Did you know it’s possible to consume more calories than your body really needs and still be deficient in nutrients? In the big picture, the nutritional value of food can be unconsciously overlooked. Another possibility is that we simply don’t know the nutritional value and feel overwhelmed trying to understand it. How does all of this connect to cravings? The body can receive a signal for cravings based on the nutrients in specific foods. You maybe overdid it on carbs and sugars and didn’t get enough fruits and vegetables full of necessary nutrients. The body might be trying to tell you something when a craving hits! If you’re not consuming enough of the essentials to fill the requirements of the body, it can signal that it’s under stress. This stress signal is mistaken by the brain and induces a craving.
Things like vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also activate cravings. The body says it needs something… it just doesn’t always indicate what. All these deficiencies can produce an emotional imbalance which then turns on the “emotional eating” switch and cravings ensue often in the form of comfort foods. If you suspect that you have a deficiency, your doctor can request a blood test to check the levels of vitamins and minerals in the body. Knowing what you’re deficient in can help you plan your diet accordingly so you’re less likely to fall victim to cravings.
Stress signals from the body don’t only come from lack of nutrition. These same signals can prevail when the body is under emotional or physical stress. Stress comes in various forms: working too many hours, not getting physical activity, not sleeping well (more on this later), “to do” lists a mile long, etc. Oddly enough training too hard (endurance or stamina) can also bring on stress for the body. As mentioned above, when the body signals that it is under stress it is easy for cravings to hit like a ton of bricks. We’re sure you’ve heard of “stress eating” and you’ve seen people turn to chocolate when they’re experiencing high stress levels.
Stress can also be a precursor to the desire for comfort foods (as mentioned above). Comfort foods vary for each person, but they have a common thread in that they trigger the brain’s reward centers. For many people comfort food is nostalgic, maybe they think of their grandmother when they have apple pie or their father when they have his chicken and dumpling recipe. As with many other cravings, comfort foods usually have a lot of calories or carbohydrates. How they differ has to do with the comforting and/or sentimental values they offer. These foods can help the body feel calm just because of their connection to a comfortable place or person.
The body signals dehydration which is often mistaken for hunger. For many people there are times when the body says it needs water but instead of a glass of water, we grab for a snack. It is recommended to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning and before each meal. Doing so will help the body stay hydrated and reduce cravings. For most people they don’t drink enough water. The suggested amount of water per day is half of your weight in ounces. If you weigh 150 pounds, you would want to drink at least 75 ounces of water. This should increase if you are physically active, spend time outdoors in high heat and strong sun, or have a labor intensive job.
Staying hydrated also helps balance electrolytes in the body. There are essential minerals that the body needs including sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphate and bicarbonate. As the minerals dissolve in the body electrolytes are created. It’s these positive or negative ions that are used in various processes in the body. Electrolytes help balance the level of liquid from the inside and the outside of cells in the body. Imbalanced electrolytes can signal dehydration and cravings can kick in. If you are looking to replenish electrolytes, be sure to find something that is free of any artificial or unnecessary ingredients. Top Notch Nutrition’s Hydrate is an electrolyte supplement that contains magnesium, calcium, pink Himalayan salt, trace elements and more!
Sleep is essential. That’s a very simple but quite matter-of-fact statement. It’s crazy to think about how many people do not get enough sleep. The statistics are mind-blowing. We are out there in the world, trying to function, on little to no sleep! It is very well known that the body needs time to rest and repair. Not only does the body need sleep, it needs quality sleep. The recommended number of hours of sleep needed per night is 7-9 hours. For some, they “sleep” that long but toss and turn and awaken many times. This is poor quality sleep and the body does not get adequate time to do the work it needs to do overnight.
Setting yourself up with morning and bedtime routines can help the body get enough sleep that is good quality. Doing so helps the body get into a routine of when to wake up and when to go to sleep. What does all of this have to do with cravings? Have you stayed up too late and find yourself in the fridge or pantry looking for a snack? You end up eating something your body doesn’t need and guess what happens? The body ends up working all night to digest it! Another reason sleep is important, is because the body goes into “stress mode” and as discussed above, signals stimulating cravings can take over.
We often hear people say they can’t fall asleep at night. There are so many reasons for this, but it has to do with the circadian rhythm of the body. This is defined as a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and should repeat every 24 hours. If you are looking to supplements for better sleep, we recommend that you choose a natural sleep aid that is non-habit forming. We believe that if you give Top Notch Nutrition’s Sleep Aid a try, you’ll find great results!
This likely sounds weird, but the body can experience cravings as a result of a shortage of fats… healthy fats that is! It is common that a desire for fried foods is an indication that body wants (or maybe even needs) fat. Many people today try to avoid fats at all costs, and the body does need healthy fats to function. There are many processes in the body where fats are necessary. Women need more fat than men as the hormones need a higher quantity of fats to work how they are supposed to.An important reminder is that not all fats are made equal. If you crave fried foods, we suggest consuming a healthier fat like coconut oil, eggs, olive oil, quality fish, avocados, raw nuts, etc.
On another note, nuts, seeds and oily fish are also good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are both considered “essential” because the body cannot produce them, but they are necessary to function. Furthermore, cravings can make an appearance because of a shortage of these fatty acids.They must come from nutrition and diet as the body cannot manufacture them on its own. How do these two differ from other fatty acids? They have many double bonds in their structure compared to saturated fats that don’t have any. Many fatty acids are stored in the body, but both are biologically active and play important roles in the processes that help the body function. Long story short, consuming good fats and balancing your omega fatty acids can curb cravings!
What to Eat
All this information brings us to a very important question. What should you eat when you feel a craving?Are there foods that you can turn to that offer a healthier choice and fend off that craving for a donut? Here is a substantial list of things that are healthier options when it comes to cravings:
- Fruit, including berries.
- Greek Yogurt
- Hummus with vegetables
- Dark Chocolate
- Vegetable Chips
- Trail mix
- Sparkling water with lemon or lime
- Cottage Cheese
Some other options include pairing fruit with dark chocolate or nut butter, making an alternative to ice cream with bananas, etc. Trying to ward off cravings with something that’s better for your body will make you feel empowered. You’ll learn that you can make give your body something with nutritious value instead of something full of sugar or carbohydrates. For some, consuming sugar or carbs just increases the cravings and it is a cyclical battle (going around and around and around) trying to regain control. Another option is to try to find a more natural alternative to fulfill your craving. For some ideas, you can see recipes that are designed to contain whole, clean foods and avoid artificial ingredients, added sugars, etc. on the recipes tab of Live Top Notch. For example, if you are craving cake you might look at the Mug Cake recipe to find a healthier choice than a cupcake!
Cravings, In a Nutshell
Now that you know what some of the most wide spread cravings are, you can be aware if they occur for you and try to figure out what they are trying to tell you. We recommend that you drink a glass of water any time your body signals a craving. You can also try an electrolyte supplement! In doing these things, you will address the possibility of dehydration and/or mineral deficiencies. Next, it is suggested to make sure your diet is balanced and has a lot of nutrient-dense foods. We also suggest trying to reduce stress levels – which will subsequently improve your sleep. Every change to your lifestyle requires small steps consistently to make it work. Remember that the body is smart in sending us signals. We just need to listen to the signals! We believe that if you pay close attention, you will be more aware of what your cravings are trying to tell you.