By Michelle Vodrazka
Mmmm, cravings….I bet that just by the mere mention of the word, you can picture, even smell, the food that you regularly crave. Let me guess, for most of you it’s something sweet, perhaps chocolate-y. For others, it’s something salty and fatty like chips or cheese. Did I nail it? Cravings are normally high in calories, carbohydrates and fat, are usually consumed in large quantities and have little protein content. Know that you are not alone: it is estimated that as many as 95% of people in North America suffer from food cravings. The top three triggers of food cravings are nutritional deficiencies, fatigue and blood sugar imbalance. Let’s take a closer look at each of these in more detail.
Due to the poor quality of our soil there has been a reliable decline in the amounts of vitamins and mineral in our fruits and vegetables over the past half century, not to mention that most North Americans don’t even come close to eating the recommended 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. When you are nutritionally deficient your body will crave more food to try to meet its micronutrient needs.
Low energy, if ignored, can cause us to crave stimulants – like sugar, caffeine and refined carbohydrates in order to give us a jolt of energy. Unfortunately these ‘uppers’ are always followed by a ‘downer’ when our body crashes. What most of us fail to understand, is that what our body really needs, is rest and sleep and not artificial stimulants. Try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night, and up to 10 hours if you are an athlete.
Start paying attention to what you are feeling when a craving strikes. Often we aren’t even aware there is an emotional trigger because eating to stuff down our feelings has become such an ingrained habit. When we feel bad, we crave foods that are fatty and sweet because we know that they will make us feel good by acting on dopamine receptors (our feel good chemicals) in the brain.
Blood sugar imbalance is one of the most common triggers for food cravings and can lead to a vicious cycle of bouts of high energy followed by a crash of no energy. All sweets and starches get converted into glucose which causes our pancreas to release insulin to remove the sugar from our blood (the high) and draw it into our cells. The resulting drop in blood sugar due to the insulin release makes us tired again (the low) so we crave sugar and simple crabs because we know they provide us with quick energy.
Take time to pay attention and see if you can figure out which of the above triggers are responsible for your cravings. That way, you will build the awareness to start changing these ingrained patterns and hopefully, begin responding differently.
About Michelle Vodrazka: Michelle is a Culinary Nutrition Expert, holistic health coach and mother of four, whose passion is teaching people how they can transform their lives through nutrition and exercise. Michelle has written two cookbooks, Smart Snacking for Sports, published in 2014, and Help Yourself to Seconds, which is due to be published in the fall of 2015. Michelle loves spending time in her kitchen dreaming up new creations and enjoys shares her knowledge of cooking, nutrition and fitness on her blog www.inspiredbodies.com.