This week's lucky "winner"... beer!!
Beer is a fermented beverage primarily made from malted barley, hops and water. Barley is a perfect grain for brewing because it contains the enzymes necessary to break down its own starches into sugar, making them accessible to alcohol-producing yeast.
Beer is the main alcoholic beverage in much of Northern Europe and North America. It's popular because it's a highly rewarding beverage. This is easy to demonstrate. Most people find beer repulsive the first time they try it, because it's bitter. Yet most people gradually come to enjoy beer, usually quite a lot. This is due to the behavior-reinforcing (rewarding) effect of the drug it contains (ethanol), as well as its additional carbohydrate calories. The brain gradually causes you to enjoy the flavor paired with the drug and calories.
As a matter of fact, most people consume beer when they're neither thirsty nor hungry, and sometimes they consume it to excess, resulting in nausea and drunk-dialing ex-girlfriends. We consume it, and the substantial number of calories it contains, because it's rewarding and pleasurable. Think about this: one 12-ounce can of Budweiser contains 146 calories. If a person drinks four of those in an evening, that's 584 calories that she didn't need-- the equivalent of a large dessert. On top of it, alcohol increases hunger and decreases the ability to make constructive choices about food, leading to more overeating of unhealthy calorie-dense food.
None of this means we should completely avoid beer, and in fact a little bit of alcohol may actually be healthy, but moderation is in order. Cutting back on alcohol is a low-hanging fruit in any fat loss effort.
In 2013, drugs are a major driver of calorie intake in the absence of hunger. These are generally calories we don't need. Alcohol is the biggest one, but coffee and tea are probably number two because they often come along with cream and sugar. Chocolate is number three. I previously discussed drug-containing foods and beverages in my series "Why do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective" (1, 2).