Why you get them and how you stop them. . .
by Jenny, Clean Wellness Coach
We all get food cravings. There are different foods we crave, but the method for understanding them is the same — looking behind several elements of the craving to find out why we get them, and how we can work with and alleviate them. Through evolution, our bodies are designed to use sugar and fat as energy sources. We begin as infants — the first thing babies drink is their mother’s’ milk. That milk is sweet and nutrient rich, and it gives them nourishment, comfort, love, and overall survival. Without it, they don’t have a sense of love, and they certainly wouldn’t survive.
Therefore, we are basically hardwired to associate sweet and heavy foods with love and energy. Serotonin is also produced by foods that are rich in carbohydrates, such as sweet foods, linking food to mood changes. As some foods can make us feel bad, there are others that seem to make us feel good. There are physical reasons for cravings as well. When we habitually lack a certain taste out of the six (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, astringent), we become imbalanced, and cravings can arise as the body gives us signals to regain that balance. When we are lacking certain nutrients, we also can develop cravings. For example, someone craving chocolate could be deficient in magnesium, and more healthy choices would be raw nuts and seeds, legumes and fruit. Someone craving salty foods might be lacking chloride and could try raw goat milk, fish and unrefined sea salt rather than salty fast food or regular table salt.
The chart below is a wonderful tool for making minor adjustments with the tastes and making sure we eat a variety of foods and adjusting things for our particular and unique bodies’ needs.
|If you crave this…||What you really need is…||And here are healthy foods that have it:|
|Chocolate||Magnesium||Raw nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits|
|Sweets||Chromium||Broccoli, grapes, cheese, dried beans, calves liver, organic free-range chicken|
|Phosphorus||Chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, whole grains|
|Sulfur||Cranberries, horseradish, cruciferous vegetables, kale, cabbage|
|Tryptophan||Cheese, liver, lamb, raisins, sweet potato, spinach|
|Bread, toast||Nitrogen||High protein foods: fish, meat, nuts, beans|
|Oily snacks, fatty foods||Calcium||Mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale, legumes, cheese, sesame|
|Coffee or tea||Phosphorous||Chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes|
|Sulfur||Egg yolks, red peppers, muscle protein, garlic, onion, cruciferous vegetables|
|NaCl (salt)||Sea salt, apple cider vinegar (on salad)|
|Iron||Meat, fish and poultry, seaweed, greens, black cherries|
|Alcohol, recreational drugs||Protein||Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, nuts|
|Calcium||Mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale, legumes, cheese, sesame|
|Glutamine||Natural glutamine supplement for withdrawal, raw cabbage juice|
|Potassium||Sun-dried black olives, potato peel broth, seaweed, bitter greens|
|Chewing ice||Iron||Meat, fish, poultry, seaweed, greens, black cherries|
|Burned food||Carbon||Fresh fruits|
|Soda and other carbonated drinks||Calcium||Mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale, legumes, cheese, sesame|
|Salty foods||Chloride||Raw goat milk, fish, unrefined sea salt|
|Acid foods||Magnesium||Raw nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits|
|Preference for liquids rather than solids||Water||Flavor water with lemon or lime. You need 8 to 10 glasses per day.|
|Preference for solids rather than liquids||Water||You have been so dehydrated for so long that you have lost your thirst. Flavor water with lemon or lime. You need 8 to 10 glasses per day.|
|Cool drinks||Manganese||Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pineapple, blueberries|
|Pre-menstrualcravings||Zinc||Red meats (especially organ meats), seafood, leafy vegetables, root vegetables|
|General overeating||Silicon||Nuts, seeds; avoid refined starches|
|Tryptophan||Cheese, liver, lamb, raisins, sweet potato, spinach|
|Tyrosine||Vitamin C supplements or orange, green, red fruits and vegetables|
|Lack of appetite||Vitamin B1||Nuts, seeds, beans, liver and other organ meats|
|Vitamin B3||Tuna, halibut, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, seeds and legumes|
|Manganese||Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pineapple, blueberries|
|Chloride||Raw goat milk, unrefined sea salt|
|Tobacco||Silicon||Nuts, seeds; avoid refined starches|
|Tyrosine||Vitamin C supplements or orange, green and red fruits and vegetables|
- Lectures, Cheryl M. Deroin, NMD, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Spring 2003 (healthy foodrecommendations)
- Benard Jenson, PhD, The Chemistry of Man B. Jensen Publisher, 1983 (deficiencies linked to specific cravings and some food recommendations)
The combination of physical deficiencies, triggers from unattended-to emotional patterns, hormone imbalances from stored toxins, and other health issues such as candida and adrenal fatigue lets us see clearly why our bodies can feel weak and vulnerable to these cravings for less than optimal foods.
