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Do you hit with an insatiable urge for a double-chocolate brownie/vadapav/any salty-sugary food? Do you crave for specific food item so desperately that your willpower doesn't work against that strong food craving?

If the answer is "yes", then you are probably familiar with senseless food cravings.

Cravings are not quite the same as hunger. Hunger is controlled by the stomach, but cravings are controlled by the brain. Hunger is all about your survival mechanism, but cravings are all about your body communicating with you. It is term that we use when we become very touchy towards a specific food item. 

Here are the reasons why people experience unhealthy food cravings. Also learn how to control these unusual food cravings.

Reason 1: Stress, anxiety, loneliness and emotions

When you are under pressure, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which signals your brain to seek out rewards. Comfort foods loaded with sugar and fat basically "apply the brakes" to the stress system. If you eat carb foods like bread, biscuits and sweet treats, they have a calming effect. They boost serotonin levels (the good mood brain chemical) which is just what you craves when you are feeling down or you are stressed out.

Solution:
Stimulate happiness. Choose the best distraction. What you are really craving is to feel better. Do something else that you enjoy like phone a friend, take a relaxing bath or listen to music. Learn to manage your stress.

Reason 2: Hormonal imbalance 

Leptin is the “master hormone” of body fat regulation. Its main role is sending a signal to the brain that we have enough energy stored and that we don’t need to eat. Simply put, leptin is supposed to tell the brain that "Stop eating more food, we don’t need to eat".

If you have high leptin levels all the time, our body develops a resistance to leptin's appetite-cutting effects. Once our body is leptin resistant, the brain doesn’t “see” the leptin signal. It doesn’t see that we have enough fat stored and therefore thinks that we are starving. So we eat more and we gain more fat.

Solution:
Make sleep a priority. Get at least 8 hours of good quality sleep each day. Lack of sleep leads to disturbance in leptin hormone, as well as disrupted glucose and insulin metabolism. Cut sugar and oil/ghee. Cutting simple starches, oils, refined foods, sugars and fructose will surely help you. Perform weight lifting + high intensity cardio.

Reason 3: Nutrition deficiency 

If you have senseless food craving for the chocolate, it is your body’s way of letting you know you may be deficient in magnesium. The raw cacao is one of the highest natural sources of magnesium. If you know this, you can then find all the foods that have high content of magnesium and slowly add them to your diet, which then gets rid of your sweet food cravings.

Solution:
  • If you have Essential Fatty Acids deficiency, you will crave for cheese: Restore with Omega 3's (EPA and DHA)– Flax oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts
  • If you have Chromium deficiency, you will crave for Pasta, white bread, pastries: Restore with onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, cinnamon, grapes, apples, sweet potato
  • If you have Nitrogen deficiency, you will crave for Bread and toast: Restore with foods containing proteins
  • Popcorn (Stress hormone fluctuations): Restore with meditation, breathing exercises, exercise, leafy greens, vitamin B and C
  • If you have Chloride deficiency, you will crave for Crisps: Celery, olives, tomato, kelp, Himalayan sea salt
  • If you have Chloride deficiency, you will crave for Salty Foods: Restore with celery, olives, tomato
  • If you have Magnesium deficiency, you will crave for Chocolates: Restore with raw cacao powder, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, greens, fruit
  • If you have Calcium deficiency, you will crave for Soda, fizzy drinks: Restore with milk, sesame seeds, broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard
  • If you have low blood sugar, you will crave for sweets: Restore with fruit, high fibre foods (beans, legumes), complex carbs (grains), chromium (cinnamon)

Reason 4: Habit

The brain loves routine. You may not realize it, but seemingly innocent routines, such as eating cheese popcorn while watching TV, create powerful associations. 

Solution:
Picture yourself healthy. Every time the food you crave pops into your head, think, Stop! Then, picture a healthy image (say, you lean and fit). After a while, your brain will dismiss the food image and the craving will subside.

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Written by Sapna Vyas Patel , PhD in Nutrition Science and Dietetics
Sapna writes simple, easy to understand articles that are based on pure scientific evidence. She is one of the most popular fitness professionals in India and is followed on social media by fitness enthusiasts, nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, trainers, and professionals.

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