I hear you loud and clear: you struggle with craving! This is a complaint I get over and over again! In this post, I will address what your food cravings mean (with a handy little chart) and how to deal with your cravings.
What Do Food Cravings Mean
As you strive to gain victory over your food, it will be helpful to understand what food cravings mean. In some cases, you will find that your body is just looking for some missing nutrients that you can provide by consuming other healthier foods.
Everyone has experienced food cravings. Usually, they are felt like a strong urge to eat foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt.
Food Craving Causes
What causes food cravings? As I mentioned already, sometimes it’s a way for your body to get missing nutrients. Other times, they are simply caused by your brain’s pleasure center (similarly to addictions).
During food craving episodes, craving-specific activation was seen in three regions of the brain: the hippocampus, insula, and caudate. These same three areas have also been reported to be involved in drug craving.Science News
The Dopamine Effect
On top of activating the pleasure centers in your brain, some foods increase your dopamine levels (a pleasure hormone). Dairy products and chocolate are among the most commonly cited foods that increase your dopamine levels
What Do Food Cravings Mean Chart
Retraining your brain will require you to make some changes that we will address in the next section. For now. let’s address some of the nutritional deficiencies that may be the root of your food cravings.
There are tons of food craving charts online and I found it frustrating because none of them had legitimate source or studies to support the claims they made. I did end up finding a chart that included the emotion that people tend to feel when they crave the food in question. I decided to use it as the basis for my own what do food cravings mean chart since we can tell we feel when we crave foods. Hence. the recommendations will be helpful.
I also found another chart that included specific food substitutions. I know that’s what some of my readers are looking for so I will include this information too. Just take it with a grain of salt!
How to Deal With Your Cravings
I have already written a post about how to deal with hunger cravings when fasting (7 Most Effective Ways to Curb Hunger Cravings When Fasting). This post is a bit different. I want to help you deal with cravings when you are not fasting. When you are not fasting, you may feel tempted to binge on foods that don’t serve you well. You may struggle with making food choices that are aligned with your health goals. I am going to help you with that. Keep reading!
6 Tips to Deal With Your Cravings
You will recognize some of the tips here from the what food cravings mean chart. However, instead of giving ways to deal with specific cravings, this section is all about helping you reduce your food cravings long term by dealing with the most common root causes for food cravings: insulin resistance, psychological associations, and pleasure hormones.
1. Practice Intemittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting helps reduce your food cravings in two very important ways:
- It improves your insulin sentivity. Cravings are often due to blood sugar ups and downs. When you fast. your body doesn’t have to produce insulin, which helps improves your insulin sensitibity and stabilizes your blood suga levels. You will often hear that fasting causes you to overeat later. It’s not true, particularly for longer fasting windows (20-36 hours).
- It breaks down some of your food associations. Many of your food cravings are caused by lifelong habits you created. You have made associations in your brain that bring you comfort. For example, your mid-afternoon sugary snack makes you feel happy. Not having the option to eat will help you break these habits as you learn new was to feel satified.
To learn more about using intermittent fasting as a tool to reach your health goals, don’t forget to sign up for my Intermittent Fasting 101 Workshop.
2. Eat Whole Foods
As a general rule, eating whole foods will help ensure your body benefits from the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Moreover, as you saw on the food craving chart, you can fulfill your cravings with healthier options.
How to Take Advantage of Whole Foods to Beat the Cravings
Let’s just recap some of the foods substitutions you may want to try when you have food cravings:
- Sugar: Eat dark chocolate or make almond butter cookies or brownies. I enjoy eating almond butter with semi-sweet chocolate chips and a dash of maple syrup.
- Salty foods: Chips are one of the foods I crave most often. To be honestly, I often indulge! Beating your food cravings is not about NEVER allowing yourself to eat the foods you want. It’s about training yourself to make better food choices and discovering your true hunger cues. When you crave salty foods, eat roasted nuts or kale chips with sea salt.
- Breads and pastas: When you crave breads and pasta, you can eat the healthier breads and pastas like gluten free and sprouted. Also try sweet potatoes or white potatoes. Enjoy fruit and fruit smoothies.
- Fried foods: If you crave fried foods, eat nuts and seeds. Consume healthy fat rich foods like avocado and sardines. I know that if you want KFC, an avocado won’t seem very appealing😂 Add some bagel seasonings, and trust me, it’s actually very satisfying! If you like olives, eat some galic stuffed olives.
- Creamy foods: Cheese cake or ice cream anyone? Try cashew butter. Consuming more dopamine producing foods like meat and “clean” dairy may also help.
Exercising is one of the ultimate craving-busting activities. Any time you crave anything, you will notice that a 30-minute walk or workout takes the craving away.
4. Foster Human Connection
We live in a very isolated world. Many of us think we need Netflix more than regular gatherings with other people. However. remember that humans are created to be social. We need to connect with others to function at our best. Make a point of cultivating relationships with others. Look for ways to be helpful. Spend time with friends and family.
Meditative activities (walking driving knitting, deep belly breathing) help calm your body and your mind. These activities increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, which help reduce the need for foods that have the same effect.
6. Spend time In the Sun
Spending 30 minutes a day in the sunlight or bright light will help improve your mood. As you know by now, cravings are often caused by feelings of loneliness and depression. Any activity that boosts your mood and energy will be helpful.