What Causes Food Cravings?
Do you have a hard time controlling your cravings for sweets or other unhealthy processed foods? Well don’t feel bad because you are not alone! There is a “wisdom of the body” principle that allows us to crave the nutrients we need, and while that may be necessary for essential nutrients like protein, iron and fiber for example, we definitely do not need to have sugar or unhealthy saturated or trans fats in our diet. These cravings are the result of years of unhealthy eating habits, and the quick and constant availability of such food products, as well as the conditioning to include such foods as part of social gatherings, but there is a physiological connection as well.
Research shows that there is a physiological connection between carbs and what causes our food cravings. Sweets trigger an increase and release of serotonin which is our “feel good” hormone. The more we eat sweets, the more our body and most especially, our brain, gets used to these high levels and actually becomes dependent on getting “that high”. So when our serotonin level drops, we go after cookies, candy and other sweets to get those levels up and this leads to a vicious cycle of “needing” those foods to feel good and energized.
Another group of hormones called endorphins can cause food cravings as well. Sweets trigger your brain to release endorphins to help you feel good and relaxed, especially when stressed. So there is an actual biochemical basis for why you feel better after eating a candy bar. However, those same endorphins are released after exercise ( runners will call that a “runner’s high”) so a good session at the gym may be a better alternative.
Besides serotonin and endorphins, there are other neurochemicals in our body that can cause food cravings. One such is neuropeptide Y which is responsible to insure that your body, specifically your brain, gets enough carbs for energy. When our blood sugar levels drop, neuropeptide Y is released to get our brain to cause us to crave and eat more carbs. This definitely can be seen in the morning when we have had “a fast” overnight and we wake up hungry looking to get those blood sugar levels up. Likewise, when we look to limit fat in our diet, our body will release a fat cravings neurochemical called galanin. Crash diets and stress can also trigger the release of these 2 neurochemicals. Given the wisdom of our bodies, these levels of neurochemicals fluctuate throughout the day prompting us to eat. Carb cravings are highest in the morning to get us fueled for the day and fat cravings are higher in the evening when our bodies need to store up for our overnight “fast”.
Would you like to learn more about how to control food cravings or just more about nutrition and healthy habits? Contact any one of the nutrition coaches here at Resolutefit and let’s get you started on your health journey!