These are what your food cravings really mean
Every year, every month, every-bloomin-Monday: how often do you tell yourself that starting from now, you’re going to be “good” when it comes to food? But somehow, by 3pm on Wednesday afternoon, our hands are out of the fruit basket and back in the biscuit tin. Ahhh, what a familiar little circle.
But don't worry, you're not alone, because according to a study by online pharmacy UKmedixx, while women go on twice as many diets as men, they also tend to crack and give in to temptation far sooner. So what tips us off the wagon? Well, the good news is that it's not simply a lack of willpower, and it seems that for every craving, there is actually a legitimate dietary cause. Even better, most of them can actually be cured with a relatively painless, not even boring, swap. Prepare to be defeated, sugar addiction.
There's a reason that it's hard to think of anyone that's not partial to a square of glorious, delicious, silky-smooth chocolate now and again. But if you’re sat at your desk dreaming of chocolate come 3pm every day, it can be a sign that your diet is lacking in magnesium, which is key for nerve transmission, energy production and nutrient metabolism.
But although it looks like we’ll just have to keep eating it, it’s still worth swapping white or milk chocolate for a slap of good quality dark chocolate, preferably above the 75 per cent cocoa mark. Not only does it contain less sugar and more antioxidants, which protect the body from damaging free-radicals, it’s also much harder to gorge on, meaning you’ll take in less calories overall. Win, win.
While chocolate is undeniably sweet, it’s probably still better for you than a penchant for sugary sweets or fizzy drinks, which both have pretty much zero nutritional value. The biggest cause of sugar cravings is that they're often an emotional reaction to something going on around you; what you're actually craving is a little shot of happiness and sugar provides this by releasing dopamine, which triggers the reward system in your brain.
Unfortunately, this feeling only lasts for a very brief period time and leads you to crave more sugar, trapping you in a vicious cycle. So do as your dentist and your doctor would tell you to: grab yourself a banana, an apple or even some dried fruit, drink some water, and distract yourself. The sugary stuff won’t help you feel better and the craving will pass, eventually.
With salt hidden in everything from kids’ breakfast cereal to pasta sauce, it’s believed that 90 per cent of adults in the US regularly consume more of the white stuff than the recommended daily allowance. But if you still find yourself needing a salty pick-me-up such as crisps, pizza or french fries, then it may be that stress is taking its toll on your body and your hormones, it's driving your brain to look for a way to suppress the release of cortisol. While this sounds useful at first, salt can lead to high blood pressure, trigger strokes and cause heart attacks.
Getting your stress levels under control is the key to beating the crisp craving, but given that a hankering for salt is also a sign of dehydration, it's worth grabbing yourself a glass of water and seeing it right off too. Then, if you’re still pining for salt go ahead and take the hit, but opt for sources such as green olives or nuts, which should satisfy the urge but are much better for the hips and the heart.
A monster burger, a chunky hunk of steak or smoky BBQ ribs are three food options almost guaranteed to make any carnivore drool uncontrollably. However, if you’re frequently craving red meat, it could indicate that your iron levels are running low, that you’re not eating enough protein generally, or that you have a zinc deficiency.
And while excessive consumption of red meat has been linked to cancer and heart disease, fortunately, there’s no need to ditch it altogether; in sensible amounts, it also contains other essential minerals such as vitamin B12. But docs do say that you should be limiting your intake to once or twice per week, and a maximum of 500g. In the meantime, add some chicken, tofu or white beans into your diet, all of which contain hefty doses of iron. Of course, sometimes, there is just nothing more satisfying than a big, juicy burger, drowned in cheese and topped with bacon, but maybe save that for your cheat meal, or at least for when you really need it.
Pastries for breakfast, baguettes for lunch, pasta for dinner. Everything else in between. If the the temptation of that huge bowl of carbonara is just too much to resist, even when you’ve resolved to sticking to salad, then you’re probably missing healthy sugars and vitamins such as B12 from your diet. In other words, you need an energy boots. With white carbs being converted into blood sugar quickly, there’s a good reason we reach for the carbs when we’re tired and running low., but unfortunately, they'll only cause a glucose spike, before you come crashing back down.
But while carbs have developed somewhat of an unfair reputation for making us soft and podgy, in actual fact they’re hugely important to diet and it’s probably the type you’re choosing that’s throwing you off-course. It's argued that one third of your daily calories intake should come from good quality carbs in order for your body to function to the best of its ability, so while you shouldn’t be adopting a cut ‘em out approach, it’s totally worth swapping your pastry for porridge, and your white bread, pasta and rice for their wholemeal counterparts.
We’ve all got one friend or co-worker who seems to mutter the infamous words “I really fancy a glass of wine” at least once a day. And as soon as they mention it, you suddenly need one too. After all, who doesn't need something to take the edge off the day? Well, technically you're not wrong. Red wine contains resveratrol, which has been shown to help your body deal with stress.
But it’s not necessarily going to help in the long run, because while one may be fine, when it somehow develops into a second, or a third, or a fourth glass, it has the opposite effect. Unless you're going to stop at one, then swap it for a peppermint tea to save the calories (and your head the next morning) or even a yoga class, if you’ve got the time.
But remember, there’s no need to go cutting any of these delicious foods out of your diet completely - after all, experts have told us time and time again that detoxes don’t work and “everything in moderation” is the best approach to follow when it comes to keeping our bodies in great condition (and our brain sane). So, make the swaps, but be sure to treat yo’ self once in a while. Because really, who wants to give up their Friday evening wine and chocolate habit? No one, is who.