Who has never had that uncontrollable urge to eat a chocolate after lunch?
Cravings for some types of food, like chocolate or chips, can happen when you least expect it.
But it’s important to be aware: these desires may indicate that you need to make adjustments to your lifestyle – whether in food specifically or in taking care of your well-being.
Cravings are linked to stress, tiredness and exhaustion
“When you’re craving food — whether it’s chocolate or chips, it’s important to ask yourself what the reason behind it is,” nutritionist Sejal Jacob tells the BBC.
“Cravings can arise for a variety of reasons, including imbalanced blood sugar levels, stress, lack of sleep, or, in the case of women, hormonal changes.”
Sleep, for example, helps regulate hunger hormones:
“Not sleeping well is a strong trigger for many food cravings for many people. This affects the body by altering hunger hormones”, explains the nutritionist.
“When you’re not getting enough sleep, your body will produce more ghrelin — a hormone that increases hunger and appetite. It also reduces the hormone leptin, which makes you feel full. Because of this imbalance, your body starts to feel hungry, and throughout the day craves a quick fix of energy, often in the form of refined carbs or sweets.”
And, according to Sejal, our bodies also begin to crave this type of food if you’re feeling anxious.
“Stress is a big aggravating factor for cravings… It’s the same if you’re feeling anxious or panicky. Usually people go after sweet things because they always think they’re going to get that quick fix to make themselves comfortable and confident, and you’re looking for foods that offer 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 start of menstruation), leading to cravings for carbohydrates and sweet foods.
But, according to Sejal, enjoying the occasional craving isn’t a problem if your diet is well-balanced.
“I know it doesn’t feel right. But sometimes the best thing to do is allow yourself to enjoy the food you’re craving without any guilt. By satisfying specific food cravings, you’re less likely to abuse it.”
“You need to make sure you eat the food mindfully, really enjoy it. If you don’t allow yourself the treat, you’ll end up craving it even more, and you’ll probably end up eating a lot more than you would otherwise. your desire. If you like a cookie, eat the cookie. Enjoy every bite, and move on.”
However, if cravings become more frequent, it can cause problems…
Your diet can lead to more cravings
“Indulging in too many cravings over a long period of time creates a habit of craving preference – whether it’s sweets, cakes or chocolate,” explains a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
“The reward center in your brain triggers a pleasurable response to sweet foods. And that’s when you become more dependent on it, and you can enjoy healthier foods less.”
Also, if you develop other eating habits that are not considered healthy, it can trigger more cravings.
“If you skip meals or don’t eat regularly, or rely on processed foods, that can also trigger food cravings,” says the nutritionist.
“This can cause drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels — sudden spikes or drops. It makes your body crave more sugary foods because it wants to stabilize these fluctuations in blood sugar levels.”
In short, your body gets used to sugar spikes and wants to keep them.
There is still confusion about pregnancy cravings
It is estimated that 50% to 90% of pregnant women experience desire, but why?
“The truth is that we don’t know exactly why certain cravings appear during pregnancy. They are likely triggered by physiological changes, such as our hormonal changes, but it could be that some nutritional deficiencies can make you crave certain specific foods,” says Sejal.
“Often, cravings in pregnancy are prominent during the first and second trimesters (of pregnancy) but diminish during the third trimester.”
“In extreme cases, it can cause pica. It’s the craving for non-food items like dirt or chalk. And while the cause of this craving is unknown, it’s believed to be related to iron deficiency during pregnancy.”
“If you experience cravings for any non-food product during pregnancy, speak to your doctor right away,” he recommends.
What to do if you have recurring cravings
“If someone has a chocolate craving and, as a nutritionist, I say, ‘No, have a piece of fruit,’ it’s not going to work because the person has a chocolate craving and wants chocolate,” says Sejal.
But at the same time, you don’t want to always give in to cravings as it can negatively affect your blood sugar levels.
“You can try to make an adjustment to cravings. If you’re craving a high-sugar milk chocolate with no nutritional benefits, maybe you could eat dark chocolate with 85% or 70% (cocoa) and instead of eating a whole bar, you could eat half of it”, he suggests.
“That’s more realistic than being told to eat a completely different food.”
Wishes aside, Sejal reminds you that you should also maintain a balanced diet, “made up of good healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates, and make sure you’re hydrated.”
By doing this, you can cut the craving before it arrives.
But the main thing you should do if you’re constantly craving foods that aren’t nutrient-dense is to assess the cause. By doing this, you can change your mindset.
“You can swap that quick fix of candy for something like whole grain toast with a little peanut butter — an unrefined carb with good healthy fats that will regulate your blood sugar levels,” suggests Sejal.
The secret is to get to the root of the problem.
“It’s more than just saying, okay, you either eat this food or you don’t.”
“If you’re not getting enough sleep, make an effort to have a better nighttime routine — maybe you can include meditation mindfulness (mindfulness) to help you switch off”, he proposes.
What if you’re stressed? Take steps to improve your well-being.
“You can do yoga or meditation to relieve stress. It’s not just about food, addressing lifestyle issues is just as important.”
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