Understand your cravings

  • You really crave… takeaway curry
  • You might actually need… zinc

10-of-the-healthiest-curries-612442_w600h600.jpgA lack of zinc reduces taste bud function, so spicy food can be the only thing with any flavour. Get your zinc levels back on track by upping your intake of wholegrains, seafood and red meat. People can crave also crave spicy foods if they have a diet that is particularly bland or repetitive – sprinkling turmeric, cayenne pepper, Indian spice blends and chilli flakes on your meals and including additional variety and nutrient-dense foods ought to hit the spot.

Swap for: Homemade prawn or chickpea curry, served with wholegrain rice & turmeric and live yogurt

  • You really crave… a bag of chips
  • You might actually need… to slow down

When you are very busy and stressed your body can stop producing the correct amounts of chips-main-imagehormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol andaldosterone. This can disrupt the balance of salt and other minerals in the body and may explain your cravings for salty chips. Table salt and processed foods are stripped of these minerals, so knocking back a bag of chips won’t help; try leafy green vegetables, seaweed salads or Himalayan sea salt. It may also help to come up with a new way to slow down and unwind, whether it’s a walk in the park or a relaxing massage. You will curb your cravings and by cutting your sodium intake, also lower your risk of heart disease.

Swap for: Baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with a small amount of Himalayan sea salt 

  • You really crave… A packet of crisps
  • You might actually need… minerals

Nuts-various-edible2Poor nutrition, very low calorie diets, fasting or diets lacking green leafy vegetables and whole grains could cause a mineral deficiency and make you particularly crave salty foods like crisps. Our bodies need calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals to keep our systems running smoothly. Many minerals have a salty flavour, so when you get the message to eat crisps, your body may be trying to tell you to eat more minerals. You will keep craving salt until your mineral needs are met. A varied diet should provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need and in their necessary amounts- however, studies show a decline in the mineral content of the foods we eat due to over-farming, chemical fertilisers and the increased consumption of processed foods. Focusing on eating fresh, non-processed foods with help to address this.

Swap for: A handful of unsalted nuts and seeds – almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds

  • You really crave… A sugary doughnut
  • You might actually need… a good night’s sleep

A craving for sugary foods can be a sign that your body’s blood glucose levels are low. Medically this is known as hypoglycaemia. When the level of sugar in the body drops, there is a tendency for the body to crave foods which replenish sugar quickly – including sweet foods such as doughnuts. Giving into your sweet cravings occasionally won’t do you any real harm, but sweets and sugar are empty calories with little or no nutritional value. Try to avoid refined or processed sugars and opt for ‘good’ sugars, such as fruit and complex carbs. The key to stabilising the blood sugar levels and avoiding sweet cravings is eating regular meals based on slow energy-releasing foods.

Swap for: Fresh mixed berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries – with plain live yogurt 

  • You really crave… bread
  • You might actually need… serotonin

4574Studies suggest that those who cut back on carbohydrates are susceptible to mood swings due to reduced levels of the ‘feel-good’ hormone serotonin. Bread make us feel better when we’re depressed because carbohydrates boost serotonin levels. Craving bread might also be a sign that you’re not consuming enough carbohydrates for your body’s energy needs – causing you to crave carbs as they’re one of the best ways for you to get energy fast. Check if you are eating enough for your lifestyle and increase your intake of low glycaemic-index carbs that give the steadiest, slowest and longest increase in blood sugar levels. These include lentils, yogurt, wholegrain pasta, porridge and fruit (not fruit juices). These slow-burn carbs keep your energy up for longer.

Swap for: A couple of oatcakes with almond butter or cottage cheese

  • You really crave… meat
  • You might actually need… iron

Cravings for meat often coincide with feeling sleepy and lacking in concentration. This is a classic iron craving. Load up on lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, pulses, vegetable protein foods and soya products and eat them with another food high in vitamin C to enhance absorption (such as a salad with spinach and orange slices). There are also small amounts in grains and dairy products.

Swap for: Spaghetti bolognese made with soya mince / lentils, kidney beans and a glass of fresh orange juice

  • You really crave… junk food
  • You might actually need… chromium

Junk foods not only stimulate morphine-like endorphins in the brain, but also raise levels of feel-good serotonin (our natural Prozac) and cortisol (our stress-coping, energising 656adrenal hormone). It’s therefore all too easy to get hooked on foods that can amplify so many of
our powerful mood and pleasure-enhancing chemicals. If you crave junk food in the afternoons, it’s probably because your serotonin levels are dipping. To regulate your blood sugar levels and ease cravings, eat foods rich in chromium, such as cheese, shellfish and wholemeal bread, cereals or pasta. High protein foods such as chicken, fish, seafood and pulses also help to reduce sugar lust.

Swap for: A wholemeal pasta salad with steamed green vegetables & grilled chicken / prawns

© Sarah West Nutrition


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