Stop Food Cravings
A food craving is an uncontrollable desire to eat specific food/ foods unlike general hunger. Many people with food cravings are able to list out the foods they crave for without hesitation. It’s comforting for people like me to know that I’m not alone. Those who do not crave foods think its all in the head and they are right.
Which foods are usually craved for?
Foods craved for are usually those with high sugar (glucose) content namely chocolate, pastry, cake, ice cream. These are also high fat foods. So, high sugar high fat foods top the “Food Cravings List” as compared to low sugar foods like beans or cucumber.
Causes for Craving Food
Food cravings can occur during emotional disturbances, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficient diets to strict restrictive diets. Many people seek solace in high fat and/ or high sugar foods during times of high stress, depression, loneliness and anxiety. These are usually difficult to overcome. Pregnancy is commonly associated with intense food cravings but these usually reduce after delivery. Strict diets and food restrictions worsen food cravings. One theory associated with food cravings is that, a person deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral can crave for foods which contain it. Craving for non food items is called pica. Food craving results in high calorie consumption and ultimately micronutrient malnutrition. This means that the foods end up being high in fat and sugar and low in the essential vitamins and minerals causing micronutrient deficiencies. This can predispose a person towards vitamin mineral deficiencies and illnesses.
Research done at Monell Chemical Senses Center at Philadelphia shows that there are three areas in the brain – hippocampus, insula, and caudate which seem to get activated in the food-craving phase. The brain tests conducted here show that these memory areas of the brain are associated with food cravings – they associate specific foods as rewards.
How to Reduce Food Cravings
Home Remedies to Control Food Cravings
- Eat balanced meals and avoid stringent diets: Researches show that people who eat balanced meals tend to snack or crave foods less often. Dietary restrictions worsen food cravings. You may wonder if that means you should give in to those intense cravings. Give in to your cravings sometimes. But what is really important is to listen to your cravings. If you are tempted to eat something salty, its possible that you may need salt. So, add salt to your food instead of munching of salty unhealthy snacks – which are also high in fat and probably even sugar.
- Destress: Meditate to relax. Meditation in the form of Pranayama and breathing exercises, psychic healing and various mind management techniques help to destress.
- Mouthwash: Brushing and gargling with an antiseptic mouthwash dissuades you from eating after fresh mouthwash use.
- Distract yourself: Distraction helps you lose attention from your cravings. Change your environment or situation for at least an hour, get busy in some other activity. Try not to think of food. And, if you still feel you want what you’re craving for, just have a little.
- Avoid situations which trigger a craving: If you skip a meal, you are likely to get so hungry that you end up overeating all the ‘wrong foods’ to compensate for it. These wrong foods are handy sugar candy or high fat fast foods. To control cravings and refrain from binge eating, eat several mini meals throughout the day.
- Choose healthy substitutes: If your craving is so intense and you just cant control it, go ahead and pick up healthy alternatives like frozen yogurt, lite icecream or even the fat free sugar free variety. If you cant resist potato chips, choose baked tortilla chips. Whole fruit is a great alternative to stop sugar cravings. Prepare a food nutrition list with healthy food substitutes you can choose to guide you in these times of intense cravings.
- Start a journal: Prepare a food cravings journal. To keep track of your diet cravings, list down the foods you crave for, with the timing when you feel these urges, your emotional status at that time, quantity of the food you ate to satisfy your craving. This food journal helps you keep track of specific craving patterns and how you can deal with them.
- Need more love and tender loving care: People who feel loved and cared for, are less likely to seek solace in unhealthy comfort foods. If you get frequent food cravings, it should give you the heads up that it is possible that you need more time to relax, need some tender loving care, positive friends, companionship, productive hobbies and activity.
- Exercise: Oftentimes, craved foods are processed carbs. These increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is our feel good neurochemical. Exercise releases such neurochemicals; namely serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline which improve mood, regulate emotions positively. Thus, people who exercise regularly are less likely to get food cravings.
- Food Fortification: Consuming foods fortified with vitamins and minerals is an alternative option to deal with the micronutrient deficiencies which may arise out of food cravings.
Medical and Surgical Treatment
Further researches have stated that when opiate receptors found in the brain which are associated with pleasure are blocked, a person’s desire to eat high fat and high sugar foods can be blunted.