Although there is no exact explanation for cravings, there are some valid reasons to why we have them. Anywhere from conditional reasons too many theories. Some of the conditional reasons are being low or an imbalance in a certain vitamin or mineral. The triggers for this could be hydration or hormonal, as with pregnancy or menstruation.
Another condition is called pica, which is referred to as an eating disorder for non food sources as; dirt, chalk, paint chips, hair, ice…. Sometimes it is believed to be a mineral imbalance when linked to pregnancy or malnourishment, where iron is lacking.
Sometimes cravings for certain types of food are linked to their ingredients. Chocolate for example, contains the neurotransmitter phenylethylamine, which is important for the regulation of the body’s release of endorphins. Another release of endorphins comes with glucose (sugar), a very prevalent craving for many. The reason for this is that the opioid receptors in the brain are a very addictive area, much like how alcohol or drugs are on the brain with addiction. Sugar has the same affect, hormones – specifically dopamine are released when glucose is present and it makes you feel good/happy. The trick is to have enough glucose to feed the brain but not overwhelm other systems of the body that control sugar. Another common craving is for savory foods, like in chips or movie popcorn. In these types of foods there is little to no nutritional density, just a rapidly digested source of energy that the body thinks it hasn’t got enough nutrients from, so you tend to be able to eat copious amounts. We don’t tend to eat this amount of vegetables in a sitting as they don’t get the same explosive-rapid response and because they are nutrient dense, our body tells us to stop eating. This is critical, you want your body to work for you, not against you. Once you move away from overly processed foods your taste buds will start to sense the natural sugar, salts and fats in foods, hopefully staving off cravings. All overly processed foods negatively overwhelm our body’s systems in one way or another, over time they create chronic disease; high bp, high cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic syndrome….
The good news is, if you implement a healthy diet with exercise – your body will adapt to making those happy hormones more quickly and exercise will even boost your dopamine levels!
So, before you give in, think of this: A food craving is a selective hunger and is different from normal hunger!
Ask yourself some questions first:
- Am I really hungry?
- Did I eat nutrient dense foods today?
- Did I eat in timed intervals or waited too long to eat?
- Did I drink enough water today?
- Am I getting enough exercise?
- Am I lacking in a certain mineral or vitamin?
Things you can answer to yourself or implement.
- Yes, I am hungry I will try eating nutrient dense clean food first
- I will drink a big glass of water then wait and see if I am still hungry
- I really am going to blow it, I need to give in, but I will take only a serving size and make a more nutrient dense choice depending on the craving, such as: Dark chocolate, fruit, seaweed, multigrain tortilla chips, snack peas, low fat cheese….
- I will implement more variety of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and clean proteins so I have satiety.
- I will journal triggers to try rule out if I may be low in a vitamin or mineral.
- I am not getting enough exercise, I will add at least 30 minutes 3x/week
Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
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