Most of us have food cravings. You know the feeling—no matter what you eat, you’re not satisfied until you eat that one specific snack.
Some of the most commonly craved foods are salty snacks, such as chips and french fries, or sweets that are high in sugar and fat, like chocolates and cakes. The most identifiable thing about the foods people crave is that they are high in calories. Regular consumption of these snack foods can cause problems for your health and your weight and many have no nutritional value whatsoever.
Some cravings shed light on what’s missing from our diet. A desire to chew ice, for example, has been linked to iron deficiency. If you are severely lacking in sodium—and few Americans are—you will seek out salty food. But plenty of people who eat high-sodium diets still crave potato chips and popcorn. And if our bodies could so easily tell us their nutritional needs, most Americans would have overwhelming hankerings for kale and brussels sprouts.
It seems that various mechanisms, including hormones and memories can causes us to crave. Everyone knows that food is strongly tied to our emotions and memories. This is why a simple image or smell—such as the aroma of baking bread or a picture of a Thanksgiving turkey in a magazine—can cause us to crave a food.
The good news? Understanding that memory and hunger have such large roles in eliciting cravings makes creating a toolbox to manage them that much easier. Next time you have a craving you want to beat, try one of these tricks:
How many times have you lost focus on a task because of an intense food craving? Cravings are shown to interrupt cognitive functioning, partly because they use the same parts of the brain. In other words, you can’t focus on writing that important report because your craving is monopolizing the machinery.
Try beating the craving at its own game. Cravings use working memory, specifically the parts of the brain involved in sights and smells. Visualizing a vivid picture, such as a detailed rainbow, uses that same working memory. A study at McGill University showed that engaging in memory activities that use the imagery sections of the brain reduced cravings.
Move Your Body
For this trick, you can accomplish two healthful things at once: calm the craving and get in a workout. A British study in the journal Appetite showed that women who walked on a treadmill when a chocolate craving hit reported a reduction in their desire for the sweet. This supports the idea that engaging in any physical activity will help curb cravings.
Smells are strongly tied to our memories and emotions. When you smell something that is associated with a happy time, the brain perks up. The smell cues a desire to experience the pleasure again, and we may consequently crave an associated food.
Fortunately, we can outsmart our brains here, too. It seems that smelling a nonfood odor may help to defeat that craving. A study from Flinders University in Australia showed that after smelling jasmine, college-aged women reported their craving for chocolate lessened. The theory is that smelling a pleasant—but not mouth-watering—odor may once again monopolize the working memory.
Ocassionally Giving In – The Chosen Few
Including only a few unhealthy items in your diet may help control cravings. “Pick the ones that you love and have
In fact, surrendering every now and then may be beneficial—if you do it the right way.
The best thing is to have a similar flavor that addresses the cravings, but in a food that is more satisfying. The theory is that cravings are maintained by the neurological reward that you get from ingesting a lot of calories. So when you have a lower-calorie, more slowly digested food, the metabolic stimulus that maintains the craving is reduced.”
The next time you just have to have that chocolate, try melting a small piece of it over some high-fiber cereal: You use less chocolate and fill up on fiber.