Understanding Those Pesky Food Cravings
In a world that vilifies cravings, it’s common for many of us to do everything in our power to not give in and simply ignore them. However, this would be a bad move as cravings are not the enemy but are rather a way in which our body attempts to communicate with us.
It’s one thing to desire a chocolate bar around the afternoon slump hit but if you are battling with a recurring craving that won’t ease (even after you’ve happily given into it), that might be a sign that you’re body is craving something in which it’s severely lacking. By listening, truly listening to our cravings and deciphering just why our body is calling out for this specific food – we will be able to provide it with the nutrients it needs from a much healthier source. Thus read on to find out what some common cravings mean and how you can cater to them in a much healthier way.
Pesky Food Cravings
Craving something sweet is common but it’s also hard to figure out exactly what it means; especially when you consider the fact that your body is craving something it knows is bad for you. Binging on something sweet can create a sugar high, which is then quickly followed by an energy crash and an even bigger desire for your next sugar fix. Moreover, this craving can also raise blood sugar levels which can become a precursor to diabetes.
So what’s the reason for your incessant sweet tooth? According to one study, this particular craving can be linked to your emotional health; giving merit to the term comfort food. Also, if you think that women are more prone to craving comfort food- you’d be correct, at least according to one Yale University study.
The best way to deal with emotionally based sugar cravings would be to find healthier alternatives in dealing with your emotions. Head out for a walk, practice both yoga and meditation or take up a hobby such as painting or gardening. Better yet, indulge in healthy comfort foods such as blueberries.
However, in the case that your emotional wellbeing is not under duress – your sugar cravings could be linked to a nutrient deficiency – be it a lack of zinc, magnesium or chromium (which helps to stabilize blood sugar) – or low blood sugar.
The best way to deal with this would be to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables as they contain natural sugars. Seeds and nuts can also help as they are high in protein, which means that they’ll provide a slower, longer energy release.
Rich in chocolate
We’ve all been guilty of craving a slab or two (or three) of chocolate yet these persistent desires could be linked to emotional distress or a magnesium deficiency.
It seems that many of us are guilty of dealing with our emotional needs by self-medicating with chocolate. According to a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, the consumption of chocolate is linked to the production of the happy hormone serotonin and the feel of good chemical dopamine. On the other hand, magnesium is an essential mineral that the body uses for a variety of processes that include stress relief, relaxing of the muscles as well as ensuring healthy bones. A deficiency in magnesium can cause muscle twitches, osteoporosis, fatigue and mood swings.
Chocolate is incredibly rich in magnesium but that doesn’t mean you should reach for that processed cup of chocolate mousse. Opt for dark chocolate with at least 75% or freely add raw cacao powder to your morning smoothie. You can also get your magnesium from other food sources that include leafy green vegetables such as spinach, cashew nuts, whole grains and chia seeds.
The craving for carbs can also be linked to the state of your emotional health. It’s often a staple for comfort food and these cravings often hit us when we’re stressed or sad. If so, it’s important to find healthy ways in which to handle stressful situations such as yoga or breathing exercises. In the case that you’re a master at handling stress, your craving for all things processed could also be your body’s way of telling you it needs to rest and recharge.
The fatigue that your body feels may have you craving for a quick energy fix, and this is often readily available in the form of a packet of chips. Craving carbohydrates can also be a sign that your body is lacking in fibre, chromium or signs of insulin resistance and hypoglycemia.
Aside from visiting your doctor to confirm if you are insulin resistant, you can also increase your intake of fibre and chromium rich foods such as apples, seeds, bananas and avocado.
If your days are spent constantly dreaming about the different types of cheese, then, once again, you may have to analyze your emotional health. Cheese contains the compound tryptophan, which has been linked to improving mood and inducing relaxation.
However, craving cheese and other dairy foods could be a result of low calcium or omega-3 levels within the body. You can increase these levels by eating healthier foods such as leafy greens, chickpeas, lentils, walnuts, avocados and oily fish.
Craving a burger is one thing but if you’re a vegetarian seriously considering changing your life choices, then there may be a problem. An incessant desire for a big piece of steak can be a sign of an iron deficiency, which can increase the risk for heart disease.
Iron is extremely vital for the body as it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. If you’re not a fan of eating red meat, you can get your iron from other food sources such as beans, legumes, spinach and dried fruit.
Needing a morning coffee at the start of your day is one thing, but craving a strong cup every hour is a different story.
Your inability to get through the day without coffee serves to prove that you’re likely addicted to caffeine and without it, you’re facing feelings of lethargy. This is also the case when you’re craving something fizzy. Try switching out your second cup of coffee for green tea as it will help provide a natural boost of energy. You can also switch out your favorite soda for a healthy fruit smoothie.
Something fatty or fried
Aside from being another form of comfort food, the strong desire for something fatty and fried can be a sign of essential fatty acid deficiency. Omega-3 and omega-6s are essential for the healthy functioning of the body and you can find them in foods such as salmon, avocado as well as nuts and seeds. Be sure to stay clear of fried and fatty foods as they are rich in trans-fats. These fats can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
One study from the journal Sleep found a strong link between junk food cravings and poor sleep.
Dealing with thirst could just be your body’s way of telling you to put more effort into drinking enough water.
However, excessive thirst (as well as urination) is a strong indicator that you may be suffering from diabetes. Once the extra sugar builds up in the blood, the body uses the kidney to flush out the excess glucose through your urine. Once this happens, your urination frequency increases and this causes dehydration which in turn makes you thirsty again.
Cravings are not the enemy. Furthermore, the more we deny them, the more our brains get excited about them. There are also ways in which you can combat the cravings before they even start. This can be done by enjoying a balanced diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes and grains. Do your best not to skip any meals and if you really want that chocolate bar- eat it. You’re only punishing yourself as when you finally do come across chocolate, you’re going to binge. So listen to your cravings, really listen and don’t be afraid of giving in.