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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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].
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.
[i] Meule A. The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation. Curr Nutr Rep. 2020 Sep;9(3):251-257.
[ii] Sayer, R. D., Peters, J. C., & Pan, Z. (2016). A pilot study investigating the impact of water intake on cravings and appetite sensation. Appetite, 105, 26-32. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.04.020
[iii] Page KA, Seo D, Belfort-DeAguiar R, Lacadie C, Dzuira J, Naik S, Amarnath S, Constable RT, Sherwin RS, Sinha R. Circulating glucose levels modulate neural control of desire for high-calorie foods in humans. J Clin Invest. 2011 Oct;121(10):4161-9.
[iv] Leidy HJ. Increased dietary protein as a dietary strategy to prevent and/or treat obesity. Mo Med. 2014 Jan-Feb;111(1):54-8.
[v] Gwin JA, Maki KC, Leidy HJ. Increased Protein Consumption during the Day from an Energy-Restricted Diet Augments Satiety but Does Not Reduce Daily Fat or Carbohydrate Intake on a Free-Living Test Day in Overweight Women. J Nutr. 2017 Dec;147(12):2338-2346.
[vi] Hoertel HA, Will MJ, Leidy HJ. A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese "breakfast skipping", late-adolescent girls. Nutr J. 2014 Aug 6;13:80.
[vii] Krishnan, S., Tryon, R., Welch, L.C., Horn, W.F. and Keim, N.L. (2016), Menstrual cycle hormones, food intake, and cravings. The FASEB Journal, 30: 418.6-418.6. https://doi.org/10.1096/fasebj...
[viii] Anguah KO, Syed-Abdul MM, Hu Q, Jacome-Sosa M, Heimowitz C, Cox V, Parks EJ. Changes in Food Cravings and Eating Behavior after a Dietary Carbohydrate Restriction Intervention Trial. Nutrients. 2019 Dec 24;12(1):52
[ix] Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, Yuwanakorn A. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of chromium supplementation in diabetes. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2014 Jun;39(3):292-306.
[x] Rafehi H, Ververis K, Balcerczyk A, Ziemann M, Ooi J, Hu S, Kwa FA, Loveridge SJ, Georgiadis GT, El-Osta A, Karagiannis TC. Investigation of the biological properties of Cinnulin PF in the context of diabetes: mechanistic insights by genome-wide mRNA-Seq analysis. Pathobiol Aging Age Relat Dis. 2012;2. doi: 10.3402/pba.v2i0.11905.
[xi] Medagama AB. The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials. Nutr J. 2015 Oct 16;14:108.
[xii] Cora Jacobson, Sandra K. Anderson, CHAPTER 8 - Addressing Imbalances in the Five Elements, Editor(s): Sandra K. Anderson, The Practice of Shiatsu, Mosby, 2008, Pages 176-197.
[xiii] Zhang Q, Wu Y, Fei X. Effect of probiotics on glucose metabolism in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Medicina (Kaunas). 2016;52(1):28-34.
[xiv] Lan J, Zhao Y, Dong F, Yan Z, Zheng W, Fan J, Sun G. Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Feb 23;161:69-81.
[xv] Magistrelli, A., Chezem, J. C., & Kalman, D. S. (2008). Effects of N-acetylcysteine on parameters of glucose metabolism in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 10(7), 624-631. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2007.00756.x
[xvi] Mason, B. L., Wang, G., Kimball, B. A., & Belury, M. A. (2015). Hormonal responses to a fast-food meal compared with nutritionally comparable meals of different composition. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 67(2), 119-128. doi: 10.1159/000438759
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.