What Do Your Cravings Really Mean?

Right now, are you hungry for something? Perhaps, you're craving a salty snack? Would you kill for chocolate - any chocolate? Do you wish you could crunch into some crispy chips right this second?


There are many reasons why we experience food cravings, including genetics, upbringing, environment, hormones, emotions, nutritional deficiencies. Decoding the reasons why you'd do uncouth things for a slice of salami at 4pm can help you to break free from these unhealthy eating habits, and reclaim your taste for nutritious foods.



1. If You're Craving: Ice Cream



Why You're Craving It:

People crave sweets for a couple of reasons. For starters, either your happy hormone levels (serotonin) have dipped, or your stress hormones (cortisol) have risen. The craving stems out of the fact that carb-laden and sugar-rich foods help increase feel-good hormones.

Another reason is because you're hungry or tired and looking for a quick hit of energy because your blood sugar levels have dipped. Simple carbs deliver easily-digestible, fast-acting energy which raises your blood sugar and feeds your brain.

And lastly, many of us are addicted to it. Sugar actually releases dopamine within the body, the hormone that regulates things like emotion, behavior, alertness, impulsivity, and hanger. It's also the hormone that is released when we fall in love or partake in drugs and alcohol—and what ultimately plays a role in addiction.


Eat This Instead:

Carb-rich foods in general—not just ice cream and cookies—will help boost energy and serotonin levels. Incorporating more sweet fruits (like berries or apples) into your diet will deliver a dose of sweetness, but offer more staying power because of their high fiber levels. Slow-digesting fiber can keep your blood sugar stable, and fend off frequent food urges. These foods will help keep your cortisol and blood sugar levels stable and cravings at bay.



2. If You're Craving: Bread/Pasta



Why You're Craving It:

You've likely jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon without actually have a gluten sensitivity. Depriving yourself of such a common food can lead to intense cravings for that food. Another reason? You may be low in tryptophan—an amino acid which is responsible for producing the mood- and sleep-regulating hormone, serotonin. That's because carbs can help your body absorb this amino acid.


Eat This Instead:

Protein is another way to get tryptophan—think HEALTHY GRASS-FED turkey, eggs, and yogurt—and thanks to its slow-digesting properties, it'll also help keep your hunger pangs from getting out of control. When it comes to satisfying a craving, though, nothing does it better than Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin Sprouted Whole Grain Bread. This loaf provides a natural sweetness to nip your sugar craving in the bud but offers long-lasting complex carbs which will keep you satiated.


3. If You're Craving: Chips



Why You're Craving It:

If you are craving super salty and crunchy things like these, it’s likely one of two things:  you’re angsty or you’re thirsty!  In other words, you’re either wanting to release some built up tension and stress by chomping down on something crunchy (there’s that texture thing again), or your body is trying to make you feel thirstier so that you will drink water.  It sounds strange, but sometimes when your body is dehydrated is will actually give you the urge to eat salty foods to make you thirsty enough that you’ll drink more water!


Eat This Instead:

Slice up a raw, crunchy, red bell pepper to dip into hummus. Just one cup of these ruby veggies contains 316 percent of your DV of vitamin C, an antioxidant which has been shown to elevate mood and counteracts the stress hormones that leave you feeling tense and trigger the storage of belly fat.

If it’s the crunchy texture you need, don’t forget about things like nuts, apples or fresh veggies.  

But if you pause and realize you might in fact be dehydrated, drink pure water and fresh juice, and eat more hydrating foods like watermelon, grapes or tomatoes.


4. If You're Craving: Chocolate


Why You're Craving It:

Besides the stress-relieving endorphin rush, you may be craving chocolate because it is high in magnesium, and over fifty percent of people now are deficient in this. Magnesium is a macro-mineral, meaning your body needs high amounts of it.  It regulates and relaxes the muscles, arteries and nervous system.  If you experience a lot of anxiety, mood swings, sleep issues, muscle cramps/twitches, or migraines, then you may need more magnesium.  Some things that deplete magnesium are stress, sugary foods and soda.


Eat This Instead:

Some awesome sources of magnesium are dark chocolate (sweetened naturally) rather than candy bars, dark leafy greens, banana, avocado, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, quinoa, kefir, and seafood. Maybe make yourself a Chocolate banana protein smoothie!


