5 Ways to Tackle Cravings
When we think about cravings, typically the healthy variety doesn’t come to mind. How often do we honestly crave some super delicious… broccoli? Unfortunately, most cravings that come our way tend to come from the unhealthy side of the spectrum. We have a hankering for a sugar spike around our 2pm slump, or we lean towards an unplanned round of carbo-loading when we lack sleep or under stress. But what we rarely take into consideration is the fact that our gut is actually talking to our brain. What we feed our bodies/gut earlier in the day or the night prior actually impacts our behavior across the rest of the day. So let’s first start with how this process occurs… Let’s talk about the gut. Within our intestines live trillions of different types of bacteria, called the microbiome. And these little bacteria fellows become creatures of habit. And, according to a recent study by the University of Glasgow, your gut is directly sending messages to your brain saying what your body “needs” to survive. When you feed your gut bacteria unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and are overly processed, then they start sending messages to your brain saying that your body needs more food because it hasn’t been properly fed and is lacking in nutrients. But, when your gut has been well-fed with a good assortment of delicious vitamins and minerals, then the messages sent to your brain are more of the healthy variety. Your gut tells your brain, “I’ve been well fed today, no need to keep munching.” So our goal, instead of just exerting sheer willpower to try to stop these cravings, should be to actually stop cravings before they begin in the first place. Top 5 Ways to Conquer Unhealthy Cravings When we think about the good foods that our gut needs to send those healthy, well-fed messages to our brain, we should think about managing our microbiome. So what do those little bacteria guys like and how can we help to conquer these pesky, unhealthy cravings? Focus on fiber - Our gut bacteria thrives on fiber. Ideally, we’d get around 30 grams of fiber a day, but we’d recommend integrating that fiber into your diet slowly if you haven’t been eating much on a regular basis. Foods that are high in fiber include lentils, broccoli, peas, brussel sprouts, and chia seeds. Low fiber foods tend to increase unhealthy cravings, so we recommend trying to avoid those whenever possible. Take a probiotic - When you’re first getting started on the path towards conquering cravings, you might want to consider taking a probiotic supplement. These probiotics will help your gut to restore and sustain the gut flora that is responsible for keeping your system humming healthfully all day long. Our favorite probiotic is (...), which you can check out by clicking here. Vary the healthy foods that you’re eating - While eating healthy foods is imperative to conquering cravings, it’s also important that we focus on varying the healthy foods that we’re eating. Mixing up the foods that we’re eating provides a more diverse array of nutrients for our gut bacteria to enjoy. In addition to helping your body to conquer cravings before they have a chance to strike, this will also keep your immunity strong across the year and keep your blood sugar stable. (See ya, flu season!) Exercise and get enough sleep - Surprisingly, our gut bacteria is actually responsible for making all of the brain’s neurochemicals, including serotonin and dopamine. Lack of sleep negatively impacts the neural signals our brain sends throughout the body, including how our bodies respond to these neurochemicals. Specifically, sleep deprivation has been shown to desensitize our body’s serotonin pathways. On the flip side, researchers have found that consistent, regular exercise increases neurochemical production by increasing the activation of these neurons. So get more sleep and workout regularly to keep your brain running smoothly and communicating effectively about what nutrients your body actually needs, rather than whatever foods you happen to see first. Avoid processed carbs and high-sugar foods as much as possible - When you eat sugar-packed or high-processed foods, leptin surges and your blood sugar crashes afterwards, which, in turn, pumps up your appetite. So simply avoiding these foods, albeit difficult at the beginning, helps your cravings retreat over time.