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Food Cravings Explained - From Chocolate to Carbs

Posted Jun 03 2008 3:01pm

Food Cravings Explained - From Chocolate to CarbsWhat Do Your Food Cravings Really Mean?

Cravings can strike without notice or warning. You could be sitting around, minding your business when… BAM! Someone mentions doughnuts, ice cream, pasta or chips and suddenly you can’t focus on anything else. You’ve convinced yourself, you need these foods.

Cravings generally mean something in your body is mixed up - your belly speaks German but your mind speaks English. Negative feelings, dehydration, fatigue and nourishment can all lead to cravings. To gain control, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a proper diet.

A large number of people are affected by food cravings, these cravings can throw any diet into chaos. Succumbing to them, eating whatever you desire, isn’t healthy or helpful. To avoid these situations, or to at least be better prepared, you need to understand why you want these foods and what to do about it.

Cravings: From Your Head Or Belly?

The two main causes for food cravings are:

1) Psychological - Cravings caused by your wants and desires, often referred to as “emotional eating.”

2) Physiological - When your body actually needs nourishment.

Thirst is a good example of a physiological craving. You need water to survive and your body is telling you so! Waiting until you feel thirsty is dangerous because it can lead to dehydration. Make sure you drink plenty of water, before you feel thirsty, especially when exercise or heat are involved.

Now that you know which type of craving you’re having, it’s time to do something about it.

Craving the Sweets and Chocolate

Your mood can make you want sweet foods. They have the unique ability to make you feel better by releasing a short burst of serotonin; one of the many chemicals in your brain, this one regulates mood, behavior, appetite, body temperature and sleep. In short, food can make you feel happy, this is why eating ice cream actually “feels good.” When you’re feeling down or exhausted your body wants a pick-me-up, the result is a craving.

Chocolate is in a craving category of its own. Aside from its great taste, chocolate is connected to positive emotions/love (chocolate candies) and is an escape from our day-to-day pressures, which makes it a classic comfort food. Also, your body loves this stuff, according to WebMD.com, “chocolate is the perfect mix of sugar and fat to turn on almost every appetite-triggering nerve chemical in the brain.” Additionally, women may desire chocolate because it contains magnesium and iron.

Blood sugar levels have been known the throw appetites into disarray. When your blood sugar level is low you crave sweets, which quickly raise these levels, but only for a short period of time. This can leave you in the same situation as you started - wanting more sweets. To break this cycle try fruits, juices or honey instead of sweets and candy.

Cravings for Salt

A hankering for salt, or salty snacks, could be your body’s way of telling you it needs more water. Remember the 8 glasses of water per day rule? According to TheDietChannel.com, “salt regulates water retention in the body through the kidneys and adrenal glands.” Next time you feel this craving, pick up a glass of water, not the bag of pretzels. The following tips can help you reduce your salt cravings:

  • Drink More Water
  • Eat a banana - potassium is an electrolyte
  • Drink Coconut Water

Cravings for Meat

Sometimes nothing will satisfy your appetite like a nice thick steak from Peter Lugar Steakhouse (for my New Yorkers). Men crave meat and hearty meals more than women, who tend to choose sweeter foods. Also, many prefer meats and hearty meals because they are comfort foods.

When nothing but meat will do, it can be a sign that your body is low on calories, B12, fat or iron, which is why women sometimes crave it. Satisfying your hunger for meat can be healthy, next time try chicken, turkey, a sirloin tip or bison meat.

Cravings for Carbs

Cravings for carbs and sweets are similar, both raise serotonin and blood sugar levels, but wanting crabs could be a signal of insulin resistance. According to Medicinenet.com, “Insulin resistance (IR) is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin.” People who have been eating a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for many years, may be at least partially insulin resistant. When this happens, your cells can’t absorb the glucose they need, so your brain signals for carbs. For more information on insulin resistance, visit Medicinenet.com

Fight Carb Cravings

  • Eat more protein
  • Eat foods rich in fiber such as fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Don?t eat nutrient-stripped foods (white flour, white rice, refined sugar)

Control Your Cravings

Aside from the tips mentioned above, try these to gain control of your eating habits and diet!

  • Eat Every 3 Hours - small meals please, like an apple or a yogurt
  • Wait 15 Minutes - most mental cravings will go away with a little time; have a glass of water instead.
  • Exercise - exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel better (try these yoga videos to get your started._
  • Never Skip A Meal
  • Get Plenty Of Sleep
  • Give In - When satisfying your cravings, remember to keep portions in check. One cupcake won?t ruin your diet, a dozen will.

Written by: Gregory Schnese

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