How to Satisfy All Your Cravings (Sans Any Guilt)
Craving sugar, salt or fat? Your diet might be to blame...
At some point we’ve all heard it (or even said it ourselves): “I'm so addicted to chips! I could eat this whole bag!” While this statement may sound overly dramatic, from a scientific standpoint there's actually a ton of truth to it...
A recent study from the University of Michigan confirmed that highly processed foods are amongst the most addictive. Not surprisingly, this list includes chocolate, ice cream, cookies, pizza, cheese and french fries. According to the same study's author, Ashley Gearhardt, “Hyper-palatable foods don’t exist in nature. They’re designed in a lab to be as rewarding as possible.” The sugar, salt and fat used in these processed foods is more addictive than their natural equivalents.
And though you know this (I know I'm not telling you anything brand new!), and though you may live a holistically mindful lifestyle, are you (more than sometimes) left feeling like you just can’t make it through the day without your fave indulgence? I promise, you are so not alone. Americans spend billions on processed snack foods each year! And yes, that even includes "healthy", albeit very processed, packaged foods. And 90% of women admit to experiencing cravings several times a month.
And since you know that caving and going for that 3pm candy stash is actually more dangerous than satisfying, what’s a Sakaralite to do?
When it comes to breaking the cycle of junk food cravings, whole foods are your best weapon. That means ditching the processed stuff for vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Whole foods are closest to their natural state – no added fat, sugar or sodium. And because they are unprocessed and unrefined, whole foods retain all their natural vitamins, fiber, healthy fats and phytochemicals (e.g., lycopene in tomatoes and anthocyanins in blueberries).
Whether your weakness is sugar, salt or fat, by changing the way you eat, you can naturally recalibrate and rebalance your body – curbing and eventually eliminating cravings entirely!
Processed sugar seems to be the hardest habit to kick. But why? Well, because your brain is actually hardwired to crave it. When you eat the sweet stuff, it stimulates the release of dopamine in your brain, which makes you feel pleasure (heroin, cocaine and morphine stimulate these same receptors). In fact, a 2013 study found that Oreos can be as addictive as cocaine. The more you eat, the more your crave...and so the vicious cycle continues...
The best way to combat sugar cravings? Eat nutritionally dense, naturally sweet, whole foods like carrots, beets, berries, almonds, coconut and apples. These foods fuel your body, stabilize blood sugar and give taste buds a hint of sweetness (without the addictive side effects of processed sugar).
The next time you're in the mood for something sweet, instead of digging into your secret candy stash, try this simple and satisfying apple tart from our dear friend Lily over at Clean Food Dirty City – it’s vegan, gluten free and made with just 10 whole ingredients.
Our bodies need sodium every day, but too much (especially of the wrong caliber) can put you at risk for some serious health conditions – like high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Yet most Americans consume far more (easily 3,400 mg!). Just like sugar, salt can trigger a dopamine release, meaning the more you eat, the more you want. By the same logic, lowering your sodium intake will tame your salty cravings.
Trying to cut back? A two week “sodium detox” is a great way to start. This retrains your brain to crave less and your palette to have a taste for less. During this time, fill up on foods like spinach, celery, cucumber, bananas and almonds, which contain key minerals that cleanse the body of excess salt.
Many of the processed foods we eat on a regular basis are loaded with salt. 80% of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods. Passing on processed foods is a huge step towards cutting your sodium consumption.
It’s simple, and fairly intuitive, but it should be said: Cook with less. Yes, a sprinkle of salt helps bring out flavors in food, but one teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium. Plenty of other herbs and spices can add flavor (and phytonutrients) without extra sodium – like chili pepper, basil, paprika, curry powder and cumin.
Roasted chickpeas and home-made baked kale chips are tasty (and surprisingly easy) low sodium snacks. Chickpeas are packed with protein, fiber, iron and phosphorus. Kale is a superfood, loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin C and calcium. Seasoning these nutrient-dense veggies with with a mix of exotic spices keeps sodium and calories low, without skimping on flavor.
Research shows that the more processed and fatty the food is, the more addictive.
And cheese is one of the chief culprits. The average American eats 35 pounds of cheese each year. What makes cheese so addictive? Scientists say it’s a chemical called casein, which triggers your brain’s opioid receptors (linked with the control of pain, reward and addiction in the brain). Cheese cravings are often caused by a deficiency in calcium and fatty acids. Superfoods like kale and flax seeds replenish these vital nutrients and help combat these unwelcome cravings.
Here’s a not so sweet surprise: Sweets aren’t the only foods with a high-glycemic index. An overconsumption of starchy foods like potatoes or white bread score even higher than table sugar. This explains our addiction to french fries!
Eating high-glycemic foods causes blood sugar imbalances (spikes and later crashes), which leads to cravings. The solution? Steer clear of high GI foods and say yes to whole food snacks! By eating several small, healthy meals (and snacks) throughout the day, you can avoid dips in blood sugar. Say goodbye to loaded nachos and greasy disco fries and opt for a savory, very veggie substitute like kale + white bean artichoke dip.
Food is medicine, guys! Eating your daily dose of whole foods can (and always will) cure your junk food cravings once and for all.