Discover why we crave foods and how to break bad eating habits
Food cravings are usually your body’s way of telling you something. Whether it be craving sugary, salty or fatty foods, it’s a signal your cells are crying out for some nutrition or your brain for an emotional reward. In this article, we’ll be discussing why we crave foods and what it means. Learn how to stop food cravings and break bad eating habits.
Common food cravings
• Sweets and high-sugar foods like candy, cereal bars, cakes and biscuits.
• Chocolate or chocolate-flavoured drinks.
• Salty foods such as chips, crisps, peanuts, pretzels and instant noodles.
• Fatty foods – butter, cheese and fried food.
• Carbs and starches – pasta, rice, bread and potatoes.
What causes food cravings?
We crave foods either due to a nutritional deficiency or a specific lack in the body. Sugar cravings are very common. Sugar stimulates our brains to release serotonin, the feel-good hormone, which makes us feel relaxed and happy. This is why when we’re stressed or feeling low, we tend to crave high-sugar foods and drinks. When we’re tired and in need of an energy boost, we also crave sweet foods to give us a quick pick-me-up. Our cells need fuel to function properly and when glucose is in short supply, our body signals us to eat.
Eating sugary foods is only a short-term solution for energy production. Long-term sugar consumption affects your health negatively and can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
As fats are another source of energy for the body, craving high-fat foods like cheese can be associated with an increased need for fuel. Fats are also essential for the production of hormones and Vitamin D. Some people have been known to crave foods they associate with their childhood as it provides comfort and reassurance. Others crave crunchy, salty foods as the chomping down action offers a form of stress release.
How to stop food cravings
- Stay hydrated by drinking filtered water and herbals teas. Thirst is usually mistaken for hunger and consequently leads to food cravings.
- Avoid coffee and fizzy drinks as they only dehydrate your body further.
- Eat a balanced plate of whole, organic foods. Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, proteins, fats and fibre. The more nutritious your meals, the less likely you’ll be deficient in key nutrients.
- Avoid high-sugar foods and refined carbohydrates. Instead eat organic carbohydrates such as oats (porridge), wholegrain rice and millet. Low Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrates give your body a sustained energy release as they break down to blood sugar at a much slower rate than high GI foods (refined carbohydrates). This leaves you feeling more satisfied and “full”, preventing you from snacking.
- Have some protein at every meal such as nuts, seeds, beans or legumes. Protein keeps you satiated and anchors you’re your blood sugar levels, reducing cravings.
- Eat healthy fats such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and coconut oil. Fats provide another source of energy for the body when glucose has been depleted.
- Get lots of sleep. When you’re tired or sleep deprived, your body has to work harder to produce energy for the cells. This often results in you craving high sugar foods.
- Add cinnamon and fenugreek to foods. These herbs help regulate insulin levels and keep blood glucose levels in check, therefore reducing cravings.
- Chromium supplementation. Chromium is a mineral needed for insulin, carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. If you experience lots of sugar cravings, it’s worth speaking to a qualified nutritionist or naturopath to get your chromium levels checked.
- Reduce stress. When we’re stressed out, we tend to crave sugary, high-fat foods to make us feel better.
Start listening to your body
By listening to your body you’ll be able to make an informed choice about the foods you eat. Start curbing food cravings by drinking more water, eating a balanced plate and getting to bed earlier. A healthy diet is essential for keeping your blood sugar levels in check and cravings at bay.