We all know that we should try to stay reduce our consumption of chemically altered, refined, artificially flavored, and processed foods. However, sometimes our food cravings get the best of us. Here are some reasons why you might be addicted to certain foods and some practical ways of how you can break your unhealthy food cravings based on evidence-based research.
Cravings are intense, urgent or abnormal desires or longings. Not only are they very common, but they are also one of the most intense feelings you can experience when it comes to food! Here are some reasons why you might be experiencing food cravings:
Food cravings can be the body's way of filling a nutritional need. When the body lacks a specific nutrient, it naturally craves foods that are rich in that nutrient. For instance, chocolate cravings are often blamed on low magnesium levels, whereas cravings for meat or cheese are often a sign of low iron or calcium levels. Now don't go diagnosing yourself before seeing your doctor, but an easy fix for these deficiencies would be to consume foods rich in these nutrients.
The Research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20420523
INSUFFICIENT PROTEIN OR FIBER
Protein and fiber help you feel full. Eating too little of either may increase hunger and cravings. Fiber also helps with detoxification, and can help with candida— a major cause of sugar cravings. Protein can also help to balance out blood sugar levels.
The Research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847729.
REGULARLY CONSUMING CERTAIN FOODS
Simply craving salty or sweet foods may not necessarily mean that you are sodium or sugar deficient. Regularly consuming high-sodium foods, for example, can lead you to develop a preference for salty foods. This can create salt cravings in cases where extra sodium intake is unnecessary and even harmful to your health.
REMOVE THE LABEL
Viewing certain foods as "forbidden" or actively trying to suppress your desire to eat them often intensifies cravings for them.
Solution: While you may be trying to avoid certain foods, try to slowly eliminate it out of your diet, instead of cutting it out completely forever. Alternatively, you can choose to eliminate it completely, and only have it on occasion, such as one a week in moderation.
The Research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20434065
In some cases, the brain associates eating food with a certain context, such as eating popcorn during a movie. Food cravings may be triggered by specific moods. One example is "comfort foods," (which are often craved when wanting to get over a negative mood.)
This can create a craving for a specific food the next time the same context appears.
Instead, choose a healthier non-food alternative. My clients who are often undergoing some form of stress often report experiencing more cravings than my non-stressed clients. Additionally, sometimes opting for a healthier alternative when watching a Netflix movie might just be a better option for your health. Think of drinking water before buying soda, enjoying a delicious fruit and cheese platter instead of having popcorn, nachos, and melted cheese. Where there's a will to eat healthier, there is certainly always a way to do it!
Here's a full video of me talking through these same points. Feel free to watch and subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly videos! Also, don't forget to download your free habit tracker below so that you can keep track of your food cravings and other habits.
What foods do you typically crave? Do you crave sweet foods, salty foods, or mixture of both? Comment below!