Many of the “food cravings” you experience from time to time could actually reveal something larger that your body needs. For instance, begging for a burger? Then your body could need iron, which helps boost energy and mood.
Here are some possible reasons nutritionists give for your craving chocolate, potato chips, ice cream, and some healthy ways to curb those cravings:
Chocolate. What you’re really craving is relaxation. Chocolate’s phenylethylamine can make you feel more relaxed, and it’s loaded with magnesium, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels and helps you feel calm.
But there are other, healthier ways to seek serenity. Take up yoga, for instance to channel positive energy throughout your body – and this feeling of serenity can stay with you all day long.
Some people find that eating sweets only for dessert never as snacks makes it easier to limit them and decrease cravings. Sweets usually don’t provide long-lasting fuel as snacks anyway, nutritionists at the American Institute for Cancer Research say.
One study found that after two weeks of eating chocolate twice a day, 15 to 30 minutes after a meal, people who craved chocolate felt their desire for chocolate drop. But cravers and non-cravers who ate chocolate between meals felt their desire increase.
Regularly eating chocolate or other sweets to satisfy hunger between meals may teach us to crave it, institute nutritionists warn.
Potato chips. What you really want is a thirst-quenching drink. People crave salt when they’re dehydrated. Because salt helps the body hold onto water, people subconsciously seek out salt. Instead of the salty foods, drink a tall glass of water.
Ice cream. There’s a scientific reason you want it. Just feeling the cold, smooth texture in your mouth triggers the release of galanin, which helps you feel relaxed and carefree. Instead, do something else that relaxes you, such as playing a board game or taking the kids to the park.
Cookies. A quick energy jolt is really what you want. Sugary carb cravings, like donuts or cookies, are a sure sign that you need a little pick-me-up. Many of us subconsciously look for this quick fix when we feel drained. Instead of grabbing for the fat-laden Oreos, try closings your eyes for a few minutes, letting your mind wander. Or, take an energizing walk.
A craving’s causes
Doctors and dietitians say cravings stem from a combination of emotional, hormonal and biochemical factors. An imbalance in your blood sugar most often serves as the foundation for most craving, coming after long period between meals or on very low-calorie diets.
Most common emotional triggers for women and men are boredom, depression, a general need for comfort, and stress. For women, they suffer the strongest food cravings in the week prior to menstruation or during pregnancy, a fact that leads nutritionists and dietitians to blame hormonal swings on your sudden urge for a certian type of food or a sackful of chocolate-chip cookies.
Severe cravings could lead to binge eating and other eating disorders, nutritionists warn.
Cravings: sign of weakness?
When you hear your tummy growling or you get this “urge,” the problem is deciding whether you’re craving a food for emotional or physiological reasons or whether your body is truly hungry for food it needs.
However, many dieters think of food cravings as a weakness, but 91 percent of participants in a calorie-restriction study experienced food cravings at the start. And even more had cravings six months after dieting, nutritionists at Boston’s Tufts University say.
In fact, accepting food cravings and keeping them in check may be an important component of weight management, explains Susan Roberts, an energy metabolism expert at the university’s Human Nutrition Research Center, who helped conduct the calorie study.
People in her study who lost the most weight succumbed to their cravings less frequently, she says.
“Allowing yourself to have the foods you crave, but doing so less frequently may be one of the most important keys to successful weight control,” Roberts adds. “Some of the most commonly craved foods among study participants were foods that have high sugar plus fat, such as chocolate, and salty snacks, such as chips and French fries.
“If individuals understand that they can expect cravings and that those cravings will be for calorie-dense foods, it might help in their weight management. One thing to do is to substitute foods that taste similar but have fewer calories, since the craving can be satisfied by related tastes.”