We all can experience food cravings. This is one of the many methods our body uses to communicate with us. Learning how to listen to our body in order understand what it needs will enable us to adjust our habits to help prevent cravings and provide our body with what it needs to thrive.
6 Reasons We Experience Food Cravings
- Low Blood sugar. Our blood sugar fluctuates throughout the day predominantly based on what we eat and our physical activity. When we go an extended period of time without eating carbohydrates, our blood sugar drops. When it goes too low, our body signals us to eat via food cravings, and sometimes with even symptoms such as sweatiness and shakiness (mostly for those with diabetes). If you experience low blood sugars:
- don’t skip meals
- consider eating a healthy snack (ex. apple with peanut butter) before strenuous activity/exercise
- incorporate healthy fats, protein, and fiber at each meal to help stabilize your blood sugar and prevent future lows
- consider monitoring your blood sugar trends with a glucometer or continuous glucose monitor
- Dehydration. From optimal digestion to a glowing complexion, drinking more water always seems to be at the cornerstone. And now I am here to tell you dehydration can also be a cause of sugar cravings!
According to John Higgins, MD “When you’re dehydrated, it can be difficult for organs like the liver, which uses water, to release glycogen [stored glucose] and other components of your energy stores, so you can actually get cravings for food.”
It is also common for you body to confuse dehydration with hunger, meaning you may feel hungry when all you really need is water.
- You have a nutrient deficiency. Research shows that many food cravings are not necessarily for the food itself, but for a specific nutrient present in it. Chocolate, for example, is one of the most commonly know food cravings and also a good source of magnesium. Interestingly, up to 50% of the U.S. population is deficient in magnesium. In addition, cravings for bread or toast can indicate a nitrogen deficiency. Check out this article for more info on this topic!
- Your hormones are out of balance. Cycling hormones, especially during times of stress or a woman’s menstrual cycle can trigger food cravings. When your are experiencing high levels of stress, cortisol levels increase, which increases appetite. When the stressful event is over, cortisol levels should drop. However, if stress is chronic cortisol levels may stay elevated, continuing the cycle.
- You are tired. Sleep affects 2 hormones that regulate hunger: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates hunger while leptin decreases it. When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin spikes and therefore, your appetite increases. Research has shown that those who skimp on sleep eat twice as much fat and over 300 extra calories the next day! Do you get 7 to 9 hours of high-quality sleep per night?
Do you experience food cravings? What reason do you think could be the culprit?