Food cravings. We all have them, we all fight them, we all give into them, but do we all know what causes them? It has been proven that some food cravings can be caused by nutritional deficiencies and it’s important to listen to your body and give it what it needs but being diligent in making sure you are properly hydrated is much different than making sure you’re meeting your Daily requirement of chocolate or chips.
It’s up to each of us to really know difference between our cravings that have emotional roots VS those based in physiological needs. What is your body trying to tell you with your emotional cravings and learn how to master them VS caving into them and end up feeling even worse?
Do you crave crunchy? Salty? Sugary? Creamy?? Texture and taste can tell us a lot about the root of our particular emotional cravings – keep reading for some clues to your particular scavenger hunt.
Craving something salty? Cut back on stress and fill up on inner balance and flow.
Yes, potato chips can be satisfying BUT the salt may be what you are searching for when you are stressed. WHY? Consuming salt can decrease the amount of stress hormones like cortisol that are released in your body during stress. Raising your sodium level by. Just raising your sodium level 1%-2% is enough to suppress the production of cortisol. That’s equivalent to about 1individual serving of chips. What’s even more interesting is that the same amount of sodium also raises your level of oxytocin levels, which is your feel-good hormone.
Craving something Crispy and Crunchy? Cut back on frustration and fill up on release techniques
Hand in hand with craving salty food is craving crunchy food. Crunchy food is loud, intentional and attention getting. It forces you to be noticed, and makes you feel like the center of attention. The need for crunch is associated with anger, frustration, stress, resentment and maybe not being heard or feeling restrained. Crunching down with your jaw is cathartic, almost like punching a wall, yelling out or snapping back. It’s your stress level that is really in need of some attention.
• Food alternatives could be pistachios, air-popped popcorn, and crunchy foods like apples, celery, and carrots. Dip veggie sticks into hummus if you feel the urge for chips and dip coming on.
• Nonfood alternatives may involve releasing pent up tension and stress. Identify the areas in their life that are causing stress and choose to face them or let them go.
Craving something Sweet? Fill up on comfort instead
Sugar and sweets go back to childhood and how we were rewarded or how we were celebrated like birthday cakes, cupcakes, lollipops. The very anticipation of a reward triggers the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brain and studies show that regular bingeing on sugar stimulates dopamine — the ‘feel-good’ chemical, which is very addictive. This is part of what makes sugar so comforting. Sugary treats are like a big hug when we need soothing and reassuring. The sugar can make us feel temporarily happy or comforted, especially if those feelings are lacking or if we're feeling sad in any way.
Craving something starchy and soft? Fill up on comfort and support instead
The urge to eat pasta, bread, and gooey soft cookies tends to really kick in when we’re going through hard times in our lies and feeling lonely or sad. Not only do these “comfort foods” have mood-boosting properties and provide a short-term energy boost to keep you going when times get tough. When you’re feeling upset, you may subconsciously be turning to carbs for comfort and grounding.
• Food alternatives would be mother nature's sugar - whole fruit! Strawberries, kiwi, pineapple may do just the trick for the sugar fix.
• Nonfood alternative - Become aware of the sweets – reward connection your childhood to understand where this craving comes from, as well as the circumstances surrounding the craving. Reach out to a friend or family that you feel supported by or pick up a new hobby that will produce these “feel-good” feelings, all while keeping your hands and mind busy.
Craving something Fatty and Creamy? Maybe you’re in need of grounding.
Craving of ice cream, milk shake or creamy cheesy ‘heavy’ dishes during extremely busy times or when you are being pulled in different directions has a direct correlation to a desired feeling of needing comforting. Fat can feel stabilizing. It’s heavy in your stomach and takes a while to digest, which can feel like it is grounding for you. You eat it and usually there is a big sigh when you’re done. Cheese contains the stimulant tyramine and milk contains tryptophan — which triggers the release of the “feel-good chemical" serotonin — as well as choline, which has soothing properties. One added benefit of ice cream……. the numbing sensation that the cold gives up, it psychologically helps ‘freeze or numb’ any pain that we may be feeling due to an event in life.
• Food alternatives need to have that creamy satisfying texture. Banana ‘moosh’ with a drip of honey and Greek yogurt will feed the need. Or what about some avocado or butternut squash.
• Nonfood alternative- Engage in mood-boosting activities like dancing around your house, hiking or a nice warm bath. These activities all release endorphins and can also be soothing and comforting for the body.
Craving Chocolate? Fill up on something pleasureable
Chocolate is a craving of its very own category. Chocolate contains polyphenols that boost your mood and can even mimic the feeling of romantic love. Studies show that looking at and smelling chocolate can activate the pleasure center of the brain. So, it’s no surprise that we reach for a bar when we’re feeling lonely or sad, or during menstruation when women tend to have hormonal imbalances that affect mood.
• Food alternative could be 1 ounce of good quality healthy dark chocolate
• Nonfood alternatives need to amp up serotonin and endorphins. Hitting the gym is a win win as it gives the feel-good hormones, keeps you busy and help calm the munchies, plus help keep you in shape.
Craving Soda? Maybe you’re in need of some levity.
Cravings don’t only relate to food, but beverages as well. Soda, in addition to being sweet, is carbonated, and these bubbles, signify levity, creativity, and fun, which is why it can feel like a pick-me-up.
• Food alternatives try sparkling water with lemon or lime, some mint leaves, and a few pomegranate seeds.
• Nonfood alternatives involve getting creative and spontaneous. Do something just for the fun of it, not because you have to but because it sounds like fun.
So there you have it, while cravings maybe associated with hunger and some things may ‘sounds good’ because you’re hungry, they may also be signs that you need some emotional refueling and not nutritional refueling.