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Food cravings: What your cravings for chocolate, sugar and carbs really mean

The struggle to ignore certain food cravings is universal, but why are some of them so hard to resist?

While some foods we crave might contain certain nutrients we are lacking, often a craving is what the brain wants, rather than what the body actually needs, according to Hannah Braye, nutritional therapist at Lepicol Lighter. Here are the most common cravings and what they might mean.

Chocolate

The craving for chocolate is a particularly strong one, notes Braye, adding that the desire for chocolate tends to be stronger and to disappear much more slowly than cravings for other foods.

The craving may indicate a deficiency in magnesium, but the nutritional therapist believes a desire for chocolate is more likely to be linked to emotional and social triggers.

She says chocolate lovers should make sure they reach for a good quality dark chocolate, which has more nutrient-rich magnesium and less sugar than milk varieties.

Sugar

After chocolate, sugar is the second most common craving. Braye notes that this might be because it has addictive properties.

“Studies in animals have shown significant similarities between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects, including binging, craving, dependence, reward and the release of opioids in the body,” she says.

An intense yearning for sweet things could mean a deficiency in chromium, which helps regulate blood sugar.

Carbohydrates

People often crave stodgy carbs such as bread, pasta and cereals, particularly when they are feeling tired or hungover.

This is probably due to the glucose content in carbohydrates, which our bodies quickly turn into energy, says Braye. But gorging on lots of carb-heavy foods can actually make you feel worse, she warns.


Food cravings: What your cravings for chocolate, sugar and carbs really meanGETTY

Food cravings: What your cravings for chocolate, sugar and carbs really mean



Food cravings: Sugar has addictive properties and activates rewards centres in the brain


“Eating lots of refined and simple carbohydrates can actually lead to blood sugar crashes, making tiredness worse. Opting for wholegrain, complex carbohydrates rather than white refined versions, and having a small amount of protein or healthy fats each time you eat should help reduce cravings for carbs and sustain energy for longer.”

Salt

A hunger for salty snacks could be due to excess stress, Braye says. “Craving salty foods can also be an indication that our adrenal glands, which sit on top of our kidneys and control our stress response, might be flagging.”

When we are chronically stressed, we get an overload of the hormone cortisol, which can lead to a condition known as adrenal fatigue. In turn, this makes our blood pressure fall, leading to light headedness or dizziness on standing. It’s thought people then crave salty foods in order to increase their blood pressure.

Instead of reaching for crisps or other salty snacks, Braye recommends meditation or breathing exercises to manage stress levels.


Food cravings: Sugar has addictive properties and activates rewards centres in the brainGETTY

Food cravings: Sugar has addictive properties and activates rewards centres in the brain

Red meat

A craving for red meat is likely to be your body trying to increase its iron stores, says Braye. Women of menstruating age, pregnant women, and children are most likely to suffer from iron deficiency anaemia, so if you have a craving for red meat, it’s best to give in to it.

Vegetarian sources of iron include dried fruit such as prunes, figs and apricots, beans, legumes and green vegetables including broccoli and spinach.

Giving in to any food cravings late at night is particularly worrisome, as snacking before bedtime has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes.

Eating more protein can help curb cravings, as can getting extra sleep and drinking lots of water.


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