By Dr. Kirsten Singler, NMD
This is probably my favorite sweet treat. With just 3 ingredients; spinach, mango and water, this desert satisfies my sweet tooth cravings while also getting in a large serving of spinach. One of the best things you can do to stop food cravings is to get high quality nutrition into your body. Food cravings are basically indicators that we are not consuming adequate nutrition. These messages often get mixed up and the person winds up eating a whole bag of chips or a pint of ice cream which causes one to feel worse with a whole a new cycle of craving. Since food cravings are the number one reason people give up on their health goals, let’s talk about what causes cravings and how to take action to prevent that incessant monster from rearing its ugly, health-thwarting head.
The most common cause of cravings is hypoglycemia, especially caused by skipping breakfast or eating a breakfast high in sugar. Hypoglycemia is the enemy. When your blood sugar drops, your glucose dependent brain will send you straight to the kitchen to find that plate of cookies. Now, if you take action to stabilize your blood sugar by consuming a good breakfast, lunch, and snacks through the day then you will be less tempted to eat junk food. Breakfast is the keystone for your glycemic stability of the day. Breakfast should consist of 20 grams of protein with 3 cups of veggies. Ideas may include a smoothie, omelet, or you may try something you would usually have for dinner such as salmon with steamed greens. Similarly, you want 20 grams of protein with 3 cups of veggies for lunch, and at least 2 snacks that are under 5 grams of sugar/serving. Explore pinterest for ideas: chia seed pudding and low glycemic snacking options.
The second most common cause of cravings is inadequate consumption of vegetables. Remember your mom saying “eat your veggies”? Well, it’s simple, your mom was right. You need to eat veggies every day and if you don’t you will get sick. The goal should be to consume 6–9 cups of veggies daily. Depending on what works for you, you might eat them all in 1 huge smoothie or you might like dividing them in 3-cup servings. The fact is that when you get 6–9 cups of veggies in your food cravings go down, you feel satisfied, you have more energy, you get sick less often, you have greater clarity of mind, and you are able to achieve more of your goals.
The third cause of cravings may be the most elusive. Stress. When we are stressed, a hormone called cortisol toys with our blood sugar increasing sugar cravings. Also, when we are stressed, we look for ways to increase the pleasure centers of our brains, so we turn to eating sweets to increase serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function). Now, addressing stress is a huge topic unto itself, but the essentials are pretty straight forward.
A. Take inventory of your stressors. Rather than just letting the stress run your life in an uncontrollable way, stop and journal your tops stressors. Start by writing down your top 10 stressors, and then make a plan for how you will reduce these stressors. Try addressing 1 major stressor each month with practical steps. Also, when you feel stress, identify it and create a solution for how you will prevent it in the future.
B. Create a daily practice that puts you in a peaceful, focused state of mind. Many people meditate to sustain this sate of being. If you are new to meditation, you can try apps such as heartmath, calm.com, or headspace. Other activities may be yoga, walking, painting, dancing, singing, breathing with awareness, or taking a quiet and relaxing bath. Spending just 3 or 4 minutes in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels. The key essential is that this is a time of inner quietude when you unplug from the day and can allow yourself to feel good with minimal stimulation.
C. Exercise every day. Exercise increases your happy brain chemicals and decreases a buildup of cortisol. No matter what your size, age, or fitness level there is an exercise for you. If you are just starting out, try taking some classes at your local gym. Try yoga, spinning, or water aerobics. At the very least, go for a 30 minute walk every day.
I hope this inspires you to take proactive steps towards improving your health. Try something new each month and don’t be afraid to whip up some Dr. Seuss Sorbet!
DR. KIRSTEN SINGLER, NMD
Dr. Singler comes from a family full of natural health professionals. She understands the value of complimentary, holistic care. Kirsten is a certified Naturopath and specializes in women’s health, acupuncture, nutrition, hormone balancing, thyroid disorders, digestive disorders, diabetes type II, weight loss, cardiovascular disease prevention and stress reduction.