However, there are things we can do, starting with delving into the root causes of any food cravings we get. How often do we reach for the ice cream or chocolate when we’re really wanting love, approval, comfort or sweetness in another area of our lives, but we think it’s will be satisfied by putting something sweet and creamy on our tongues? We will likely find that a few hours later not only is the emotional trigger still there, but we’re now feeling guilt, shame, or anger at what we’ve just consumed.
Often we want something forbidden, and when the food we crave is no longer “forbidden”, the cravings go away. If you gave yourself permission wholeheartedly to eat that ice cream or that bar of chocolate would you really and truly want it? Do you really know what full permission, compassion and love towards yourself and food looks like? I encourage everyone to begin to delve in and explore what this self-care mindset really looks like and feels like.
Look at the moments when the cravings are occurring. Many times there are patterns in the timeframe, as people eat out of habit constantly. Eating simply because they think it’s “time to eat,” and not because they are truly hungry. Eating to distract, to numb, or to entertain themselves, and eating out of a past emotional trigger. I was recently working with a woman who realized she was stress eating every night around the time of day that there was a lot of stress in her house as a child growing up. When she realized it was linked to things in her childhood, that simple realization made the cravings vanish and she felt incredibly strong and free for releasing them.
There are also these herbal resources that can help the the physical aspect, especially for sugar cravings:
(Please contact your practitioner to select the right herbs for your unique needs)
- Gymnema Sylvestre – Destroys the taste and craving for sugar, regulates blood sugar levels
- Weight Away – Helpful with weight loss and cleansing
- Trikatu – Improves metabolism and destroys Kapha
- Triphala – Cleansing action supports weight loss
- Triphala Guggulu – Aids fat metabolism and detoxification
- Neem – Destroys sweet cravings
- Ginger – Improves digestion, circulation and metabolism
- Cardamom – Refreshes the palate and destroys cravings
Another useful craving curber is umeboshi plum paste (just a tiny bit on your tongue), which can instantly stop sugar cravings and provide detoxifying energy at the same time. It’s easily found in the Asian section of health food stores. Ayurveda identifies six major tastes we need in our diet every day—sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Each of these tastes has specific health-giving effects. By including all six, we will be most completely nourished and satisfied. When we consistently eat only a few of the tastes, it not only causes health problems but also triggers cravings for unhealthy foods. For instance, fast food contains mostly sweet, sour, and salty tastes. If we eat a steady diet of fast food (sugar, salt, unhealthy fats), our bodies easily develop an uncontrollable craving for sweets. Adding more pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes can help tame what feels like out-of-control desires for very sweet foods by bringing the body back into balance. Here’s something to remember food-wise: if we don’t have enough protein and healthy fat in the morning (which works to keep cravings at bay), we will most likely be hungrier than usual later on with dropping blood sugar. You may feel like you need immediate “comfort food” or foods that stimulate with sugar or caffeine.
If you are really starving and simply have to have something to satisfy your salt craving, I recommend spreading some miso on some vegetable slices or even in some lettuce leaves or just adding a pinch of real sea salt to some steamed vegetables. For a sweet fix, try fresh seasonal fruit or herbal tea with stevia. Take some deep cleansing breaths and drink some water or herbal tea when cravings come up. Go for a walk, call a friend, do some stretching, put on some great music (and dance if you like!), pick up a magazine, and do anything to take your mind off it for awhile. See if the food craving is still there in ten or fifteen minutes. The amazing thing is that it quite often isn’t.
Remember that you are stronger, braver, and more authentic than your cravings ever will be. So rather than wrestle to control, deny, or give in to them, simply turn away and continue living your amazing life.