Food cravings are very common, almost everyone has had them and we know they are difficult to ignore. They usually manifest through an intense or urgent desire for a specific type of food, and it’s usually unhealthy.
In fact, research from the Advances in Therapy journal suggests that men are more likely to crave savoury foods, whereas women are more likely to crave high fat, sweet foods.
It’s okay to satisfy these cravings once in a while but it’s generally recommended not to give in to them all the time as eating too much unhealthy food can be bad for you.
"In fact, research from the Advances in Therapy journal suggests that men are more likely to crave savoury foods, whereas women are more likely to crave high fat, sweet foods."
What causes food cravings?
Food cravings are usually induced by the feel-good chemicals you get from eating sweet and savoury foods that are rich in carbohydrates. Consuming these foods causes the brain to release serotonin, dopamine and other relaxing endorphins that make a person more likely to continue seeking them out.
This will slowly result in a habit that makes us susceptible towards eating sugary or carbo-rich foods without thinking twice.
However, that being said, there are various other factors that can affect a person’s food cravings. For example, women who menstruate may experience hormonal fluctuations across the menstrual cycle that can create food cravings. The hormonal changes that come with pregnancy can also cause pregnant mothers to crave certain kinds of food.
Emotions can also contribute to food cravings, such as in cases of comfort eating or a memory triggered by the smell or taste of a certain food.
So, how do you deal with food cravings? Try replacing your cravings with healthier options!
If you’re craving carb-rich food like rice or bread, try swapping out the usual carb-rich white rice or white bread with their healthier cousins like brown rice or whole grain bread. They are packed with more nutrients and have a lot of fibre which takes longer to digest, leaving you feeling full for a longer time.
For those with a sweet tooth, instead of a candy bar or ice cream, fresh or frozen fruits would be a better option as they offer more nutrients instead of artificial sweeteners that come with sweets. Most of them are also packed with vitamins that keep your body healthy.
Salty food can be highly addictive especially since our brains and bodies are designed to enjoy it because salt is necessary for survival. But eating too much salt can cause some serious health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.
So, the next time you catch yourself dreaming of that salted egg chips, try replacing that craving with a light and easy snack like chickpeas which can also be made into hummus that goes well with carrots, celery sticks and tortilla chips.
Another option for those who want something savoury could be a bowl of lentil soup. Lentils are a good source of fibre and protein and they help stabilise your blood sugars, keeping your appetite in check. Sweet potatoes are also a good option if lentils are harder to find.
Now that you know just how to switch up your snacking game, it’s time to go for a grocery run! And if you are an AIA Vitality member, don’t miss out on the 10% discount off fresh fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy at Jaya Grocer!
Other ways to stop that craving
Drinking water is surprisingly effective to stem food cravings because sometimes people can confuse the feeling of thirst for hunger. Some people may find their food cravings reduced when they stay hydrated throughout the day.
A 2013 study cited in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA journal showed that not getting enough sleep could alter the body’s hormonal balance which may contribute to overeating and weight gain. This means that getting enough sleep might be key to reducing food cravings.
In 2015, researchers published a study in the journal PLoS ONE which showed that brisk, 15-minute walks were more effective at reducing cravings than sitting passively. So, the next time a craving hits, maybe try taking a quick walk or some light exercise to beat back that craving.
Chewing gum can also help with cravings as shown in a 2011 study cited in the journal Appetite. The study found that those who chewed gum rated themselves less hungry, had fewer cravings for snacks, and felt fuller than those who did not chew gum.
"Drinking water is surprisingly effective to stem food cravings because sometimes people can confuse the feeling of thirst for hunger."
At the end of the day, food cravings can be brought on by a variety of factors so identifying them is as important as finding ways to stop or reduce your cravings. Try using the methods above gradually and you might find yourself feeling healthier and better.
However, if the cravings continue, it might be a good idea to speak to a professional like a dietician or a personal trainer to help you develop a healthy diet plan that reduces cravings and associated issues. Good luck and all the best!