We all crave certain foods from time to time, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself if there is an underlying reason as to why you reach for certain foods? Cravings can mean a number of things including emotions and a specific nutrient deficiency.
An emotional craving is more often related to mood, with the problem being, people tend to crave foods often high in calories, sugar and fat when they are emotional. Eating these types of food frequently can lead to a variety of health related problems. So, it is good to make yourself aware of what kind of mood you're in and try do something else instead of reaching for food - listening to music, going for a walk or doing some form of activity that makes you feel good.
However more often than not studies have found that when you have a strong craving for something this is your body's way of telling you that you are low in a specific nutrient, vitamin or mineral. There are so many processed foods out in the market these days that we as a society are getting confused with what our bodies are actually asking for, and instead we turn to a quick easy fix. By having an understanding of what your cravings can mean you are setting yourself up for success and providing your body with what it really needs, not just what you think you need.
When you feel like chocolate this may indicate the need for magnesium, B-vitamins and/or essential fatty acids.
Chocolate is high in magnesium so eating foods that are magnesium rich can help to curb the cravings, try eating a hand full of almonds, lots of wholegrains, beans, nuts, seeds and green leafy veg into your diet to get your magnesium fix instead.
However sometimes you just want some chocolate, you're only human! The higher the percentage the better so a good number to start at is 80% cocoa and above, the darker the chocolate the more bitter it is, so you won't devour a whole block and your cravings will usually be satisfied with eating one or two squares.
When you feel like carbohydrates this may indicate blood sugar fluctuations or fatigue. Including more fibre in your diet for better blood sugar control and eating more magnesium rich foods such as your fruits and vegetables- bananas, apples, apricots, capsicum, spinach, beetroot, avocado, broccoli, celery, and carrot will help minimise this craving.
When you feel like something sweet this may indicate blood sugar imbalances and fatigue. In addition to this, some people are quite literally hooked on the sweet stuff, studies have found that sugar is physically addictive!
Eating biscuits, cakes, sweets and soft drinks will make the problem worse as this will lead to a blood sugar roller coaster that will lead to more cravings. A good way to overcome this craving is to go for a smart choice like a piece of fruit instead as they contain natural sugars and carbs, but they're balanced out by fibre and other nutrients, causing a less dramatic blood sugar spike. Try having a piece of fruit (stone fruits and berries are great choices!) paired with a lean piece of protein - this will help fill you up so you don't keep snacking,
Cravings are a natural thing and they are bound to happen from time to time. By being aware of what you're craving and what this may actually mean you are providing yourself with the tools to set yourself up for success. Some general advice would be to drink plenty of water as sometimes the feeling of thirst can be mistaken for hunger, ensure that you are eating plenty of nutrient rich foods and to listen to what your body is telling you. You only have one body, so treat it like a temple!
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