We have all experienced this: it's 7 p.m. and you overcome by a craving for something sweet. You tear your house apart trying to find an lollipop or -- even better -- square of chocolate.
Cravings seem to be a normal part of life for many people. And yet, in my work as a naturopath, cravings often signal an imbalance in the body. The body is literally craving what it most needs.
So my body needs chocolate? No! But it might need a quick rush of sugar to the bloodstream, which is exactly what that square of chocolate or lollipop is going to provide.
The best scenario for both peaceful living and healthy weight management is that your body seeks only healthy foods.There are a few things to consider, but yes you can get there.
You Crave What You Eat
When those startling headlines hit, "Sugar is like Cocaine," we all thought our days of snacking on gummy bears was over. It might be hard to hear, but the definition of sugar as an addictive substance is true. The consumption of sugar can lead to an increased release of serotonin in the brain -- this is our feel good hormone. You literally get hooked on the good feeling that comes from a square of chocolate.
The more sugar you eat, the more you come to depend on it for that lovely rush. Eat sugar, crave sugar. But it isn't just because of the addictive properties of sugar, however, that you find yourself going back and back for more.
When we adjust our body to eating a certain way, those foods that are consumed most often can also become craving sources for us -- as our body sets itself up to expect it. Have you ever cleaned up your diet and found yourself really craving that steamed spinach? Don't laugh. It does happen for many people. You crave what you eat.
You Crave What Your Body Needs
Just like your sugar craving often feeds a need for a hit of energy, a craving can signify a deficiency in the body. Women sometimes crave red meat around the time of their menstrual cycle. This signifies they need more iron stores. When you exercise more, you may find yourself craving more protein sources. This could signify the body is trying to synthesize muscle and requires more protein to do that. And of course, craving for carbs and sweets are more likely to happen when we are tried. Your body wants quick energy and that's the form it knows how to gain energy from the quickest (it is easily absorbed).
Food cravings may also signify vitamin deficiencies, such as craving beets because your body is low on folate. This is a great source for linking cravings to possible vitamin deficiencies. Decode your cravings with this tool.
What can you do?
Keep cravings in place by ensuring you eat a well-balanced whole food diet that relies on protein and good fats for lasting energy. Be sure to avoid skipping meals, and always eat when your body signals to you that it is hungry. Listen to your body and recognize that a craving might be trying to tell you something.
A consistent craving for a type of food might be worth investigating, either with a naturopath -- who can test for underlying deficiencies -- or a counsellor if you feel your food choice is tied to emotional factors and not a desire to eat. Always get enough sleep, practice beneficial practices for stress relief (so that a carton of ice cream is not the go-to). And if there is still a strong need, give yourself the occasional indulgence.
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