When you’re randomly hit with a craving for a specific food, it sometimes feels like nothing else in the world will satisfy it. You might be wondering what exactly causes you to crave certain foods, and how you can manage cravings when they come on quickly. Here’s everything you need to know about food cravings.
There are several reasons why your body craves certain foods. The first is that it is low on certain nutrients. The craving is your body’s way of telling you that it needs those nutrients to function correctly. This, combined with significant hormonal changes, is often why pregnant women experience powerful cravings. Supporting a baby requires that you eat a particularly well-balanced diet.
Another reason why you get food cravings is because of the way your body naturally reacts to food. When you eat food you like, the brain releases endorphins and other chemicals that make you feel happy and satisfied. Since you associate eating with feeling good, you’ll end up wanting to eat so you can experience that chemical release again. Unfortunately, this is what often leads us to crave unhealthy junk foods.
Dealing With Common Cravings
There are certain tasty foods that we tend to crave more than others. One of the best ways to deal with this is by finding a healthier snack that satisfies your nutritional needs. Here are some of the most common cravings and how to handle them.
- Chocolate: A chocolate craving is often indicative of a lack of magnesium in the body. Eating foods that have a lot of magnesium can satisfy and prevent chocolate cravings. Certain nuts like almonds and cashews both have a lot of magnesium, as do spinach, tofu, avocado, and bananas. If you really feel you have to have chocolate, opt for dark chocolate that is vegan, low in sugar, and made with cacao.
- Candy: A general craving for sweets might mean that your body wants the energy of sugar. Instead of processed sugar, eat some fruit, which is high in natural sugar and has a satisfying, sweet taste.
- Potato chips: There are many reasons why we crave salty snacks. Sometimes you’ll want a salty snack after a workout when your body has excreted sodium through your sweat. Another common reason for this craving is boredom or stress. Opt for lightly salted popcorn or veggie sticks to get a similar crunchy satisfaction without the negative consequences.
- Cheese: Cheesy foods release high levels of serotonin, which is why we find them comforting. Look for low-fat versions of cheese, or add nutritional yeast to your dishes, which gives them a similar taste.
How to Prevent Cravings
There are also some general changes you can make to your health to prevent cravings. The first is to generally maintain a balanced diet, with enough whole carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, and fewer processed items. This will help you feel full and satisfied for a more extended period after your meal, which will help minimize your cravings. It’s also important to drink enough water – a lot of the time, when we think we feel hungry, we are actually just dehydrated. Finally, ensuring that you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle can generally prevent cravings. This means getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and keeping stress levels down.