What are your cravings trying to tell you?
Whether you’re hankering after a burger or trying to resist the lure of the dessert menu, cravings can be a dieters’ worst nightmare. However, they are also our body’s way of telling us something is missing. Check out the real meanings behind your cravings to help you make some healthy swaps
Craving: Something sweet
You need: Chromium
“The more sweets you eat, the more you will crave them – it is a catch 22,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist (marilynglenville.com) and author of Fat Around The Middle. “As you eat, your blood sugar goes up and insulin is released. If you are eating refined sugar and carbs they will hit your bloodstream fast and cause an imbalance in blood sugar. Your body will release more insulin to deal with this rapid rise in blood sugar. Once dealt with, the blood sugar levels will drop, but because you’ve generated the release of so much insulin, the levels will drop too low and you will soon feel like snacking on a bar of chocolate.”
To help curb sugar cravings, you can try taking chromium. “This mineral helps balance insulin levels and keeps afternoon sugar pangs at bay. Try Equigluco by Quest Vitamins (revital.co.uk, £12.99), which contains chromium and green coffee extract,” adds Sharon Morey, nutritionist at Quest Vitamins.
“Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, which contains protein as well as carbohydrates (scrambled eggs with rye bread is perfect) and maintain this balance in your meals throughout the day, adding in vegetables. This helps to maintain a steady flow of blood sugar, which means that by the time you get to 4pm, your blood sugar should not have dropped so much that you need that quick sweet fix,” says Dr Glenville.
You need: Magnesium
Another craving most of us experience on a daily basis is chocolate. However, what we really want and need is magnesium, which is found in dark chocolate. ‘If you feel like you are not eating enough fish, green leafy vegetables and nuts to keep your magnesium levels balanced, you can also try to include a supplement. Go for Synergistic Magnesium by Quest Vitamins (revital.co.uk, £10.45),” advises nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
Craving: Stodgy carbs
You need: Tryptophan
“Carb cravings are a sign of low levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is necessary for the production of serotonin – a ‘happy’ brain chemical,” says Dr Glenville. “It plays a crucial role in sleep and wake cycles as well as digestion. A lack of it can also lead to low mood and anxiety. Instead of reaching for stodgy carbs, try to include foods in your diet that can provide you with a fair amount of tryptophan, such as turkey, eggs, bananas or walnuts.”
You need: Iron
“Craving meat could mean that your body needs iron,” explains Cassandra Barns. ‘Recently, there has been a growing tendency to cut down on red meat in our diet, which is a main cause of iron deficiency. It plays a vital role in supporting the immune system, as it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without it, we become fatigued and tired. Try to include red meat at least once a week in your diet and add lentils, spinach and pumpkin seeds, which are also a great source of minerals and vitamins. Alternatively, you can replenish iron deficiencies by taking a good quality multivitamin. Go for a wholefood-based supplement like Nature’s Plus Gold Adult Gummies (revital.co.uk, £28.50).
Craving: Sour/vinegary foods
You need: Stomach acid
If all you can think off are citruses, chips with vinegar and pickles you might be low in stomach acids. When levels of stomach acids are not right we tend to reach for acidy foods. An imbalance of the flora in your stomach can be a cause of indigestion, allergies and discomfort. “Stomach acids help to break down foods and are the body’s first line of defense when it comes to disinfecting and sterilising foods,” explains Cassandra Barns. “To protect your stomach lining, try taking probiotics to restore and maintain a healthy digestion tract, such as ProVen’s Adult 25 Billion (provenprobiotics.co.uk, £13.95). To renew the mucus in the stomach lining and improve digestion you can also include a medicinal mushroom supplement in your diet. Medicinal mushrooms, which have been coined as the kale of 2016, have been also proved to help with leaky gut, IBS and Crohn’s disease. Go for an organic option, such as Mico-Leo by Hifas da Terra (Harrods, £55.00).”