Picture this, you work hard all day to eat “healthy” choosing vegetables over treats, and then 9 pm hits. The kids are in bed and all you can think about is finishing the tub of ice cream that is in the freezer. Sound familiar?
Many of my patients, especially tired, stressed out moms, mention to me that their intense cravings derail their efforts to make healthy food choices. In today’s blog post I am going help you get control back over your cravings. Cravings get a bad rap, but they actually aren’t a bad thing. They are a sign. They are your body’s way of asking for what it’s not getting, or missing.
Unfortunately, most people do not crave healthy foods like veggies. Cravings are usually for things that we consider to be “treats”; foods that are high in sugar, fat, or salt. The first thing to tease out with regard to cravings is, is it a craving, or are you just bored?
If you are craving a “bad food” but not a specific food, it could be a sign that your blood sugar has crashed. These big swings in blood sugar happen when you do not eat enough protein or fat with your meal and instead pick carb heavy options
Sugar is one of the quickest sources of energy for your body. It is the food people tend to crave if they are over tired or feeling sluggish. Sugar cravings often happen mid-afternoon. This usually happens if you had a lunch that was carbohydrate heavy and did not contain enough protein. A good way to ward off mid-afternoon sugar cravings is to have a palmful of nuts/seeds at 1 pm. This helps to stabilize your blood sugar, and energize you through the afternoon. The other time people tend to crave sugar is after dinner. I do not recommend having dessert daily, as this perpetuates the habit of having something sweet after dinner. These post dinner cravings are typically habitual, and are not due to your body chemistry
Cravings for chocolate specifically, not just something sweet, is a classic sign of a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium glycinate is my supplemental form of choice to help replenish your stores
Salt cravings are typically have 2 causes:
- Adrenal Stress
- Electrolyte Imbalance
Adrenal Stress- Your adrenal glands require salt to properly make stress hormone. In our modern life, we ask a lot more from our adrenal glands on a daily basis than has ever been asked before. If you are under a lot of stress, you are requiring your body to make excess adrenal hormones. Your body needs more salt to be able to make these hormones, hence the salt cravings
Electrolyte Imbalance- I see this most frequently with patients who are eating clean and exercising to the point of sweating 3-5x/week.If you are making all of your food at home, and eating clean, you need to add salt to your food. Our daily requirement for sodium is 2000 mg (about ½ tsp). The danger of consuming too much salt happens when people are eating a diet consisting mostly of processed and packaged foods. Another hint that you may need to add more salt to your diet is having low blood pressure, below 100/60 mmHg, or becoming lightheaded when you go from sitting to standing.
I hope that you are not still following the low fat diet craze of the 90’s. Cravings for fatty foods usually signify that you are not eating enough healthy fats. Healthy fats are critical for hormone production, proper brain function, skin health and much more. Fats to add include: avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds and salmon
Did you know that cravings for red meat often happen when you are iron deficient? Red meat is a good source of heme iron, the most easy to absorb form, so your body goes seeking it out. We need to have good iron stores in the body to have energy, and to have healthy, thick hair. If you suspect you may have an iron deficiency, ask your doctor or naturopathic doctor to test your ferritin levels. Ferritin is your stored form of iron, and is the best indicator of your body’s iron status.
So there you have it! Your cravings in a nutshell
What foods do you tend to crave?
As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below or send me an email
Dr Alexis practices in Kanata, and is currently accepting new patients.
Naturopathic medicine is covered by most extended insurance benefits