- Try to eat your favourite foods at least once a week
- Add more protein sources in your diet, this will reduce cravings
- Distance yourself from cravings- go for a walk or distract yourself
If you're on a diet, food cravings can be one of your biggest enemies. Cravings are essentially the desire for specific foods. These desires may appear unmanageable and a person may still feel hungry till they get that specific food. Every individual experiences craving differently but generally, these are often for processed food (mainly refined flour), foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
There are mainly two types of food cravings:
1. Selective: These are for specific foods such as chocolate, or a particular thing at a restaurant.
2. Non-selective: These cravings are the desire to eat anything. It can be an outcome of real hunger and also because of dehydration. Drinking water may help in this.
Every day you start your diet with the same dedication but again you are distracted by food cravings and it is one of the reasons people have problems in losing weight.
What causes food cravings?
The main components of junk food are sugar, simple carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats. Due to this, insulin resistance increases in our body. This results in an imbalance of the hormone leptin. The brain which is responsible for memory function, happiness, and reward plays a role in food cravings. Leptin signals the brain that you are full and you should stop eating. But with the insulin resistance, leptin won't pick the signal and you will not know when to stop eating and you tend to overeat.
Another main reason that can affect food cravings is PMS. There are hormonal changes during premenstrual syndrome, as there is an imbalance of oestrogen hormone and levels of the stress hormone 'cortisol' increases and most women will crave foods rich in carbs and fat. And in most women with PMS, there is a drop in serotonin levels; happy hormone, which in turn activates cravings foods rich in carbs such as pizza, chocolate, and pastries because our body uses carbs to make serotonin.
Your gut contains both good and bad microorganisms to digest food. Sometimes the production of bad bacteria increases such as candida (yeast). Sometimes the production of candida increases and these bacteria feeds on sugar and which is the energy source for candida, this can be the reason some people particularly crave sugar.
Sometimes cravings for a particular food can be your body's way of telling the nutrients it is deficient in:
- If you have cravings for salty food, then it is your body's way of telling dehydration or electrolyte imbalance.
- Craving-sugar, bread, pasta tell that you are low on energy, sugar and carbohydrates are the primary sources of energy for our body.
- Craving for chocolate indicates magnesium deficiency.
What is the solution?
- Try to keep one day one meal a week in which you will have your favourite food and for the remaining days you will eat healthy.
- Initially you can have withdrawal symptoms such as headache, mood swings, irritation when you will stop eating junk foods.
- Often a food craving is confused with thirst, drink water
- Read food labels and check the nutrition facts for sugar and unwanted chemicals while buying packed food items.
- Add more protein sources in your diet, this will reduce cravings and keep you full for longer
- Try to distance yourself from cravings- go on a walk, replace it with your favourite hobby.
Food cravings may give you short- term happiness but in reality, it makes you lethargic and causes weight gain.
(Monisha Ashokan is a nutritionist at NourishMe)
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