Staving off cravings

by Khushboo on November 29, 2010

Despite our food preferences, one thing we all share is cravings. Pregnant or not, we’ve all experienced them and on many occasions given in…or maybe that’s just me ;). Unlike hunger, cravings are more specific and involve a certain food being cooked/ served in a certain way.  The other day, for example, I had the strangest craving for a pumpkin & cumin soup.  Lord knows what spurred that on. 😯

Often, cravings come down to certain nutritional balances within our bodies. Think of it as the ‘domino effect’: the content of one meal has so much influence over potential future food choices. Ever wonder why after an alcohol-filled hit, nothing tastes as good as a greasy shawarma or pepperoni pizza? Or why visits from your monthly friends (you ladies know what I’m talking about ;)) triggers cravings for chocolate and various desserts? While this may not hold true to everyone, nutritionists have presented the following causes for common food cravings:

  • When you crave salty foods
    This might indicate a mineral deficiency. Studies have shown that women who eat low calcium diets want salt more than those who meet their calcium requirements. One possible reason for this is because sodium temporarily increases calcium levels in the blood, which tricks the body into thinking the problem is solved.
  • When you crave chocolate
    More than being delicious, chocolate is an anti-depressant in the form of a dessert. It stimulates the release of serotonin, giving your body a quick lift.
  • When you crave spicy foods
    If you’re having trouble cooling down, the fiery taste of spicy foods can help make you perspire. It’s no wonder that Mexican food is popular in scorching temperatures.
  • When you crave sweets
    Similar to chocolate, a craving for sweets might reflect the need for a mood booster. Alternatively, it could be your body signaling that it is low on energy and needs immediate fuel. Rather than hit the biscuit barrel when the 4PM slumps come knocking, ensure your lunch contains a variety of low GI foods. 
  • When you crave sweet and salty
    Your body needs glucose and sodium to function properly, so when the cells get sluggish (and you get tired), you reach for the chocolate-covered pretzels to get them revving.

As for tackling food cravings, there isn’t a one-size fits all solution.  Here are some tips that have worked for me in the past, and will hopefully work for you:

  • Eat consistently to prevent a dip in your blood sugar levels
  • Sip H2O: Water has a strange way of curbing cravings
  • Minimize the damage: Whatever you’re craving, eat a small portion of it.  Have a few squares of chocolate instead of the whole bar, half a portion of fries instead of the whole plate, etc.  An easy way to control portions is to eat from a bowl/plate rather than straight out the bag. 
  • Eat foods rich in essential fatty acids: Cravings for fatty foods tend to signal that your body is deficient in healthy fats. I can testify to that: since switching from a low-fat diet to one containing MUFAs and PUFAs, my cravings in general have subsided. 
  • Outta sight, outta mind…and hence mouth!

And lastly, the one tip I whole-heartedly believe in within limits:

  • Eat the whole damn _____ (insert whatever it is that you’re craving).  It’s honestly not a crime to give in once in a while.  One cookie here or a hot dog there isn’t going to make you fat nor does it mean you’re an unhealthy person.  If you gave in consistently, it might indicate otherwise but every now and then, just eat it, savor it, and move on :).

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

zainab November 29, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Craving salt also means something else 😉

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Khushboo Thadani November 30, 2010 at 9:28 am

enlighten me 🙂

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