• Dr. Julie Mclaughlin

What do you crave and why?

Sometimes cravings are more psychological than physiological

Cravings that come over you might actually be more than just that desperate hunger you feel and the need to eat. Often that search for food, that craving can arise when you need to have a break from what you are doing. You suddenly realize you are starving. Lisa Cohn, a nutritionist from New York explains that often food searches are triggered by a physical or emotional reaction that leaves people feeling out of control and the act of “looking and searching around for something to eat gives us a kind of determination to take control.”


If you are dieting and trying to lose weight, you would know all about cravings for certain types of foods that you have had to give up. How you long for that plate of hot chips with sauce, that pie, the creamy ice-cream dipped in chocolate – and the list goes on. Food cravings are literally a dieter’s worst enemy, and what is awful about these hunger pangs, is they feel much more intense than we are just feeling pangs of normal hunger - it’s like we just have to have them. And it’s these cravings that many people find are the biggest reasons why they battle to lose weight and keep the weight off.


Even though there are a few potential reasons why people get sudden cravings, which can include nutrient deficiencies, psychological, deprivation of sleep, or low blood sugar, here are very satisfying and healthy choices of snacks that anyone can make to quench their cravings until they have their next meal, and they really work.


1. Drinking Water

If you are longing for that hot pie and gravy, rather drink a big glass of water, and then wait for just a few minutes. Often the craving disappears after a while; maybe your body was really just looking for water to quench the thirst. Not only does it fill the gap, but water comes with other health benefits as well. For the older person drinking water before meals is a good way to help with weight loss.


2. Eat more proteins

Eating more proteins definitely fills you up more; it helps to reduce your appetite and keeps you from overeating. Proteins will certainly help with the cravings and help you to feel satisfied for longer. For instance, try eating a high protein breakfast and watch how it has the capacity to reduce cravings for snacking in-between meals. It’s because it also keeps you full for much longer times.


3. Don’t pander to the craving – distance yourself from it

When you feel a craving coming on; and you are finding it so difficult not to fill up with a bowl of ice-cream and relish it in front of the television, try and rather distance yourself from it. Try and find something to do in its place to take your mind off it, like going for a brisk walk. A change in environment or activity is a good way to distance yourself from that desire.



4. Plan Your Meals

It is an excellent idea to do meal prepping; this way you know exactly what you will be eating in the next week. It is so beneficial because you get to prepare the right foods to eat in the week, they are always ready when you get home each day or when you prepare in the morning. This eliminates the chance of you wanting to binge or to stop at takeaway places. When you don’t have to think about what you are going to eat the next meal, it prevents the temptation of fast foods, and you are less likely to experience cravings because the uncertainty is gone.


5. Don’t get to the point where you are ‘starving’

When we are really hungry, it’s when we get the cravings to eat. To avoid getting so hungry to the point where you just give in to your cravings and even over-indulge, it is a better idea to eat more regularly, and also to have healthy little snacks at hand. Being prepared with snacks, thereby avoiding long periods of hunger; helps to prevent cravings from cropping up. Keep the snacks healthy though!


6. Try and keep stress at bay

Stress can well induce food cravings, particularly in women. Food is like a comfort mechanism when stress is around. You want to reach for alcohol, chocolate, highly processed fatty takeaways and cakes for instance. Stress also raises the blood levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that makes you gain extra weight, particularly around the waist and on the belly. Try and reduce stress in your environment – that means planning ahead, slowing down and taking time to de-stress such as meditating in the Bible, for example, to obtain comfort and encouragement. What about a long relaxing bath with a favorite novel and candles or a long walk in nature; maybe your favorite music?


7. What about some extract of spinach?

As you rightly guessed, spinach extract is made from spinach leaves, containing green leaf membranes known as thylakoids. Research from the Lund University in Sweden reveals that it helps to decrease hunger by as much as 95%, increasing weight loss by as much as 43%. Another study in overweight women found that 5 grams of the spinach extract reduced their cravings for chocolate and foods with high sugar content by a huge 87–95%!


8. Make mindful eating a habit

Mindful eating is all about practicing mindfulness – it’s like being ‘aware’ of what you are eating, relishing it, tasting it, and considering the ways it benefits your body. It is about developing an awareness of the physical sensations around eating. It helps you to distinguish between whether you are craving foods or whether you are just really hungry, teaching you how to respond to your meals and snacks and other foods thoughtfully, instead of acting impulsively. While you eat, you aren’t staring into the TV mindlessly eating or reading messages on your phone, not aware of what goes into your mouth.



9. Soothing sleep

When you are sleep deprived, you disrupt normal hormonal patterns, causing you to have a poor appetite, to have cravings, poor mood levels, irritability, and much more. It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of good restful sleep, with the right organic mattress and the right amount of hours as well.


10. Don't go to the supermarket when you are hungry

Grocery stores with takeaway foods on display are the best places to go when you are hungry and need to do your shopping. Some of them display their hot bread and cooked meals and your mouth simply drools as you pile in stuff you weren’t planning on, just wanting to get it through the tills so you can start nibbling on it on your way home! It really is best to do your shopping when you’ve recently eaten because you prevent that “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips” guilt trip and you save extra money going out of your purse as well.


But what do these cravings actually say about your health?

Whether its mounds of pasta or hamburgers oozing with sauces, a secret chocolate dessert that you relish at 3 am, your tongue could be passing on messages about your health. Sometimes it could be just a little bit of something that you fancy that passes over your lips, but when it is a recurring craving for something in particular when generally it is unhealthy food, your body is passing on the message that something inside your body is out of sync. Some of these cravings have been decoded into messages your body trying to tell you. Let’s have a look:


1. Sugar and sweets

We all know how sugar is detrimental to our health. When you are desperate to get that morning tea time down with a jam donut to last you through till lunch, is a sign of several things may be needing attention in your body – it’s quite a tricky thing, but the more you eat sweets, the more you crave them. Nutritionists try and explain it by suggesting that your blood sugar goes up which means insulin is released. When you have a lot of sugar, you have an energy crash, where you almost feel exhausted and need to sleep, waiting for the next high of sugar. Really, the best way to deal with this is to reduce your sugar intake by eating more fruit and vegetables and snacks that are high in protein. Your energy lasts longer because it is released more slowly. If you are eating relatively healthy, maybe you are lacking some nutrients like zinc, chromium or just a general multi-vitamin to get your food and health back on track.


2. Chocolate

No matter if it’s the milky choc or the dark ‘healthier’ alternatives when we have chocolate cravings, it could be a sign that we are lacking in the mineral, magnesium. Magnesium is nature’s sedative for reducing stress and anxiety and relaxing the muscles, thereby enabling energy production, strong heart function and building healthy bones. Rather get your chocolate in the form of raw cacao powder to boost your mineral levels.



3. Carbs such as bread, pasta, potatoes

Everyone loves their big old bowl of spaghetti or mac n cheese but if you are ‘crying’ out for these carbs all the time, there might be other reasons for it; sometimes emotional issues can lie at the bottom of it. It is such comforting food, cheering your spirits, although temporarily. If you are stressed out and looking for comfort foods, the reason also could be that you are not getting enough good sleep. Often when the body is tired, it wants a quick surge of energy from carbs, and it is easier to use than the energy which comes from proteins and fats. Beat your cravings for cabs with some gentle exercising, learning to feed your body with goods fats and lean proteins.

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