Kick Your Cravings to the Curb

Nov 23, 2016 | Nutrition & Wellness

A woman holding an apple in one hand and a cupcake in the other

By Christine Hardy

Do you remember what happened when you were a kid and your parents said you couldn’t have something? You probably rebelled and threw a tantrum. As adults, something similar happens when we go on a diet — we’re told we can’t have something, but instead of throwing tantrums, we get cravings.

The thing about cravings, though, is that they can manifest as a coping mechanism during emotional situations, or they can actually be our body’s way of signaling that it needs essential nutrients and minerals.

So instead of depriving yourself, listen to your body and find healthy alternatives for your cravings. Here’s a list of the most popular cravings, why they occur, and what you can do to curb them.

Craving: Carbohydrates

Why you think you need it

You find comfort in carbs. A meal doesn’t feel like a meal without bread or potatoes, and nothing cheers you up after a particularly stressful day like a bowl of mom’s spaghetti.

What your body really needs

Serotonin, which balances mood, cravings, weight, and sleep.

How to curb your craving

There are a few simple tricks to fool your body into comfort without gorging on foods packed with carbs. One way is to spice up your meals, literally. Add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes to your meal. Red pepper helps your body secrete dopamine more than any carb, which helps override carb cravings initiated by emotions.

Another way is to keep calm and take a breather. Take a moment any time a stressful situation arises to not use up all of your serotonin stores. Also, remove unnecessary stresses from your life and find simple tweaks to your daily routine, such as leaving earlier to avoid traffic or taking a yoga class to release tension. You’ll be less likely to reach for the bagels or donuts in the break room for that serotonin surge.

Lastly, try a little sunbathing. Our biggest source of light is also a great source of serotonin. Ten minutes is all you need. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, lay out your birthday suit.

Craving: Salty, Crunchy Food

Why you think you need it

Nothing calms you down like chewing on something crunchy or salty (or both) when you’re feeling frustrated, angry, or stressed.

What your body really needs

Water and electrolytes (sodium is primary).

How to curb your craving

During moments of stress, your adrenal glands tap into salt stores to calm your body and supply oxygen to your brain. The need to replenish these stores equals cravings.

It’s easy to reach for the bag of potato chips, which provide the crunch you seek but not the kind of salt your body needs. However, keep in mind that if you eat the wrong stuff, your portions will always be too large as your body anxiously searches for what it needs. Instead, reach for the better choices: kale chips, organic popcorn, tart apples, and/or celery dipped in almond butter or hummus. For your fix of salt, sprinkle your meals with Himalayan or Celtic salt, which is high in minerals and great for hydration.

Craving: Sugar and Sweets

Why you think you need it

Feelings of frustration, anger, stress, and resentment are common triggers of sugar cravings, and sweet things help you cope.

What your body really needs

Water and electrolytes (sodium is primary).

How to curb your craving

Think about the time of day that you reach for the candy drawer. Maybe it’s when parenting duties, work, or the evening commute have you feeling low on energy. Maybe it’s when you’re not feeling the love from a significant other, so you need something sugary (which releases dopamine) to help you feel happy or comforted. It’s important that you look at your life and see what may be causing those mindless cravings.

If you’re craving sweets throughout the day or after a meal, it’s important that you choose the right type of foods and/or supplements to bring balance back to your body. Instead of candy, try consuming herbs such as peppermint (best as a tea), as well as berries, artichokes, and beets. Not only will these keep you from gaining weight, they’ll also boost energy and feelings of passion and pleasure.

Furthermore, a diet containing protein and healthy fats can help rid the highs and lows that the roller coaster of sugar imbalance can cause. Try tweaking your diet to see if this will work for you.

Craving: Chocolate

Why you think you need it

You want to experience love at a deeper, emotional level.

What your body really needs

Magnesium.

How to curb your craving

Nothing gives us the feeling of being in love like chocolate does. However, loving chocolate too much can have very negative side effects.

To curb your chocolate cravings, eat foods rich in magnesium such as sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, okra, spinach, squash, and black beans. But if you still need that a piece of chocolate to feel fully satisfied, take a bite out of a dark chocolate bar (80% + cacao) – it provides more magnesium than any other food.

If you simply don’t want to give in to that chocolate craving, take a whiff of coffee beans! The smell off coffee beans triggers the same pleasure centers in your brain that chocolate does. No wonder everyone’s addicted to coffee!

Craving: Fried Food and Cheese

Why you think you need it

You’re running around and doing a million different things, so you just want fatty food that gives you a sense of stability.

What your body really needs

Food with healthy fat.

How to curb your craving

Next time you feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions, pay attention to the type of food you gravitate to. Chances are it’s something fried and fatty. That makes sense because fatty food feels heavy in your stomach and takes a while to digest, providing a feeling of being stable and grounded.

To keep from eating fried, fatty food, increase the amount of healthy fats in your diet. Try frying with coconut flour and coconut oil. Other simple things to do is to add two tablespoons of ground flax seeds to a smoothie, or throw in some walnuts, flax, or wild salmon into your next dish.

Craving: Alcohol

Why you think you need it

You need a pick-me-up and alcohol helps you escape from unpleasant feelings such as stress, depression, and anxiety.

What your body really needs

Higher blood sugar levels and minerals like potassium and calcium.

How to curb your craving

Everyone’s been there: You had a horrible day or experience and need something that’ll make you feel better fast. Alcohol is the quick fix, as it increases dopamine; however, frequent alcohol consumption eventually causes dopamine levels to fall, leading to a more anxious craving for alcohol and requiring larger amounts to experience the same effect.

To kick the craving – and even the habit — try consuming L-glutamine, an amino acid improves your ability to sleep, decreases anxiety, and reduces sugar cravings (and thus your desire for alcohol). You can buy L-glutamine in powder form, but if you’re the type that likes whole foods, fresh spinach and parsley are great sources.

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