EAT PLENTY OF
Low-fat starchy foods to satisfy a carbohydrate craving
High-fiber foods to avoid feeling hungry
Foods you might crave, especially sweets, chocolates, and salty items.
Becoming overly hungry, which can lead to overindulgence.
All of us occasionally have an irresistible urge for a certain food or beverage. But merely having a sudden need for a particular food does not constitute a true craving, nor does indulging in an occasional chocolate, ice cream, or other favorite food. A carving goes much deeper-it’s an insistent desire that your can’t ignore, even though satisfying it may entail considerable inconvenience or even danger.
Occasional cravings may be is response to stress, hormonal changes, or excessive hunger. More obsessive cravings, however, can stem from a specific illness, addiction, or deep-seated psychological problem.
Recent research suggests that hormonal changes are responsible for many food cravings, especially those that develop during periods of stress, pregnancy, or different phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Following this theory, fluctuating hormonal levels may influence the brain’s production of serotonin and other chemicals-changes that can trigger an intense desire for specific foods. Under these circumstances, a person usually craves chocolate or other sweets; researchers think this is because sugars are a quick source of glucose, which the brain needs for energy. Eating a diet high in whole grain, starchy foods along with moderate amounts of protein may prevent the craving for sweets because these complex carbohydrates and protein are metabolized more slowly than sugars, thus providing a steady supply of glucose.
Pregnant women often develop strange food cravings, especially for pickles and other salty foods. In this instance, the craving reflects a physical need. During pregnancy, a woman’s volume of blood doubles, and as a result the needs extra sodium to maintain a proper fluid balance. Normally, adding salt to food supplies the necessary sodium. As for other cravings, there’s usually no harm in satisfying them in moderation, provided overall nutritional needs are met. But if the cravings are for bizarre indigestible items like laundry starch, soil, clay, and ice, it constitutes pica and may reflect a serious medical or psychological problem, and requires the attention of professionals.
A craving for ice is a common sign of iron deficiency; conversely, the deficiency can be caused by eating starch, clay, and other substances that bind to iron and prevent its absorption. Taking iron supplements to counter the deficiency usually puts and end to the craving.
Cravings are also influenced by cultural traditions, some of which are still practiced in places like the rural American south or among recent immigrants. For example, some folk healers urge pregnant women to eat clay for an easier delivery; others maintain that consumption of soil provides needed iron. Such practices, however, are dangerous for both the mother and her fetus.
TO GIVE IN OR TO DENY ?
Some experts believe that food cravings reflect the ‘wisdom of the body", we feel an urge to eat particular foods to fulfill a nutritional need. In general, however, we tend to crave foods that are not particularly nutritious, and in such instances, psychological factors are probably more influential than physical needs. For some people, food may fill an emotional void, leading a person to turn to certain foods during periods of stress or sadness. The power of suggestion is another possible trigger, which is why just a brief whiff of a favorite food can result in an intense desire for it.
People often make the mistake of trying to deny a craving. Some may succeed, but more often than not, denial fosters an even stronger desire for the food. Unless the object of the cravings poses a serious health risk (For instance, a person with high blood pressure craving salty foods), experts say it is better to satisfy the longing, but to do so in moderation. A healthier approach is to anticipate the craving and to satisfy it in advance. For example, if a woman invariably develops a strong craving for sweets during her premenstrual phase, she can lessen it somewhat by increasing her intake of starchy foods which raise blood glucose levels. Eating more fruits, which are high in natural sugars, may also satisfy the desire for sweets.
Some medications, particularly steroids and other hormonal preparations, can promote food cravings. These drug-related carvings, however , are usually nonspecific; the person may simply feel ravenously hungry and crave eating in general instead of a particular food.
Avoiding becoming overly hungry can also forestall cravings for sweets or fatty foods. Hunger is the body’s way of letting you know it’s running, short of fuel; it’s a powerful instinct that is almost impossible to deny for any length of time. This is one reason why dieters often find it so hard to adhere to an overly restrictive regimen; their resolve may be strong, but it’s almost impossible to deny the body’s instinct for self-preservation. Eating small, frequent, meals is how to avert hunger and the subsequent strong cravings that can lead to overeating.