Who hasn’t had that uncontrollable urge to eat chocolate after lunch?
Cravings for certain types of food, such as chocolate or chips, can occur when you least expect it.
But it is important to be aware of this: these cravings can indicate that you need to change your lifestyle, whether it is about food or your well-being.
Food cravings are linked to stress, fatigue and exhaustion
“When you crave something, whether it’s chocolate or crisps, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re craving it,” nutritionist Sejal Jacob told the BBC.
“Food cravings can occur for a number of reasons, including blood sugar imbalance, stress, lack of sleep or, in the case of women, hormonal changes.”
Sleep, for example, helps regulate hunger hormones:
“Lack of sleep is for many people a powerful trigger for various food cravings. It affects the body by altering hunger hormones,” explains the nutritionist.
“When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin – a hormone that increases hunger and appetite. It also reduces the hormone leptin, which gives you a feeling of satisfaction. Due to this imbalance, your body starts to feel hungry, and throughout the day it needs a quick supply of energy, often in the form of refined carbohydrates or sweets.”
And, according to Sejal, our bodies also start craving these types of foods if we are anxious.
“Stress is an aggravating factor for food cravings…. So is if you’re feeling anxious or panicked. Usually people go for the sweet stuff because they always think they’re going to get that quick fix. to feel comfortable and confident, and you’re looking for foods that provide a quick boost to your serotonin and dopamine levels.”
As for the impact of hormones on women, studies show that the menstrual cycle can interfere with steroid hormones in the luteal phase (the period between ovulation and the onset of menstruation), leading to carbohydrate cravings and sweet foods.
But, according to Sejal, having the occasional craving isn’t a problem if your diet is well balanced.
“I know that doesn’t sound right. But sometimes the best thing you can do is allow yourself to enjoy the food you crave without guilt. By giving in to specific food cravings, you’re less likely to crave them. abuse.”
“You have to make sure that you eat food mindfully, that you really enjoy it. If you don’t allow yourself to indulge, you’ll end up craving it even more, and you’ll probably end up eating a lot more than you wouldn’t have otherwise. Try not to get in the way of your cravings. If you like a cookie, eat the cookie. Savor every bite, and move on.”
However, if the cravings become more frequent, it can cause problems…
Your diet can lead to increased food cravings
“Indulging in many cravings over a long period creates a habit of craving preference – whether it’s sweets, cakes or chocolate,” says a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA) .
“Your brain’s reward center triggers a pleasure response to sweet foods. And that’s when you become more addicted to them, and can enjoy healthier foods less.”
Also, if you develop other eating habits that aren’t considered healthy, it can trigger more cravings.
“If you skip meals or don’t eat regularly, or rely on processed foods, this can also lead to food cravings,” explains the nutritionist.
“This can cause drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels – sudden spikes or drops. in the blood.”
In short, your body gets used to sugar spikes and wants to sustain them.
Confusion still reigns over food cravings during pregnancy
It is estimated that 50 to 90% of pregnant women feel desire, but why?
“The truth is, we don’t know exactly why certain food cravings appear during pregnancy. They’re likely triggered by physiological changes, like our hormonal changes, but certain nutritional deficiencies may make you crave certain specific foods,” explains Sejal.
“Often food cravings during pregnancy are prominent during the first and second trimesters (of pregnancy), but decrease during the third trimester.”
“In extreme cases, this can cause pica. This is the craving for non-food items, such as dirt or chalk. And while the cause of this craving is unknown, it is thought to be related to iron deficiency during pregnancy.”
“If you experience cravings for non-food items during pregnancy, talk to your doctor right away,” he recommends.
What to do if you have recurring food cravings?
“If someone is craving chocolate and as a nutritionist I say, ‘No, have a fruit’, it won’t work because the person is craving chocolate and wants chocolate,” says Sejal.
But at the same time, you shouldn’t always give in to the urge, as this can have a negative effect on your blood sugar levels.
“You could try making a craving adjustment. If you’re craving a milk chocolate that’s high in sugars and has no nutritional benefits, maybe you could go for an 85% or 70% dark chocolate (cocoa) and , instead of eating a whole bar, you could eat half of it,” he suggests.
“It’s more realistic than having to eat a completely different food.”
In addition to food cravings, Sejal reminds that it is also necessary to stick to a balanced diet, “composed of good fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates, and to ensure that you are hydrated”.
By doing this, you can curb cravings before they happen.
But the main thing to do if you constantly crave foods that aren’t nutrient-dense is to assess the cause. By doing this you can change your mindset.
“You can replace that quick dose of sweetness with a toast full of peanut butter, an unrefined carb with good fats that will keep your blood sugar levels in check,” suggests Sejal.
The key is to get to the root of the problem.
“It’s more than saying, ok, you eat this food or you don’t eat this food”.
“If you’re not getting enough sleep, try getting into a better nighttime routine — maybe you can include mindfulness meditation to help you switch off,” he suggests.
What if you are stressed? Take steps to improve your well-being.
“You can do yoga or meditation to release stress. It’s not just about food, it’s equally important to address the issue of lifestyle.”
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