What’s your craving? Pizza? Mexican food? Late night sweet-treats? The candies you keep at your desk? If you are like most people this time of year you are trying to stick to a new health regime, but those darn cravings keep getting in the way. The more you resist, the stronger they become, until all of a sudden you find yourself scarfing down a bag of chips on the way home from your best intentions. Well, cravings don’t have to be the enemy. Cravings are just misunderstood. Once you understand your cravings, they lose their power over you.
Here is a list of the most common food cravings and what they could be trying to tell you:
Chips or all things salty & crunchy
This is commonly due to a mineral deficiency. In today’s society, fruit and vegetables are grown on soil that has been used and depleted of many nutrients such as minerals. Foods that are typically high in minerals are not consumed regularly. Also complicating these factors is living in a desert environment like Arizona where people are usually sweating out minerals without even noticing, further depleting their mineral stores. Another common cause of mineral deficiency is drinking reverse osmosis (purified) water. This water is so pure that the minerals have been removed, thus causing the water to draw minerals out from your own body.
One of the best things you can do to prevent chip cravings is to reach for mineral rich foods such as nori snacks, any of the seaweeds, sliced cucumber with vinegar and salt, and thin sliced jicama with lime and salt. Also, consider seeing your naturopathic doctor for work-up and individual recommendations. You may need specific mineral supplements that he or she will prescribe.
Fatty foods like pizza, cheese, bacon, salami
If you are craving fatty foods, your body is trying to tell you that you need healthy fats in your diet. There are good fats that make your cell membranes strong, help you think more clearly, build the integrity of the nervous system, reduce pain and inflammation in the body. Bad fats actually increase inflammation and pain, make your cell membranes weak, and cause brain fog. Generally bad fats are found in any food you could call “junk food”. I know you know what that means; pizza, fast foods, burgers, fries, late night taco wagon type foods, dairy produced with hormones, hydrogenated oils, oils cooked at high heat. If you are craving these foods, you need more good fats in your diet. Good fats are found in pharmaceutical grade fish oil, flax oil, hemp oil, walnuts, avocados, coconut, sesame, pumpkin seeds, grass-finished beef, wild caught salmon, wild caught cod, and organic free-range eggs. Next time you are craving something like pizza, break down the ingredients in your head. Realize that you probably need the carbohydrates, protein, and fats but in healthier forms. Make or find a healthier, alternative pizza made with pasture raised goat cheese with extra veggies. If you are craving lard-laden Mexican food, choose a menu item that uses vegetarian beans with guacamole. Substitutions like this will help you feel satisfied without the burden of a food coma.
Ok, this is probably the biggest craving that people have and it needs some breaking down. Sweet cravings usually originate from multiple sources:
1. You are thirsty. Many people are not getting adequate water during their day and they misinterpret their body’s signal for water, as a desire for sugary foods. Are you one of these people? Are you drinking ½ your body weight in ounces of water daily? For most adults that is usually about 1/2 gallon to 1 gallon water daily. Before reaching for the bag of M&Ms in your desk drawer, try drinking 1 quart of water and notice if that solved your craving.
2. You are just plain hungry for a meal. Frequently, when people crave sweets they are actually caught in a cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes. This happens when a person consumes a high carb breakfast, or skips breakfast, which leads to a quick drop in blood sugar. When your blood sugar plummets, sugar cravings increase. The only way to stop this cycle is to have a proper meal with high quality protein, fiber, a little carbohydrate and fat. A good meal will stabilize your blood sugar and prevent cravings.
3. You may need more serotonin. Many people use sweets to boost their serotonin. This is a more detailed cause of cravings, and if you think you fall into this category then see your naturopathic doctor for work-up and treatment.
4. You may be bored. Sugar is a stimulant after all. People commonly turn to sweets out of boredom. Rather than eating, find activities that brighten up your day. Listen to your favorite music, practice deep belly breaths, take a quick walk around the building, go outside, run in place for 2 minutes, do 20 jumping jacks. The idea is to change up your routine and do something that invigorates you.
Overall, when dealing with cravings, the best thing you can do is give your body the nutrition you need. Cravings are a sign that something is out of balance. Pay attention to the signal and ask yourself what the underlying message is. If you need additional help figuring out your cravings, I recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor who can look at your unique nutritional needs and create a treatment plan so that you feel satisfied, energetic, fit, healthy, and craving-free!