What’s Behind Food Cravings?
You’d know a food craving if you ever had one. It’s an intense desire to eat a specific food, or a specific kind of food, like something sweet or something salty. A food craving is unlike normal hunger and may be something that is felt even in the absence of normal hunger.
There are many theories about where food cravings originate. Here are some of them.
Food cravings are caused by a lack of certain nutrients. There’s actually tremendous body wisdom in this. Your body, sensing a lack of something important, imposes a craving for exactly the nutrients you’re missing. For example, if you body’s stores of iron and zinc are low, you may crave red meat. If you crave salt, you might be dehydrated and need more fluids in your body. It’s not coincidental that women often crave chocolate during their periods. It might be the body’s way of getting iron or magnesium that can be lost during a menstrual cycle.
Another theory suggests that cravings increase when we don’t get enough sleep. This is because the production of the hormone leptin, which tells your body that you’ve eaten enough, may be reduced when you’re sleep derived. So when you don’t sleep enough, you body’s ability to feel satisfied with the food you eat may be impacted. The opposite may also be true. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulated appetite. People who don’t get sufficient sleep, or whose sleep is not of good quality (for example, a new mother who sleeps just a few hours at a time) may produce too much ghrelin, resulting in an overly strong appetite.
The hormones connected to stress are also a potential factor. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. When cortisol levels are high, it’s natural to crave sweet or carbohydrate-filled foods. Anything you can do to reduce stress in your life, such as adequate sleep, frequent breaks, moderate exercise and soothing music can help reduce cortisol levels, thus reducing cravings.
Other theories associate cravings with insufficient food or water intake or too much exercise. Overall, the issue is one of balance. Cravings are an indication that something is out of balance in your life. Aim to balance your life, your blood sugar levels, your fluid intake and your exercise and that should help remove the cravings.
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Author: Rebeca Espinoza