We’ve all been there – you’re sitting on the couch watching TV when you see an advertisement flash up on the screen for KFC and suddenly that tasty chicken is all you can think about. Okay, so maybe it’s just me that’s a massive fan of the Colonel (don’t judge!), but everybody experiences food cravings in their own way. Some lucky people crave healthy food, while others… well, we’d prefer to be eating cheese platters by the trough.
For most people, once the cravings come around, they’re hard to shake. And while having the occasional craving is completely normal, when certain foods are dominating your thoughts on a regular basis, it might be time to investigate why. There’s likely a number of reasons why you’re experiencing particular cravings, so we spoke to nutritionist and founder of the JSHealth Program, Jessica Sepel, to get things straightened out.
Why do we get cravings?
Even if you eat healthier than an Instagram fit-fluencer, you might still find that you crave naughty foods. This is because cravings can be caused by lots of things, not just the regular foods that you eat. “Cravings can be the result of nutrient deficiencies, poor gut health, irregular blood sugars or the result of eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods,” explains Jess.
You might also be surprised to discover that it could be more than just what you’re putting in your mouth that’s affecting your hankering for certain foods. “Stress and sleep deprivation are also great triggers for food cravings,” says Jess. So if you’re constantly skimping on your shut-eye or in a perpetual state of panic at work, you might find yourself scrolling through Uber Eats more often.
What's the cause of my cravings?
We’ve established that we all get cravings, now it’s time to figure out why you’re suddenly obsessed with a certain food. You see, particular cravings can often be your body’s way of telling you that it really needs something – and it’s probably not the 11 herbs and spices coating that KFC chicken. So let’s break it down.
If you’re craving… meat
“Your iron levels may be low and so you need to listen to this craving and eat meat two to three times per week,” says Jess. “If you are vegan, check your iron levels and see if you need a supplement or to incorporate more iron-rich foods in your diet.”
If you’re craving… carbs
“Perhaps you’re low on energy or feeling fatigued. My suggestion is to swap to whole grain gluten-free sources of carbs like brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potato,” says Jess. “Ensure you’re eating protein with each meal to keep your blood sugar levels balanced while your body digests these carbs. These protein sources include meat, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, legumes, beans, tempeh. Your gut may also not be in great shape, which can make you crave carbs.”
If you’re craving… sugar
“You probably eating too much sugar! Try to go sugar-free – it’s hard at first but once you stop eating it, you will stop needing it,” advises Jess. “My suggestion is to cut sugar out of your diet and to keep even the healthy sugars to a minimum. An example of this would be eating low sugar fruits such as berries, grapefruit and lemons. I also love to suggest taking magnesium and chromium supplements to help manage sugar cravings. And try to avoid anything from a packet, which can be a big trigger for cravings.”
If you’re craving… fat
“Usually this means your hormonal system needs some love. Just enjoy good fats as opposed to the bad ones, such as avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and olive oil,” Jess suggests.
How can I deal with cravings?
To keep your wild cravings to a minimum, Jess suggests adjusting your day-to-day eating habits. “Every meal should contain protein, food fats, fiber and slow releasing carbs as these foods keep your blood sugar levels stable,” she says. “Avoid refined sugar and sweeteners, take care of your stress levels and make sure you’re sleeping eight to nine hours each night. Sipping on water with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar really reduces sugar cravings throughout the day, and taking a magnesium supplement at night can also help.”
If you do want to give in to your cravings and eat that sweet treat you’ve been thinking about all day, it’s more than okay to indulge every now and again. “Eating healthily does not mean eating perfectly – this pressure often triggers bingeing,” says Jess. “Give yourself permission to indulge moderately, as this will help you to control how much you eat.”
But don’t think that enjoying a treat has to throw your body off track. Simply switch up the treat with a healthier alternative, which can help to minimise future cravings. “Craving chocolate? Go for 70-85% dark chocolate or make a sweet treat made from cacao,” suggests Jess. “If it’s bread you’re craving, go for rye, sourdough or gluten-free bread, or if you’re wanting fats, choose avocado, olive oil and nuts.”
And when you do succumb to unhealthy cravings, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not the end of the world. “Forgive yourself, let it go and move on,” suggests Jess. “Go for an ocean swim and nature walk to clear your mind, drink lots of water and always be kind to yourself.”
-Beauty Heaven, Kate Lancaster
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