Its 3pm and all you can think about is eating a wheel of brie or devouring a block of your favourite chocolate. You’ve just had your afternoon lunch but suddenly you start to crave something sweet to indulge into. Food cravings is different from normal hunger and is the intense desire to consume a specific food even if you’re already feeling full. These cravings are caused by the regions of the brain that are responsible for memory, pleasure, and reward.
As we all experience food cravings throughout the day, this blog will dive into some of the root causes of food cravings and why we may be experiencing them.
Causes of Food Cravings:
If you’re on a restricted diet or simply not eating enough, your body will convey its hunger through food cravings. Commonly individuals restrict carbs in their diet to promote weight loss and in response increase the need for sweet and salty foods throughout the day. Respond to your bodies hunger signals by increasing your food intake and adding some starchy foods in your meals to subside cravings.
Nutrient & Mineral Imbalances:
Nutrient/ mineral imbalances are common adverse effect of under-eating, restriction and many underlying issues such as digestive dysfunction, poor level of nutrients in our soil, stress and medications. Inadequate levels of nutrients and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, sodium and chromium can lead to food cravings. These vitamins and minerals control our insulin and blood sugar signalling. Having highs and lows due to blood sugar levels often leads to cravings. In return of a lack of certain nutrients, we crave more foods.
Stress wreaks havoc to our bodies including the cause of food cravings. When the stress hormone cortisol is released, our blood sugar rises and thus leads to a drop. This drop-in blood sugar then initiates food cravings. Controlling stress and focusing on a balanced diet can help manage food cravings caused by daily stressors. Avoid skipping meals and insure you’re eating enough protein, crabs and fat throughout the day to prevent cravings.
An imbalance of hormones such as leptin, serotonin, estrogen and progesterone are believed to affect appetite and lead to food cravings. Low serotonin signals the brain that it needs a pick-me up, this signal then causes a craving for sugar and carbohydrates. Simple dietary alterations can help manage these cravings and regulate hormones. Choosing complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains, legumes, and beans as well as reducing caffeine and increasing the amount of calcium rich foods such as green leafy vegetables and dairy can help support hormone regulation and prevent cravings.
Many women experience cravings as a symptom of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) This monthly change of fluctuating hormones causes a drop-in blood sugar levels which leads to those pre-period chocolate and pasta cravings you may be experiencing. A deeper desire for chocolate during this period is an indication of a lower level of magnesium. To naturally boost magnesium levels, include foods such as cashews, almonds, seeds, wholegrains and green leafy vegetables.
Restriction is never a safe way to cope with cravings, this just increases your desire to have the certain foods you’re craving. A way to break these cravings is to simply be mindful of what you’re eating and what your body needs. Evaluate and listen to your bodies signals and introduce the foods that will support your health and wellbeing.