What Are Cravings
Those intense feelings that you just won’t be satisfied again until you have that one specific food. Sometimes they can last for days and even distract us from other activities, and they can be for the weirdest foods. But you you’ve been watching what you eat lately, so you can’t just give into those cravings… can you?
Sometimes cravings really are just really wanting a food, but sometimes they’re our bodies calling for help. This article will discuss what craving are, why we get them, and what to do when they come calling?
What Causes Food Cravings?
Most food cravings come from different chemicals in food that can interact with our brains. In general, our stomachs and our brains are connected far more intimately than scientists knew even a decade ago. This can help our brains tell us what foods we need when we run low on an essential nutrient.
The bad news is that many scientists believe that we are still hard wired to crave high-energy foods which, for most of human history, were exceedingly difficult to come by. Now that high-energy foods are available to most of us on demand, our bodies can still tell us that we need as many calories as we can get, which can lead many people to overeat, and to eat the wrong foods.
If your body is used to you satisfying these cravings, chances are it will keep craving and keep being satisfied, leading to a vicious cycle of over-eating calorie-rich foods. The good news is that once you kick the habit of giving into your cravings, your body will realize that it doesn’t need all of the energy that it can get, and the cravings should become more manageable.
Another important consideration is that if you are craving sweets, you are really craving sugar, which can be found in abundance in fruits. Eating fruits instead of junk-food will give your body the sugar it craves, while supplying other important vitamins and minerals.
Sometimes a craving for sweets can also come from a craving for fat. There are lots of different kinds of fats in the diet, and many of them are actually beneficial. The secret, just like with a sugar craving, is to get the desired nutrient from a healthy source rather than from the desired food, if the desired food is unhealthy.
If you really are craving junk-food just for the sake of eating junk-food, many traditional diet no-nos can be improved upon with a few substitutions to the recipe.
Why do our Bodies Crave Certain Foods?
While not every sweets-craving is justified, many of the cravings that we often get are our brains trying to tell us that we are low in a vital nutrient that is found in that food. For better or worse, the brain doesn’t tell us that we need magnesium, potassium or iron, it tells us that we need food that the brain associates with that nutrient, whether or not that food is really the best place to get that nutrient.
While these cravings are probably worth paying some attention to, it can be important to identify the nutrient that you need, rather than blindly eating whatever your brain suggests. This can help us to get what we need from the healthiest sources possible.
Identifying alternate sources to satisfy your cravings can obviously be important for those trying to lose weight, but can also be important for those trying to follow a diet for other reasons. For example, a lot of the cravings for meat suffered by those trying to switch to a vegetarian diet are because the body associates meat with iron and protein. Eating plant sources for protein and iron can help the aspiring vegetarian end their animal cravings.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, extremely low calorie diets often restrict the variety of foods that the dieter is allowed. This can drastically reduce the variety of vitamins and minerals in the diet, which often causes intense food cravings for people on these diets. This can be another reason that “cheat days” can be important in even the strictest diets. Taking the diet plan a little more loosely from time to time will give opportunities to eat foods rich in certain vitamins and minerals that may be missing from the diet plan.
Other Common Causes of Cravings
Cravings can also be common for women on their periods. These cravings are usually associated with mineral deficiencies, which can be common for women during that time of the month. Scientists are also unclear as to why chocolate is a craving. Some believe that it is because of the minerals found in chocolate, while others believe that it is strictly for mood-enhancing chemicals found in chocolate. Either way, this is probably a good time to loosen the diet restrictions and do what makes you happy.
Another time of life often characterised by food cravings is pregnancy. Many women crave strange foods, while others have been known to crave things other than food. When it comes to craving things that aren’t food, the best thing is to do as described above and figure out what nutrients that item may carry and what food sources can supply that nutrient.
As for other food cravings that may interfere with dietary plans, the best thing is to go off of the diet and put all of your dietary plans in the hands of healthcare professionals. Healthcare professionals will probably recommend putting any diets on hold until some time after the pregnancy, though some people will be recommended to lose weight in order to ensure a safe delivery. Whether you are told to gain, lose, or ignore weight, the body’s needs can change a lot before, during, and after pregnancy, and it is best to navigate these needs with professionals and move focus from other health and weight objectives.
After the pregnancy healthcare professionals will also be able to coach you into returning to your previous diet and exercise regimen, though this will likely be a gradual transition, and it may go a little slower than you might like.
Whatever the source of your food cravings, it is usually good to give your body what it wants, or a reasonable facsimile. Usually your body knows what you need, but it’s up to your brain to find the best way to get it.