We’ve all been there. Perhaps it is the undeniably delicious salt & vinegar Kettle Chips, or sugar coated 5 cent (likely now 20 cent) candies that I remember having from the skating rink as a kid.
For me personally, sugar cravings are what I deal with the most. I’ve never been a huge salt person, but the second something is off with my body, whether from a stress or sleep standpoint, I tend to crave sugar. I used to think cravings were moments of weakness – that it was something that was basically just a fact of life, but it turns out this is not the case.
A craving is a sign. It is a sign of your body needing something, whether that is a micronutrient (a vitamin or mineral), a macronutrient (carb, fat or protein) or possibly an emotional requirement.
Before we get into the specific cravings, there are some general rules of thumb.
Studies have shown that even a single night of reduced sleep can actually increase your ‘ghrelin’ hormone levels, which is a hormone that signals to your body that you are hungry. At the same time, reduced sleep also decreases the amount of ‘leptin’ hormone, which signals to your body that you are full. So right off the bat, if you are not sleeping enough, you can expect to experience food cravings.
This next one is very important. If you are restricting a macronutrient (a carb, a fat or a protein), this can also cause your body to experience cravings. Along with the premise of holistic nutrition, in that everyone’s body is different, there is no one miracle formula to follow. Some people require a much heavier protein diet vs others feel better eating vegetarian. What’s important is to recognize that if you are experiencing cravings often, perhaps you should modify the macronutrient intake in your body. With clients I see, they are generally not eating enough protein or healthy fat, and consume too many carbohydrates – but again, that is a generalization and everyone is different.
Reports from Harvard explain that stress is one of the leading causes for over consuming unnecessary foods. While stress can shut down hunger in the short term, prolonged stress, which is the detrimental kind, can lead to higher fat & sugar foods being consumed. The thought is that upon consumption, these foods inhibit parts of the brain’s activity relating to stress and emotions, hence the name ‘comfort food’ as it literally ‘comforts’ you. This is a very short term effect though.
Another idea around cravings is that it is your body craving something emotionally. I think it’s very valuable to attempt to be mindful when you get a craving. Ask yourself, are you stressed? Did something happen that day that you want to mask via food?
There are various explanations that have been linked to salt cravings.
There are also a number of explanations linked to sweet cravings.