Craving certain foods has become almost an expected part of women’s food journey. When it’s not sugar calling your name, it’s salt. Perhaps you’re a breadaholic (*raises hand*) or, the big one, a chocoholic?
But what’s really behind our desire to go all in on specific foods? Some experts claim that our cravings reveal nutritional gaps that we’re filling in an unhealthy way. Others feel that cravings are tied more to memories of comfort food, social conditioning, and cultural practices. And there are those who believe that deep-seated emotional reasons fuel our desire to self-medicate with particular foods.
For some of us, the lure of our cravings almost borders on addiction, doesn’t it? The downside, of course, is the effect of our cravings/addiction on our health. Take sugar, for example. Like heroin and cocaine, it works the addiction and reward pathways in our brains, and just like those illegal drugs, it can lead to a plethora of illnesses, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome.
What to do? Let’s see where the problems lie and consider some ways to overcome them.
Your desire for a sugar fix may indicate that you’re lacking particular micronutrients, trace minerals, and amino acids that you may not have heard much about.
- Chromium helps control blood sugar levels. Dietary sources of chromium include broccoli, cheese, and chicken, but you can also take chromium supplements to get more of that trace mineral.
- Phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body, but eating a lot of junk food can lead to a deficiency. Animal protein, dairy, nuts, grains, and veggies can reverse a phosphorus deficit.
- Sulfur is a mineral found in meat and eggs, cranberries, horseradish, cabbage, and cauliflower .
- Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in animal protein, eggs, and cheese. It’s a precursor to serotonin, so increasing your intake of tryptophan can help rid you of sugar cravings.
- L-Glutamine, an amino acid found in animal protein, beets, spinach, and carrots, is used by the brain for fuel. It relieves sugar cravings and is great to stabilize blood sugar.
Did you know that chocolate is the #1 craved food in America? It’s a sensual feast, drawing us in with its color, texture, taste, and smell. It affects our brain, firing up our neurotransmitters and dopamine and making us feel happy as heck.
Conventional chocolate is a huge source of sugar, so it’s tied to a lack of many of the nutrients I just listed under sugar cravings. However, when you start acting like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, it may well be that you lack magnesium. This mega mineral is deficient in almost everyone’s body. The soil where most of our crops are grown is often magnesium poor, and that deficiency is passed on to us. You can build up your magnesium stores by increasing your intake of nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits, fish, and leafy greens.
All the popcorn, pretzels, and chips people, raise your hands! Yep, you’re on a salt craving trip. As is the case with chocolate, pleasure-inducing chemicals in the brain get us in a happy zone and make us want to eat even more salt, but with the epidemic of high blood pressure worldwide, we have to be vigilant regarding sodium.
We need salt for innumerable body processes, and the taste is definitely addictive. We should be taking in a maximum of 2300 milligrams of sodium daily, but the truth is that we ingest more than three times that amount–8500 milligrams–daily. We need to pump those brakes on salt consumption, especially from processed and pre-packaged food.
Again, the answer is found in building up several minerals, including potassium, (salmon, roasted turkey, lean beef, sweet potato); chloride, (fatty fish and goat milk); and silicon, (whole-grain bread, brown rice, and cashews).
Some of us carboholics can’t get enough starchy foods. Bread, pasta, and potatoes are on high rotation in our diets.
Much of the problem is a result of an imbalanced blood sugar level. When your blood sugar level drops, you tend to want food that will elevate it quickly, and those starchy carbs definitely do the trick. Your mood does a 180-degree turn for the better in about 20 minutes, and you feel satiated… for now. Your cells, however, may not be getting enough glucose to convert into energy, so the body continues to cry out for more carbs.
How to end this vicious cycle and deprive refined carbs of their power? Ramp up on high-protein foods that provide nitrogen, such as fresh fruits and veggies, meats, nuts, beans, and chia seeds.
Some final cravings fixes
- Stick to the PFF (protein, fat, fiber) routine. Protein balances out blood sugar levels and diminishes cravings; healthy fat makes you feel full so that you’re less likely to crave nutrient-starved food; and fiber and helps reduce candida, which tends to bolster cravings.
- Take a high-quality daily multivitamin to cover nutrient deficiencies.
- Get enough rest, sleep, and relaxation. The more rested you are, the less prone you are to succumb to cravings.
- Exercise is a great endorphin adjuster and will take your mind off of your craving.
- Smell a non-food item. Use scents like jasmine or peppermint to distract your senses.
- Indulge in a small amount of your temptation, but only if you know you can be satisfied with a wee bit of it.
- Drink more water. Your craving might be thirst in disguise!
What is you main craving? How do you keep it in check?