CRUSH food cravings
Discover your comfort-eating trigger to get to the bottom of food fixations.
Do you find it hard to control your sweet tooth or find your obsession with stodgy carbs can spiral out of control? Of course, it’s fine to treat yourself occasionally, but once you start indulging, it can be hard to stop, especially when it’s cold and dark outside. ‘During the winter, your body is focused keeping warm,’ says nutritionist Shona Wilkinson(superfooduk.com). ‘Your metabolic rate increases by as much as ıo per cent because of all the energy you’re putting into keeping warm and you can sometimes start to crave fats and more starchy and calorific foods to help deal with this.’ But there’s more to it than insulation. Some experts believe your food cravings can offer a clue into your inner health and signal you’re missing key nutrients. Read on to find out about common cravings and how to keep your diet on track.
Crush Food Cravings Photo Gallery
WHY YOU CRAVE IT:This sweet treat is one of the most common food cravings among women, and could be down to a magnesium deficiency. Cocoa The main ingredient in chocolate, is naturally rich in this trace mineral that’s essential for everything from nerve control and stress management to healthy bones and a well-functioning immune system. Magnesium deficiency is also thought to be a factor in PMS, which could explain a Dairy Milk craving.
STOP THE CRAVING:Boost your magnesium intake by eating nuts, seeds pulses and dark-green leafy veg. ‘A healthy body often helps to lower cravings, so pack your diet with brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, especially yellow, orange, red and purple ones – as these will all help boost your antioxidant levels,’ adds Wilkinson. If PMS is a problem, magnesium supplements are proven to help and may work even better when combined with vitamin B6.
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE:Opt for dark(minimum of 70 percent cocoa solids) or raw chocolate – they both contain a higher magnesium content than milk chocolate. Just a couple of squares should help dampen down cravings, thanks to the naturally rich texture.
WHY YOU CRAVE IT: ‘It’s thought that if you have a craving for carbs such as bread, it could be due to poor blood-sugar levels or low serotonin levels,’ says Wilkinson. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread provide a quick blood-sugar- level boost, but create blood-sugar dips soon after which can zap energy levels and create a vicious cycle of cravings. Carbs also help convert tryptophan to feel good neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
STOP THE CRAVING:You need tryptophan to create serotonin, so if you crave carbs such as bread when you’re feeling low, you should try loading up on nutritious tryptophan-rich foods such as bananas, nuts, turkey, eggs or quinoa.
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE:If you’re craving bread, choose the wholemeal variety, which can be a good source of nutrients such as energising B vitamins and fibre that keeps us feeling full. Make sure the packaging states the bread is 100 percent whole grain – and it should be the first item listed on the ingredients list.
WHY YOU CRAVE THEM: You could be low in iron. This trace mineral helps make red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body, and low levels can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia. Red meat is rich in readily absorbed haem iron, and the average 3 oz beef burger contains around 3mg (women need 14.8mg of iron per day; more during menstruation). If you’re lacking in energy, you may need more iron.
STOP THE CRAVING: Visit your GP for a blood test if you think you’re low in iron.Red meat is a good source, but should be eaten in moderation (no more than twice week) as part of a balanced diet. Lentils, beans and green leafy veg are also great sources of the mineral.
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE:Eat organic,grass-fed burgers (and other red meat) that comes from animals that have not been given antibiotics, hormones or other nasties. Check out the meat boxes on offer at riverford.com and get them delivered to your door – easy!
WHY YOU CRAVE THEM: It could be down to stress. ‘Aldosterone is a hormone that, like stress hormone cortisol, is produced by the adrenal glands. Aldosterone helps your body hold on to sodium, so if levels plummet, too much sodium (salt) is excreted, which can make you crave salt,’ explains Wilkinson. But why does aldosterone go down when we’re stressed? ‘High levels of cortisol reduce production of aldosterone-making hormone ACTH, so less aldosterone is made, leading to salt cravings,’ she says.
STOP THE CRAVING: Eat a healthy diet packed with fresh fruit and veg to keep energy levels even and boost wellbeing, get enough sleep and do two low-impact workouts such as yoga or Pilates a week to help keep stress levels in check.
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE:Often packed with trans fats, lots of sodium and artificial flavours, crisps contain virtually zero nutrients. Nibble on a couple of healthier olives instead.
WHY YOU CRAVE THEM: Craving a can of cola can be a sign you’re low in calcium. Calcium is needed for bone health, nerve and muscle control and blood pressure, so dietary intake is crucial. When levels are low, your body draws calcium from your bones to compensate, and carbonated drinks can help this, thanks to their sugar and phosphoric acid content. This, in turn, means they’re actually making the lack- of-calcium problem worse. ‘Fizzy drinks leach calcium from the bones, which we obviously don’t want,’ says Wilkinson. Unfortunately, fizzy drinks are also full of sugar and Chemicals and can contribute towards a whole hoşt of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
STOP THE CRAVING: Seek healthy sources of calcium such as dairy products and dark-green vegetables including broccoli and kale.
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE: Need a sweet fix? Sip on a carton of coconut water.Coconut water is super-hydrating and contains just 5g of sugar per carton, compared with cola, which is packed with an eye-watering 39g of sugar per can.
WHY YOU CRAVE THEM: Sugar cravings are often caused by dipping blood sugar levels brought on by missing meals, a protein-deficient diet (often high in carbs causing erratic blood-glucose levels), or boredom (this makes you crave a sugar high through the release of feel-good chemicals called opioids). Government guidelines say no more than five percent of our daily calorie intake should be from sugar, or seven teaspoons, yet the average tube of sweets contains nine! ‘Eating too much sugar is a vicious cycle. Your blood glucose shoots up and your body releases lots of insulin. The insulin quickly takes glucose into your cells, and can leave too little in your blood. This then triggers a craving for more sugar,’ explains Wilkinson.
STOP THE CRAVING: Eat three square meals and two snacks a day. Drink plenty of water as dehydration is often mistaken for hunger and, if all else fails, go for a walk to take your mind off sugar.
HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE: Eat a piece of fruit. An apple, handful of strawberries or banana will give you a natural sweet hit plus vitamins, minerals and other super- nutrients to help minimise future cravings.
3 COMFORT FOOD FIXES
Try these easy tweaks to give classic winter dishes a healthy twist
Swap mince meat for lentils, a lean source of plant protein.Top with low-GI sweet potato in place of regular mashed spuds and stay fuller for longer while boosting your intake of antioxidant beta-carotene.
Try making a cauliflower crust in place of a stodgy dough base by blitzing together grated cauliflower, eggs and nuts.
3. SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE
Use a spiralizer or vegetable peeler to make courgette ribbons and serve a bowl of these with Bolognese sauce instead of pasta.