Cravings for certain foods – chocolate, salty crisps or bread – can seem habitual or sneak up on you. Knowing how to beat cravings means understanding why you have them in the first place.
The food we eat influences our emotions. They have the ability to make us feel happy, depressed, anxious or calm, because certain foods trigger a release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, and they in turn control appetite and behaviour.
Those dreaded carbs, for example, trigger a release of serotonin, the brain’s ‘happy chemical’. Protein, on the other hand, releases dopamine and noradrenaline, which spike energy levels.
Joburg dietician Sue Scharf agrees. “A burning desire for a particular foodstuff is frequently linked to our emotions,” she says.
On that note: Warm tummies with delicious chocolate banana bread
Yet it can also point to an underlying medical issue, like an iron deficiency or diabetes, where the urge to eat certain foods is actually linked to a sugar imbalance. “If you have a natural predisposition to depression, blood sugar fluctuations will aggravate the condition,” she adds.
So what does it mean when you guzzle a packet of potato crisps or a slab of chocolate? This is what your body may be trying to tell you:
Chocolate: you may lack magnesium, which is essential for nerve function. You may also crave it when you’re down, or when you’re feeling ‘hormonal’ during your menstrual cycle.
Salty foods: if there is no medical reason for it, a craving for salty food can be caused by stress, anger or frustration.
Bread, pasta and rice: these cravings could relate to fear, tension or stress. Carbs can be very soothing.
Sugar: this relates to feelings of boredom, anger, stress or frustration. It can also point to a vitamin B deficiency.
High-fat foods: these are associated with a fear of change or feelings of emptiness.
Cheese: could indicate a calcium deficiency.
A healthier cheese option: Prepare delicious broccoli cheese balls
Scharf advises that banning a certain food can often intensify cravings for it, which any dieter will agree is when the wheels normally come off.
Instead of imposing an all-out ban, she advises giving in to the craving, but deciding on the amount of the craved food you’ll have beforehand – and then sticking to it!
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