By Chef Selwyn Richards
Curbing your cravings can help you lead a healthy lifestyle and I am pleased to bring you the first in a series of articles to support your good health. In this series, we will dive deep into the topic of cravings, what causes them and the good news — how to overcome them. Enjoy!
Food cravings, we’ve all experienced them. Whether it’s an overwhelming need for a sweet treat, a yearning for something salty or the desire to have a pizza loaded with gooey cheese, food cravings are part of our lives.
Most of us know that sugary snacks and over-indulgence in alcohol isn’t good for our health. There have been dozens of studies showing the effects of these types of foods on our bodies. So why then, if we know the harmful effects, do we still crave these and other foods?
There are many reasons that cause us to crave certain foods
Food cravings are unlike physical hunger, which develops over time. Cravings come out of the blue and can strike you quickly. They can be triggered by many things like stress, boredom, emotions or just the scent or sight of certain foods.
Some believe cravings are psychological while others believe they are brought on by nutritional deficiencies in our daily diet. Emotional stressors can cause cravings of certain comfort foods while a physical addiction to foods or ingredients, like sugar may be to blame.
Junk food manufacturers and advertisers have learned to tap into our need for certain foods. Manufacturers have learned to create products that fill our need for salty or sugary foods. Advertisers have used our trigger points as a way to sell us more to feed our food cravings.
However, the blame can’t be put onto manufacturers and advertisers alone. There are several reasons why we crave certain foods. In this series of articles, we’ll look at what’s causing our cravings and how we can control them as well as specific alternatives to try instead of the specific food.
We’ll also discuss the harmful effects food cravings can have on our bodies and how you can curb your cravings to live more healthfully.
What Causes Cravings
If food cravings are so bad for us, what causes them? Is it physical or mental or something else entirely? That depends.
It’s all in your head or is it? People who don’t have food cravings might believe your food cravings are all in your head. However, in some cases they may be right. There are certain areas, according to research, that specific areas of our brains are responsible for food cravings. Our memory factors and the area responsible for sensing pleasure are two of those areas.
There are three areas of the brain – the hippocampus, insula, and caudate – that appear to be activated during food-craving episodes, according to research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center. According to their brain tests, these memory areas of the brain are important to food cravings.
Food cravings can be caused by emotions and desires. We often crave certain types of food when we are stressed or anxious. Carbohydrates boost the hormone serotonin, which has a calming effect on our body.
A lack of variety in our diets can lead to food cravings. If you eat the same foods every day, like when you are on a very restricted diet, your body craves the foods you are no longer eating.
Certain activities, people, or places can often trigger a craving for certain foods. For example, Friday nights might be movie night with your family. That could also mean it’s pizza and popcorn night. You’re body doesn’t necessarily need pizza every Friday, but you’ve conditioned yourself to crave it on movie night.
Vitamin or mineral deficiencies in your diet can cause food cravings. Many people who eat a lot of processed foods are suffering from mild malnutrition because they are not getting the nutrients they need from whole, nutrient filled foods.
Aside from alcohol, sugar is the one most people seem to have trouble with. Certain foods stimulate the reward center of your brain. These foods allow your body to release “feel good” hormones every time you eat them.
There is no simple answer to why you have food cravings. Everyone is different and cravings can be caused by several different reasons. If you are stressed, you may have a craving for sugar, which in turn stimulates an addiction like need for sweets.
Now we know why we crave certain foods and what causes some of those cravings. Next time we will learn the many ways cravings can be harmful to your physical and mental health and most importantly, how to overcome these cravings in healthy ways. Stay tuned!
Selwyn Richards is an award-winning master chef. He is also the President and Executive Chef at The Art of Catering Inc. and is the author of “The Art of Cooking: Soul of The Caribbean”. Chef Selwyn can be reached at: email@example.com or by phone — (905) 619-1059.