Anca,
    You have challenged me to go further in my own quest for health. You do us all proud with your spinach salads! God help me, I eat cereal every night for a snack. One good thing, the fiber keeps me regular. Great article for everyone.


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