5. If You're Craving: Cookies, Cake, or Candy



Why You're Craving It:

If you’re craving sugary treats like this, you may be looking for the temporary mood/energy boost they give. A lot of people with sugar cravings or addictions don’t have consistently good energy.  Having low energy often means a low mood as well, but sugar can feel like a quick fix for both. The problem is that when blood sugar levels spike (raise quickly) it is not a healthy thing, and is linked to things like premature aging and diabetes. When those levels drop back down it can create mood swings and perpetuate the cycle of low energy.


Eat This Instead:

Your body and brain need natural sugars such as glucose to sustain proper functioning and energy, but it’s better to get that from natural sources that provide more sustained energy.

Some great foods for sustained energy are protein-packed smoothies, rice, sweet potatoes, dried fruit and nuts, and potassium-packed produce like bananas and avocados.  And remember to eat consistently, and make sure you are getting enough water and restful sleep.  These things should help your energy, but you don’t have to give up yummy sweets and treats. Just make sure they are naturally sweetened (like with honey or maple syrup) and minimally processed!

Also, if you’re craving sugar, up your protein intake, especially with your first meal of the day.


6. If You're Craving: Pizza or Burgers


Why You're Craving It:

ith pizza’s savory mix of fat, sodium and carbs, it’s no mystery why it’s so universally loved.  And the same goes for hamburgers.  If you’re having strong cravings for foods like these, your body may be in serious need of more fat.


Eat This Instead:

But not just any fat, but the kind of healthy fats it needs from nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, olives, healthy oils, organic meats and bone broth.  These good fats actually help you burn fat and maintain a healthy weight.  But if you’re getting plenty of good fats and still just want pizza or a burger sometimes, there are so many better-for-you versions of these foods now that you never need to feel deprived!


Remember, while you’re having intense cravings, it makes it extremely difficult to really achieve any goals you may have – weight loss or otherwise. It’s not our fault we’ve failed healthy eating or diets in the past. The most successful and proven way to lose weight and feel better isn’t to diet or deprive ourselves, but rather to adopt a way of eating that is sustainable for us long-term that you actually ENJOY. It takes time to create new eating habits and rewire your cravings.



CRAVING CRUSHERS


1. Eat Breakfast

- Sure, you may initially save some calories by skipping your morning meal, but doing so will only increase the odds you'll give in to cravings with diet-derailing picks, making it harder to trim down in the long run. When you skip breakfast, it can cause blood sugar to drop below healthy levels and increase the urge to eat sugary foods. This is why many people tend to overeat or give into cravings later in the day when they skip their morning meal.



2. Get Fruity

- You don't have to entirely deprive yourself of sweets, just appease that pesky craving naturally with fruits. Adding this produce can help trick your taste buds into thinking you're getting a sweet treat and halt cravings before you feel tempted to reach for dessert. Even better, research shows consuming high fiber foods like berries and other fruits helps boost fullness after a meal, which supercharges the effectiveness of this tactic.



3. Apple Cider Vinegar

- You already know that nabbing a salad for lunch is healthy, but if you dress your greens with a creamy ranch or french dressing, you may be missing an opportunity to stop your junk food cravings before they surface. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid: a compound that helps delay gastric emptying, which means it keeps food in your the stomach longer, boosting satiety. Although ACV tastes great on just about any bed of leaves, using it along with some freshly ground pepper, dijon mustard, and extra virgin olive oil atop kale salads is particularly tasty.


4. Snack Smarter

- Experts found most people crave sugar and fat, so why not treat yourself by eating just that? You may think that attempting to fulfill your cravings by replacing your favorite chocolate chunk cookie with a tasteless, low-sugar or low-fat option is the best tactic, but Christine M. Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND, a Chicago-area registered dietitian and nutritionist explains that might not be the case. "I have never been a fan of reduced-fat or low-sugar versions of indulgent foods because, [often], no matter how many of them you eat, your craving won't be satisfied. You're better off giving into your craving with the real deal. You may be surprised to find that you're actually satisfied with less," she says. You can also reach for something naturally sweet, like fruit, and with healthy fats, like GRASS-FED yogurt and a nutty (HEALTHY) granola, instead of diet-derailing vending machine treats.

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