What Makes French Fries Addictive? (According to Science)

French fries are served at many restaurants as popular side dishes for burgers, chicken, fish, and steak. Quite often, people will go out of their way to get hot, crisp fast-food french fries. It seems like people can’t get enough of fries! So, what makes french fries so addicting?

According to science, french fries are addicting because they are so palatable and easy to eat. French fries trigger dopamine, the feel-good hormone that drives people to get that fix from fries. Also, a taste for starch on the tongue has been identified that may increase addiction to fries.

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard for you to give up french fries, according to science, keep reading.

1. French Fries Are Highly Palatable.

Highly palatable foods taste good and feel good to the brain, which is why they are so addicting. French fries taste good to most people, as do pizza, soda, chocolate, and baked goods. These foods can trigger food addiction.

Processed foods are also designed to be highly palatable, so they taste really good, which creates more sales.

2. French Fries Trigger Dopamine in the Brain.

Eating foods that taste good can trigger the feel-good hormone, dopamine, in the brain, making you want more and more of that food to feel good. But it’s not the whole vegetables or meats that trigger dopamine – it’s usually the highly processed foods like french fries, pizza, and chocolate that trigger this hormone. 

3. A New Taste Has Been Identified That Increases Addiction.

Researchers at Oregon State University found a sixth taste, in addition to the sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami flavors. Starchy is the new taste, and it allows people to taste things like rice, bread, pasta, and other things that have a flour-like flavor. 

French fries are starchy, and they hit the palate differently than other salty foods. The combination of starch, salt, and fat creates a flavor and mouthfeel that can be difficult to resist.

4. The Smell of Fries Enhances the Flavor.

When you open your bag of McDonald’s food and get that whiff of hot, fresh fries, you start salivating in anticipation of eating that first fry. Food tastes good because it smells good, as the smell is about 90% of the way food tastes

If you’ve ever had a cold and not been able to smell very well, you might have noticed that your food didn’t taste as well as you remembered. It’s because the sense of smell contributes to how great food tastes. 

5. High-Calorie Foods Are Preferable to Lower Calorie Foods.

According to Psychology Today, our brains are wired to prefer high-calorie foods over low-calorie foods. When food was scarce, our ancestors needed a lot of nourishment packed into a small package. Human beings became efficient at choosing food high in calories, which might be a reason why french fries are preferable to carrots. 

So you can see why it is easy to become addicted to french fries, as they have a lot of calories. Our brains are wired to prefer them.

6. Fast-Food Fries Are Convenient.

What’s more convenient than pulling up to a drive-thru window and getting french fries in minutes? If you’re not making french fries at home and crave that fast-food french fry taste, it’s convenient and simple to procure, either inside the restaurant or through the drive-thru, depending on current circumstances.

Frozen french fries are also convenient because all you need to do is pull them out of your freezer and fry them in your fryer or bake them in the oven. You have an instant fix to your cravings.

7. French Fries Are Affordable and Easy to Buy.

One of the appeals of french fries is that they are relatively cheap and easy to buy. While this may not be a scientifically proven fact, foods that are affordable appeal to everyone. Since cheap and easy meals are so convenient to get, it’s easy to see why people get addicted to those foods. 

Having french fries often creates a taste for them, which can create an addiction over time.

8. You Can Get Fries Quickly.

Aside from frozen french fries, which can be baked or fried in less time than fresh-cut fries, the quickest way to get fries is from a fast-food restaurant. When you’re craving french fries, the least resistance path gets you your fix in a very short time. You can’t even get your oven hot in the time it takes to get your fries from order to eating them.

9. McDonald’s Uses Sugar on Their Fries.

While some french fries are just potatoes, salt, and fat, McDonald’s french fries about 20 ingredients added to make them stay fresh and fry up just right. Dextrose (which is a form of sugar) is one of those ingredients, which makes you more addicted to them. 

Scientifically speaking, the more sugary and salty food is, the more likely you’ll want to keep eating it. With the sugar, salt, and fat, it is a food that is designed to make you crave it and become addicted to it. 

10. Highly Processed Foods Are More Likely to Induce a Sugar Spike.

When you eat highly processed foods that don’t have a lot of fiber or fat, your body reacts by increasing your blood sugar. An increased blood sugar level will increase the cravings you may have for french fries and pizza. The more processed foods you eat, the more those cravings turn into an addiction. 

11. Taste Buds Have Evolved to Prefer Salty, Fatty, and Sweet Foods.

Humanity’s sense of taste has evolved to detect salty, sweet, bitter, savory, and sour foods to protect against toxins while seeking out the most nutritious foods. Because there were many foods yet to be explored at that time, people had to be careful to protect against dying while getting the most from the food they found.

Now, there isn’t the need to seek highly nutritious food, as there is an abundance of it in the grocery stores and gardens. You eat what tastes good, which is usually salty, fatty, and sweet foods such as french fries and chocolate. Try as you might, you can’t outwit evolution.

12. Branding Sparks Your Cravings.

Humans are creatures of habit. Much like the behavioral studies on dogs, humans are conditioned to associate a brand name with certain foods, memories, and sensations. For example, when you see the Arby’s logo, you can smell and picture their delicious roast beef sandwiches, with their special sauce running down your fingers. 

Or, if you’ve had a bad experience with one specific restaurant food, making you sick, ever after you associate them with being sick. You won’t go back.

It’s the same thing with french fries–if you see the logo of the fast-food joint you love, then you will instantly think of their fries and have to get your fix.

Last Word

Now that you know why french fries are so addicting, will this make you want them less? Probably not, but at least you now know what makes you crave french fries and other fast foods so much at times. 

The other thing that makes fries so addicting is that they are comfort food when you’re stressed. When highly palatable foods are available during moments of stress, you get used to those feelings, and you begin to turn to those foods whenever you need to feel better. 

That’s why many people are emotional eaters and why it’s so difficult at times to get eating habits under control.

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.