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This is the only guide you’ll ever need to beat those food cravings

Updated on:10 February 2021, 16:47pm IST
Food cravings can ruin a healthy diet. A nutritionist talks about how you can avoid them and maintain your weight.
Karishma Chawla
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You need to first figure out why you’re experiencing the craving and then fix it. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Ever had a strong craving for your favourite food interfere with your diet? Well, we’ve all been there. There are many causes for experiencing strong cravings for particular foods or flavours that can make navigating them seem tricky. However, gaining a deeper understanding of how cravings work allows you to mindfully and intuitively respond to your cravings.

Navigating food cravings with mindfulness

1. Acknowledge your cravings: The act of acknowledging your craving may help reduce its power and allow you to disassociate from it.

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2. Explore the root cause from a non-judgmental place: Ask yourself if the craving is a mere habit, or based on emotional eating or is it actually helping you move towards your health goal?

3. Proceed from a place of empowerment: Playing detective with your craving can actually help you identify its origin and regain power over it.

Bodies usually respond to the different types of foods we consume. Food plays an important role in the way we feel and determines our behaviour patterns. For the body, it is information and connection. Hence, it is important to eat foods that help us act wisely, prevent cravings and reduce the chances of binge eating.

food cravings
Too much refined carbs can lead to bloating. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Let’s understand why we experience cravings in the first place

Here are some of the most probable causes behind experiencing strong food cravings:

1. You’re dehydrated

Staying hydrated is a great way to help reduce extreme cravings. A glass of water before eating has actually been shown to reduce the amount of food consumed during a meal. Another factor to consider is that your hydration status affects your body’s electrolyte balance. When you sweat and lose water, you also lose electrolytes like sodium. This may lead you to seek out high sodium-rich foods.

2. You’re not eating right

If the body has inadequate nutrients, it might result in odd cravings. An extreme example of this is a disorder called pica which leads to extreme cravings of non-food items like clay. This condition may arise due to a chronic iron deficiency. In fact, a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause mood swings and lead to binge eating.

3. Hormonal Issues are to blame

When women experience menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings. Stress also plays a crucial role in hormonal imbalances leading to cravings.

4. You’re really stressed

A stressful life can lead to an imbalance in blood sugar levels which increases cravings and appetite, resulting in consumption of a higher number of more calories than required by the body.

food cravings
Yes ladies, binge eating is an outcome of  impulsive feeding behaviour, says study. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Blame the season

The body often craves foods in accordance with the season. For instance, people crave cooling foods like ice-cream during the summer season but heat-producing foods like meat, oil, and fat in the winters. Cravings can also be associated with holidays.

6. Yin-yang imbalance is at play

According to traditional Chinese medicine, certain foods are more yin while others are more yang. Under this theory, foods that are too yin or too yang may lead you to crave the opposite in an attempt to maintain balance. This theory recommends eating foods that are more neutral like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and pulses while avoiding extremes on either end to reduce strong cravings. For example, eating a diet rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang) and eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause a craving for heavily cooked foods (yang).

So, how can you prevent food cravings and binge eating?

You need to change certain habits in order avoid craving for foods that actually hurt your health:

1. Protein and good fats: Proteins are vital for the production of high quality hormones that prevent blood sugar imbalances and reduce sugar cravings. Healthy fats consumed in moderation are a good source of energy and come with a great satiety value. In addition, omega-3 fats help our body use up insulin efficiently and avoid cravings. Sources of good protein are eggs, chicken, fish, milk, dairy products like paneer and dahi, pulses, nuts and seeds. Good fats come from ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts , seeds, and fatty fish.

food cravings
Stay high on protein to save yourself from binge eating. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Eat every 2 to 4 hours: Eating on time without skipping meals helps stabilize blood sugar levels and prevents binge eating. Small but frequent meals also prevent mood dips and sugar cravings.

3. Exercise: Physical activity will cause the release of endorphins which is otherwise a function of sugary foods. This serves as a good alternative for high-sugar foods which often lead to excess consumption while also creating cravings.

4. Ensure 7 to 8 hours of sleep: Poor or lack of sleep can lead to imbalances in blood sugar levels and lead to cravings. What’s more, poor sleep can disrupt hormone balances and make the issue worse. Remember that when the body is asleep, the mind is recharging. In addition, proper is able to help the body eliminate toxins and produces high quality hormones.

5. Cinnamon powder: Starting the day with cinnamon water is a good idea to balance blood sugar levels and prevent cravings.

6. Avoid sugar substitutes like artificial sweeteners: These can actually lead to more sugar cravings and eating more calories than required by the body.

You can experiment with mood-boosting foods to beat food cravings

There are certain foods which, by virtue of their contents, are famed to help manage mood and you can include these in your diet to cut down on cravings:

i) Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, helps in improving moods. The sources of this vitamin include spinach, oats, avocado, walnuts and salmon.

ii) Vitamin B12 is an important ‘feel good’ vitamin. In fact, healthy B12 levels help you feel good. It helps in combating depression too. Foods rich in vitamin B12 include salmon, curd and eggs.

food cravings
Add protein to put a rein of food cravings. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

iii) Protein can also help you manage mood. High-quality protein sources include eggs, meat and pulses.

iv) Serotonin is known as a mood regulator and promotes positive thoughts. Sources for it include walnuts, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, plums and tomato. Tryptophan is also beneficial because it gets converted to serotonin by our body. Sources are milk , curd, paneer, fish, chicken, oilseeds like pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, walnuts, soybean, oats and whole eggs.

Eating inappropriately and giving into temptation often causes unwanted fat percentage, poor health and leads to distraction from personal life goals. There’s a famous saying that “You are not just the food you eat but what you are capable of doing with what you eat. “ Eating right can improve gut health, keep hormones in check and also enhance the mood which will contribute to improving the quality of life.