In our diet-obsessed society where we constantly eliminate entire food groups, we’ve come to believe that if we crave something, it must be because our bodies “need” it. It would be a nice way to justify all those cookies and snacks we consume, but when we asked celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson, she set us straight.
“Cravings can be triggered by many factors such as low blood sugar levels, hormonal fluctuations, skipping meals, stress or erratic schedules,” she says. “Sugar is the most common, partly because we consume too many simplified carbohydrates in our diets that cause fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin response.”
She explains that the brain utilizes the simplest form of sugar, which is glucose, for energy. And when we need more energy, we tend to want quick, pick-me-up treats filled with simple sugar-like those stale leftover doughnuts in the lunch room.
So if our bodies aren’t craving that gotta-have-it treat out of some biological need, what can we do to stop ourselves from raiding the vending machine? Simpson offered some surprising advice.
“Stay hydrated,” she says. “As we age, our thirst mechanism may diminish. Many times we think we are hungry or craving a certain food, but in fact we are just thirsty!”
It’s also important to not skip meals and when we do eat, to opt for high-fiber foods that will help maintain energy and blood sugar levels throughout the day. She also suggests kicking a craving by distracting yourself-head outside for 15 minutes or find another way to switch up your environment.
Another way to quench a craving is to try a healthier snack with the same texture-crunchy or creamy, for example. “Foods with similar textures work well when trying to choose healthier foods options,” Simpson says. “If you are craving salt, rather than going for the chips, try a small portion of calcium- and protein-rich almonds.”
Another unexpected cause of cravings could be food sensitivity. Sometimes when your body is allergic to something, it craves more of it, oddly. If your cravings are continuous, you may want to see a physician to rule it out.
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