Almost everyone experiences cravings at some time or another. While sometimes our cravings can seem to overtake our rational thoughts and make us want to eat foods that we know are not good for us, they are not always a bad thing to be scared of.
Your cravings are actually a signal from your body, telling you something. It could be a physical need, something your body's systems require to function properly. Sometimes our cravings are emotional, and stem from needing to fulfill an emotional void of some sort.
Whenever you get a craving, the best thing you can do is to honor it, by getting to the root cause and finding out what your body really needs.
1. You Need an Energy Boost
If you're craving sugar or refined carbohydrates, then the reason for this could be because your body is looking for a quick energy fix. The need for extra energy can come when you are feeling tired, and is the reason we often crave sugary foods in the afternoons towards the end of our busy days.
You might feel like you must have a sugary doughnut for example. What the body really wants is a quick fix to boost your blood sugar levels and help get you through the rest of the day.
The best way to avoid having sugar and carbo cravings is to make sure you are getting enough sleep each day, and that you eat after doing exercise when you body’s energy reserves are lowest.
You should also try and eat meals that provide sustained energy by eating foods that are low in glycemic load. To create a meal of low GL, whole unprocessed foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and beans are great choices. They are high in fiber, which is particularly important because it moderates the speed at which the sugar is absorbed by the body. Also, make sure you include a moderate amount of good fat and lean protein to slow down sugar absorption and increase satiety.
2. You need balance
Our bodies are remarkable, they truly are. It is always trying to maintain a state of equilibrium and balance. However, we sometimes will make food choices that upset this balance and your body then tries to compensate for this by sparking a craving for a food that can balance this out.
For example, when we eat too many contractive Yang foods – such as red meat, salt and eggs- our body will want some expansive Yin foods to restore balance. Sugar and alcohol are extreme Yin foods that our body would usually crave when trying to balance out the Yang overload.
Armed with this knowledge, you can reduce your sugar cravings by eating less extreme yang foods and instead, choose foods that are more neutral on the spectrum. Examples are whole grains, fish, sea vegetables, beans, root vegetables, and winter squash.
3. You need more nutrients
Cravings can be a sign of nutrient deficiency. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine.
I'm sure you've experienced cravings for chocolate- if it's around the time of your period, it could be your body needs more stores of magnesium which is found in high quantities in dark chocolate. If you're craving oranges or citrus, it might mean your body really needs more vitamin C to give your immune system a boost.
Cravings for different flavor or texture can translate to a lack of various nutrients. If you are craving something crunchy, try eating apples, rice cakes, plain popcorn, or nuts and seeds.
To alleviate sugar cravings, try eating fresh, whole fruit, have a wheatgrass shot or try having baked sweet vegetables such as carrots or sweet potatoes.
Salty cravings can be alleviated by eating olives, pickles and pickled vegetables, tabbouleh, hummus or edamame with sea salt.
Healthy creamy cravings can be satisfied by eating avocados, rice pudding, coconut milk or even a pudding made with silken tofu or mashed banana.
In this blog post I share more about the food-mood connection and what cravings for different foods might mean.
4. You need to balance your hormones
It is common for women to experience unique cravings at the times they are going through menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. This is caused by fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels and they can be difficult to control.
Preventing hormone disruption and imbalance by getting plenty of sleep, eating a wholesome diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, and doing regular exercise can keep your hormones- and the associated cravings- in check.
5. You need to re-hydrate
Cravings can be caused by dehydration. Our body often misinterprets the sensation of thirst and translates that into hunger. Next time when you feel your cravings coming on, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes, and see if you are still hungry.
6. You need Soul Food Nourishment
Not all our cravings are physiological- more often they are not. When we have emotionally charged cravings, it can be difficult to satisfy them, no matter how much we eat. This is because we need to fill the emotional void- such as loneliness, boredom or dissatisfaction, and often we think food will do just this.
Rather than feeding your emotions with food, it is much better to nourish one of your soul foods, so that you can feel more fulfilled, happy and emotionally full which will make the craving for food to go away.
The key is to conquering your cravings is to really get in tune with your body so that you can figure out exactly why your body is craving what it is, and to then feed your body what it needs to make the cravings go away. The more mindful you can become of the triggers and signs, the better you will be able to control your cravings and stop them from coming on again.
If you would like to have more tools and strategies for overcoming your cravings, and to learn how t deconstruct and decode the messages from your body, then I invite you to join my free 7-day Conquer Your Cravings Challenge. It starts on Monday November 27th and I'd love you to join us in learning how to manage your cravings and transform your relationship with food and your body. Sign up below!
I'd also love to know what cravings you normally experience- physical or emotional and which ones? Share with me in the comments below.
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