Why We Get Persistent Food Cravings—and What to Do to Satisfy Them
Chocolate, spaghetti, pickles, potato chips—to name a few. Have you ever had some seriously weird food cravings, especially during your lady time? Us too! To find out why we get these persistent cravings and what to do to avoid them, we sought out Fahimeh Sasan, DO and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
We were surprised to find out that food cravings are not actually hormonal. That’s right, according to Sasan, there is no specific reason or medical explanation behind our food cravings. However, there are some theories. “Food cravings can be associated with pleasure sensors in the brain including serotonin, opioid centers and endorphins,” she tells InStyle. “A great deal of food cravings, especially cravings that subsequently lead a person to have an excessive amount of something—think fast food, chocolate, or junk food—are similar to addiction and more a result of poor eating habits.”
That said, it’s best to stay away from foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. Why? Sugars actually interact with opioid centers in the brain, so when you consume carbohydrate and sugar rich foods, these centers in the brain are activated and in turn bring pleasure. Believe it or not, this subsequently makes you want to consume more. “This is a similar mechanism as an addiction to drugs, nicotine or alcohol," Sasan notes.
In addition, some food cravings (think salt and carbohydrates) are linked to their specific ingredients. According to Sasan, salt cravings can be associated with dehydration because an increased salt intake causes water retention. “Carbohydrate cravings can be triggered when our body is low in energy,” she adds. However, Sasan points that instead of eating chips to satisfy the craving, you should consume a healthy snack, which will also address the low energy state. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about everyone’s ultimate craving: chocolate. According to Sasan, similar to other cravings, consuming chocolate releases endorphins, which in turn triggers pleasure centers. “Chocolate is also rich in iron, so if someone is anemic (or has heavy periods), they may crave it,” she adds.
All in all, however, cravings can be avoided because you are in total control. Although cravings may be more frequent when the body is stressed, a similar release of endorphins can be achieved by sweating during exercise, eating healthier foods or a much-needed good night sleep.