Figuring out food cravings


Infographic alert!

When you think about your body and how it converses with you, do you pay attention? Or is it more of a one-way conversation?

News flash... facebook isn’t the only platform giving us continual status updates. #andthenthishappened.

When your body talks to you, do you switch off or do you have your say and then hit the like button?

It’s incredible how exceptional our bodies are at telling us what we need to remain happy and healthy. But sometimes we ignore the alarm signals and that’s when we can get ourselves into hot water. It may be easier to live in a virtual world and not listen to your inner voice or the dialogue or physical appearances that are popping up daily.

human-mind-195x300Some people call this the “mind-body connection”. It’s an intrinsic and powerful way to understand your needs and tap into ongoing internal conversations so that you can better understand your own body and listen to its requests and physical symptoms.

Usually, when we experience a certain mood, we’re simultaneously experiencing a physiological reaction that is either causing that mood, or it is a direct result of our mental state.

Our bodies and minds are constantly in sync. This is a powerful partnership because by educating ourselves and exercising two-way conversation and mental control, we can learn to regulate our bodily instincts.

We’ve all experienced those seemingly insatiable instincts or cravings – whether it’s a hunger for something salty like pretzels or corn chips, or perhaps sweetness in the form of chocolate or ice cream, or you might be hankering for a fat driven satisfier like popcorn or potato chips.

If you find yourself craving one type of food for a prolonged period, this can be a sign of an emotional eating issue or that you’re missing some vital nutrients in your diet. The reality is that if you’re eating plenty of healthy, nutrient-rich foods, and following a balanced diet then you’re much less likely to experience unhealthy food cravings, as all of your nutritional needs are being met. 

Below, I’ve listed some common food cravings and easy tips you can implement to overcome them. As you read through them, think about how you can bring into practice the idea of exercising mind-body control and what you can do to listen in to your body’s signals.


Chocolate Cravings

If you find you’re constantly craving something sweet and decadent, like chocolate, you may be deficient in the vital nutrient, magnesium.

We generally experience a craving when our attempts to restrict certain types of food cause the desire for that food to become stronger. Women report experiencing more frequent and intense food cravings than men, possibly due to our greater tendency to diet.

A craving for chocolate is particularly common during the premenstrual phase, when women begin restricting their intake as their metabolisms start to slow down and they begin retaining more weight than in their younger years.

Chocolate contains numerous pharmacological substances (e.g. caffeine, phenylethylamine and anandamides) and minerals such as magnesium, which may actually improve premenstrual symptoms.

Magnesium is important for nearly every function and tissue in the human body. It supports a healthy immune system, prevents inflammation, maintains heart heath, prevent diabetes, and can ward off depression and migraines.

While a bar of chocolate may provide around 50mg of magnesium and satisfy this craving temporarily, there are plenty of magnesium-rich healthy food options that will keep you feeling fuller for longer without the guilt trip aftermath.

Dark leafy greens such as baby spinach, collard greens and kale, nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, and cashews, and fish are all great sources of magnesium.

 Next time you’re craving something creamy and decadent, before you unwrap the Cadbury, try one of my simple magnesium-loaded raw chocolate truffles.


Sugary Food Craving (Lollies, Soft Drinks etc.)

If you are frequently craving sweets, this means you could be missing out on certain key nutrients involved with glucose metabolism and insulin production.

Deficiencies in chromium, vanadium, tryptophan and zinc are especially important in explaining why frequent food restriction can result in a vicious cycle of going on a diet and then abandoning it because of intense sugar cravings.

Whilst most Westerners aren’t deficient in Chromium, many of us have low levels. This mineral plays an important role in glucose tolerance factor, which is found in your kidney cells and is necessary for insulin to transport glucose into your cells for energy.

Healthy, natural sources of chromium include lean meats, asparagus, cheese, and whole grains.

