I don’t think there’s a woman on the planet that I’ve consulted with (or many men for that matter) that has not suffered under the intense power of carb cravings.
You know what I’m talking about:
When you can’t control yourself once the bread basket arrives at your table in a restaurant…
When you forget that one-pound box of pasta is supposed to serve eight people—not two…
When the chips or crackers in the vending machine at work are calling your name…
When you can’t remember the last time you had anything except a muffin, donut or bagel for breakfast.
This is the world of carb cravings, and they are very real indeed.
All carbs are not created equal
While carbohydrates are a necessary food group, starchy carbs are the least healthy (and most addicting) form of carbohydrates.
Although they may provide some nutrients, starchy carbs basically turn to sugar upon digestion and aren’t much better than eating a candy bar or cookie.
When it comes to truly healthy and nutritious carbohydrates, vegetables and legumes are your best bet.
Why in the world?
There are many reasons that we carve carbs, and you can help curb your cravings if you figure out what may be behind them.
Here are some possibilities:
Current research supports the fact that a primary underlying cause of carbohydrate addiction lies in your brain’s reward system.
Sugar and starchy carbohydrate foods cause the release of serotonin (your body’s feel good chemical) and you feel a calming sensation.
Refined carbohydrates also trigger increased releases of dopamine and norepinephrine, and as your brain becomes deluged with these neurotransmitters, a feeling of euphoria results and a craving for more refined carbohydrates is stimulated.
Having an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause feeling of fatigue. In an effort to combat this fatigue, many people reach for refined carbohydrate pick-me-ups including soda, chips, candy bars, crackers and other similar foods.
Yeast overgrowth in the gut
Yeast feeds on sugar, and in turn can multiply out of control and overcome your friendly intestinal flora (which normally helps to keep yeast in check and under control).
A vicious cycle can be created whereby yeast, wanting more nourishment, triggers cravings for sugar, which in turn leads to greater yeast overgrowth, which then triggers more intense cravings for sugar.
Stress and adrenal overload
Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol which can give you an intense appetite for sugars and fats.
Menopause and/or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
As levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop, women may become more prone to insulin resistance, where the body’s cells don’t respond as they should to insulin. This in turn can cause sugar cravings to soar, since the cells have not received the glucose they are expecting from the bloodstream.
Depressed people often report feeling less depressed after eating high-carb snack foods.
This is a reflection of the increased production of serotonin following refined carbohydrate ingestion, which mimics the action of antidepressant medications.
Lacking nutrients can trigger cravings, especially the B vitamins.
Tips for reducing cravings
In addition to addressing any underlying causes behind your carb cravings, here are some measures that can help:
- Probiotics: To help keep yeast under control.
- Multi-vitamin: To ensure that any nutrients that may be missing in your diet are provided.
- Vitamin D: Low Vitamin D levels are associated with decreased satiety.
- Eat a healthy, whole foods diet to provide a variety of healthy nutrients, fiber and antioxidants.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates at all cost. Completely eliminate them from the refrigerator, cupboard and pantry, and bring protein snacks to work with you.
- Cook meals at home versus dining out. At home meals can encourage better control over what is served, and avoids the temptation of the bread basket, desserts and carbohydrate-rich dishes like pasta.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is the number one nutritional deficiency in North America. Our bodies often mistake hunger for thirst, and not drinking enough water can lead to overeating.
- Avoid caffeine. Caffeine can aggravate sugar addiction (when a person comes down from a caffeine-induced energy ‘high,’ they often reach for sugar).
You can do it!
YOU CAN take control over your carb cravings.
Take whatever measures you need to say goodbye to being a slave to carbs for good.
I’m rooting for you.