By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Cravings. That feeling when a certain food is calling us from the fridge or from the desk drawer. Foods like chocolate, pizza and other unhealthy items are often those that make the most noise. Their chatter sometimes leads us down a slippery slope and our craving habits spin out of control. So what gives? Why do we get cravings? How can we cope with them without letting them get the best of us?
Good news! I have answers. Cravings are caused by certain factors that we can at least help to better understand and that can help us to make better choices. Cravings are things that we all can fall victim to, but if we can better understand their root cause I think it can help us to be more successful in battling them.
Here are 6 top reasons we get cravings.
Hormones fluctuating during a woman’s cycle can determine many of the things she feels including cravings. It’s key to be aware of these cravings and why they may be happening. Many women crave chocolate which can mean their body needs more magnesium. Learn more about how juicing can help promote hormonal balance.
Not drinking enough water and/or not eating enough food can be two major reasons for increased hunger and decreased satiety. Both food and water are heavily involved in promoting balanced blood sugar and for keeping us on track with satiety. Remember to drink mostly water as opposed to other beverages (particularly those sweetened with sugar and other additives), and to choose foods high in fiber and those with protein and healthy fat to slow digestion and promote healthy, balanced blood sugar.
Stress is a major one that can contribute to cravings. When we’re stressed our stress hormone, cortisol, increases which can cause cravings for sugary/starchy foods and this can be quite hard to battle. Aim to focus on stress management, because this can indirectly help to get your cravings under control.
Sleep is another major factor in controlling our cravings. Research suggests that getting inadequate sleep can affect hormones like leptin – a hormone that signals satiety, which can be decreased with inadequate sleep meaning that you feel less satisfied; also ghrelin a hormone that stimulates appetite has been found to be elevated with sleep deprivation and inadequacy. So, work on getting more sleep.
Exercise is great for us, but like anything else, in excess it can leave our bodies wanting for nutrients and fuel to replenish. Certain types of exercise can leave us feeling hungrier, like weight lifting, while in some cases cardio exercise can leave us feeling less hungry (although this totally depends on the person). Again, exercise is so good for you, but if you’re finding that it’s leaving you feeling like you’re starving, it may be worth trying different types of exercise to see which leaves you feeling less like you’re going to eat the kitchen sink.
One of the biggest causes of cravings can often be inadequate nutrients. Sometimes our bodies are missing nutrients and for that reason we can end up craving certain foods. Often I find that these types of cravings are more specific, and can be more pronounced for a certain food item. There is likely a reason that we can crave specific foods (although there are one or two in here that are more hormonally affected for women, like chocolate). Red meat cravings can be due to the body’s desire for nutrients like iron and zinc.