Vanadium is needed by your muscles to obtain enough glucose for energy. It also blocks the storage of excess glucose in fat cells by regulating insulin production. Vanadium can be found in shellfish, mushrooms, dill, parsley, and whole grain products.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in many foods, such as turkey, cheese, raisins, sweet potatoes and spinach. Some studies have indicated tryptophan may be an effective sleep aid and natural antidepressant. This may explain why it helps control sugar cravings, have you noticed how your sweet tooth tends to go into overdrive when you’re feeling a bit energy depleted or down?

A zinc deficiency can result in low insulin levels, which may lead to sugar cravings. Vegetarians and vegans especially tend to struggle with zinc, as it is found in more abundant quantities and more readily absorbed from animal sources such as beef, pork, oyster, lobsters and dairy. However, some plant-based options such as chickpeas, almonds and oatmeal also contain adequate amounts of zinc, although occasionally supplementation may be necessary.

Replace sugary soft drinks for fresh coconut water and sweets for frozen fruit, as you’ll get more of a nutritional bargain as opposed to consuming “empty calories” that’ll just cause a huge sugar slump a few hours later.

I’d love you to try my Banana, Cardamom and Lime Smoothie for the ultimate healthy sugar fix.


Carb Cravings (Breads, Pastas, Pastries)

Let’s face it, most of us dream of having unrestricted access to a bakery. When you crave carbs what your body really needs is the nutrient nitrogen, which you can find in nut butters, fatty fish, beans, and chia seeds.

It’s important to not eliminate carbs completely from the diet, especially if you’re relatively active, as this can just exaggerate cravings, particularly at night when your body is feeling run-down after a day of being energy deprived.

Prolonged carbohydrate restriction can also lead to intense sugar cravings. If you tend to really crave carbs, like bagels, white bread, and pasta opt instead for healthy alternatives like sprouted bread and ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. These are more nutrient dense, high protein options that will keep you satisfied for longer.

Why not give my Quinoa Risotto a whirl next time the carb cravings come knocking?


Oily, Fatty Food Cravings

People crave oily, fatty foods for a range of reasons. For some, particularly in the West, their diets are deficient in essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids such as omega 3 can be found in oily fish, flaxseeds, walnuts and soybeans.

Other people may be experiencing a deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamins E, D, K and A. Depending upon your metabolism, fat cravings can be an attempt for your body to get the nutrition it needs for sustained energy. It can also be a calcium deficiency.  Calcium rich foods include broccoli, turnip greens and dairy products.

Fats and oils contain the highest calorie per gram, so it makes sense that you crave them most when you’re especially hungry and longing to feel satisfied.

Contrary to popular belief, fat is not the enemy. It’s the type of fat you choose that makes all the difference. Opt for healthy fats like avocado, coconut products, nuts and seeds to fuel your fat fix.

My quick and easy to prepare Trail Mix recipe is a great snack idea that is bursting with all the healthy fats that your body requires to function properly. Kids will love it too!


Salty Food Cravings

While we tend to associate salty food cravings with pretzels, chips, big slices of pizza and cheese, you might actually be physically craving salt without knowing it.

Many common foods are actually very high in salt even though they don’t taste “salty” – if you’re longing for corn flakes or cookies, it might actually be about the salt, not the sugar!

 Many minerals taste salty or minerally, so when you get the message from your brain to eat more salt, your body is really asking for more minerals and you’ll continually crave salt until your mineral needs are met.

Eating more mineral-dense sea vegetables like nori, kelp, and dulse is a great way to satisfy your salt cravings. Try swapping out your table salt and using sea salt and dulse flakes to sprinkle over your meals.

Sodium cravings can also be a sign of dehydration. Salt keeps water in your body for long enough to hydrate your cells. When you become dehydrated, you need a little more salt to steady your electrolytes, which are mineral salts that conduct electricity in your tissues and body, and retain the water you need.

Drinking herbal teas, eating plenty of fresh produce, and ensuring your getting your (minimum) eight glasses a day will help curb salt cravings. Making a big pot of gut-friendly Ginger Tea, and sipping it throughout the day will not only keep you hydrated, it will also boost your immune and digestive health – a winner on all fronts.

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