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It can be challenging to resist cravings, leading to overconsumption of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor, and highly palatable foods, such as junk food. Nonetheless, there are several strategies you can adopt to combat them and maintain a healthy diet.

What are cravings and what can be done about them?

If you experience food cravings or an intense desire to eat certain foods, you are not alone. Unfortunately, consuming excessive calories and processed foods can negatively impact your health. If you find that you experience more food cravings than others or your cravings frequently bother you, several reasons can explain why. Please see our separate article on pregnancy cravings.

Diet and lifestyle advice for cravings

Ensure adequate calorie intake:

The correlation between calorie consumption and food cravings is intricate, and studies indicate that reducing calorie intake, at least in the short term, may intensify food cravings[i].

A note on restrictive dieting:

Imagine starting a new diet with the intention of changing your eating habits and achieving your health goals, only to experience stronger and more frequent cravings for all the foods you're not supposed to eat within hours or days. If this scenario sounds familiar, know that it's a common experience. Many diets are overly restrictive, leading to intensified food cravings. Research indicates that people on diets are more likely to experience frequent food cravings than those who aren't dieting.

In general, it is good advice to stick to a diet full of nutrient rich foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables and adequate protein, in a manner that can be sustainable for a long time, to avoid yo-yo dieting.

Stay hydrated

If you experience an abrupt craving for a particular food, consider drinking a significant amount of water and giving it some time. It is possible that the craving will disappear, as your body may have simply been in need of hydration[ii]. Read more about how much water you should drink here.

Don’t let yourself get too hungry

If you let your blood sugar levels drop too low, your hunger signals and cravings will likely direct you to consume high energy foods to get the blood sugar back into the normal range[iii].

While its not necessary, and in some cases quite unhelpful in terms of digestive health complaints to eat every few hours, it is good advice to simply pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues and not neglect your body if it is in need of fuel.

Protein intake for cravings

Diets high in protein have been shown to reduce the activity in the areas of the brain associated with food rewards and cravings, therefore reducing spontaneous junk food consumption[iv] [v] [vi].

Don’t get hung up on calories

Whilst tracking calories can serve a purpose for some, usually on a short term basis, an obsession with calories may be unnecessarily stressful and lead to yo-yo dieting behaviour. Instead, it is best to listen closely to your hunger and satiation signals and fill your diet with health giving nutritious foods such as slow release carbs, good fats and plenty of protein for your requirements. What’s more, by overly restricting certain foods or limiting your food intake to suit a certain calorie goal, you will most likely experience stronger cravings as a result.

Plan meals and snacks in advance

One major advantage of meal prepping and planning ahead is that you can distance yourself from foods which you feel you should eat less of, and replace them with healthier options. This way you can ensure you are getting plenty of colourful veggies, sources of animal-based and plant-based proteins and nutritious slow release carbs such as root vegetables. Often changing dietary habits is as simple as that, eating patterns are a habit that can be changed for the better with time and practice.

Menstrual cycles and cravings

Studies suggest that changes in levels of hormones, namely oestrogen and progesterone cause cravings for high-carb and sweet foods before your period[vii]. Balancing yourself nutritionally is known to help reduce cravings. Try the specially formulated Wild Nutrition

Premenstrual Complex (60 caps), this unique complex has been created to support the female cycle throughout the entire month and the days leading up to menstruation.

Supplements to help in balancing blood sugars for cravings

Many supplements including cinnamon, ginseng, other herbs, vitamin D, magnesium, probiotics and plant compounds like berberine may help lower blood sugar[viii].

Try: Viridian Chromium & Cinnamon Complex (60 Caps): Chromium deficiency reduces your body’s ability to use carbs converted into sugar for energy and raises your insulin needs[ix]. Similarly, cinnamon may help your body’s cells better respond to insulin. In turn, this allows sugar into your cells, lowering blood sugar[x] [xi].

Try: Erbenobili Epavin (50ml): A classic combination of herbal tradition that combines many plants to enhance the draining effect and detoxifying, restoring the physiological functions of the liver and assist the digestive process. In terms of sweet cravings and the liver, craving sweets or eating a lot of sweet things indicates an Earth imbalance, according to the Practice of Shiatsu[xii].

Try: Living Nutrition Your Flora Regenesis (60 caps): Probiotic supplements, which contain beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria, can provide several health advantages and potentially enhance your body's ability to process carbohydrates. According to a review of seven studies involving individuals with type 2 diabetes, taking probiotics for a minimum of two months resulted in a reduction of 16-mg/dl in fasting blood sugar and a 0.53% decrease in A1C compared to those who received a placebo[xiii].

Try: Enzymedica Berberine: Berberine is not a herb itself, but rather a bitter compound extracted from the roots and stems of select plants, such as goldenseal. It has been shown in studies to reduce and balance blood sugar[xiv].

Try: Viridian High Potency NAC (60 caps): N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a supplement that has been studied for its potential effects on blood sugar. Overall, findings from studies suggest that NAC may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control in individuals with impaired glucose tolerance[xv].

Functional testing options for carvings

Adrenal Stress Index: Cortisol and other hormones can affect our hunger response[xvi]. The adrenal stress profile measures adrenal cortex function and the circadian fluctuation in the hormones cortisol and DHEA. The test is taken with a number of saliva samples taken at specific times of the day.

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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.