Decoding food cravings: What do they mean, and what to eat instead
How many times have you had this sudden hankering for an odd craving in the middle of a workday- be it a big slice of cheese-laden pizza, a brownie or a mithai, or just those times when all you want is to swap your plate of roti and dal for hot pasta!
Cravings can also strike up in the form of experiencing a want to have something spicy, candy-tasting or be it truly out of your routine diet.
Whether you give in to your cravings or not, what a lot of us do know is that most of them are borderline unhealthy- loaded with calories, sugar content, or just plain void of good nutritional value.
However, what a lot of us don’t know is that cravings, no matter sweet or spicy are a way our body is trying to indicate something- be it a deficiency, a deep desire, or just what you may be missing out from your diet plan. Therefore, it’s important to analyze your eating habits, cravings are one of the ways to actually overcome the hunger pangs in a healthy manner, without compromising on the calorie count or going on a guilt trip about putting on weight.
According to wellness entrepreneur and consultant Ishani Vellodi Reddy, the key to dealing with your cravings is to actually face them head-on, and discover what you may be missing out on. For instance, a craving for chocolate may signify a deficiency in magnesium. The other more common craving a lot of people experience- for sugar and sweets means that the body is lacking in essential vitamins, minerals such as chromium, sulphur and other trace minerals needed for optimum brain health.
Another common hankering- one for carbs indicates that you might be low on sodium and other nutrients like calcium. Craving for salt is usually taken as an indicator of rising stress levels. Therefore, the first step is to identify the root problem and then find ways to tackle the deficiency.
How do you overcome cravings? What should you eat instead?
No matter how bad you want to indulge in a craving, do remember that cravings need to be taken care of in a healthy manner. Following simple dietary as well as lifestyle modifications can help you keep untimely indulgences under check.
Hydration is a must
Maintaining adequate water intake in a day is crucial to sustaining good health. It can also quench some of your untimely hunger cravings! So, the next time you have the desire to have something sweet or salty, try having a glass of water first. Not only will it satisfy your thirst, but it can also banish away the craving.
Check on your blood sugar levels
Sometimes, a simple food craving may arise from an imbalance or fluctuation in blood sugar levels in the body. For example, a sudden drop in sugar readings can trigger you to crave foods that will boost your glucose level. So, this is one factor diabetic people should keep in mind especially.
However, do remember that you try and eat mindfully, preferably have snacks handy which are loaded with protein, fibre and release sugar slowly in the system.
Do remember to keep healthier snacking options by your side. Nuts and seeds, fruits, hydrating drinks and low-cal snacks make for great options. Plus, they dole out additional health benefits!
Cravings can also arise due to hormonal imbalance
Often, untimely cravings and food deficiencies can be a result of hormonal disturbances. Most commonly, hormonal changes can cause a drop in blood sugar levels making you crave sugary products and carbs. This is also one of the reasons you crave so much during PMS and pregnancy!
Lack of sleep and stress levels can also make you experience cravings. Rising cortisol levels can impact your hunger hormones, which ultimately may make you crave comfort foods, which can be unhealthy.