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Do you suffer from cravings?

Almost everyone has cravings for particular foods at times, although it appears to affect women the most, especially when they are following low calorie and low carb diets. Often these diets are low in essential fats (and we all know how important dietary fat is – link to blog) and accompanied by cardio-heavy workouts. This kind of regime can lead to increased stress levels, dramatic blood sugar fluctuations, and can even affect sleep quality. These all contribute towards cravings for certain foods, usually ones high in fat, sugar or salt.

Why women are more likely to get food cravings

Another reason women may be affected more by food cravings is due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, especially at the beginning of the cycle, i.e. the follicular phase. This usually marks the first day of menstruation and is when oestrogen levels are higher. This is also a time when fat gets burned more easily and less fat is stored due to insulin sensitivity. This also leads to cravings, usually for foods high in carbohydrates. During the luteal phase of the cycle i.e. ovulation, less fat is burned and more is stored, but cravings occur less often. This is a good time to be mindful of sugar intake, as insulin sensitivity will be reduced.

Understanding why you might be getting food cravings at certain times can help you to anticipate them and take steps to manage these cravings, so you can keep to your nutritional plan more easily.

How to combat food cravings

  • Make sure you are including healthy fats in your meals. As you may know from our previous blog post (link), we need a certain amount of dietary fat for essential bodily processes. Add some high-fat foods to your diet such as nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish and dressing made with olive oil to ensure you are getting enough of these essential fats. They will improve satiety (feeling full after a meal) and can help to stabilise blood sugar levels.
  • Add carbs to your post-workout meal. This can help to replenish your glycogen stores after training, aid recovery, and can also help to keep blood sugar levels steady. Choose rice, oats, potatoes or another whole grain source of carbs to help you feel fuller for longer.
  • Include a portion of carbs to your last meal of the day. This will be satisfying to eat but also slow releasing carbohydrates (like the whole grains we mentioned earlier) can help to boost serotonin levels, which helps you to relax at the end of the day and prepare the body for sleep.
  • Enjoy a little bit of chocolate in the evenings – dark chocolate, that is. Choose one with at least 70% cocoa solids – this will be rich and satisfying, and also full of important minerals like magnesium and iron, as well as being high in antioxidants. Having a couple of squares of good quality chocolate can also help to satisfy cravings for sweets and other snack foods.

Primal Bite

  • Food cravings are natural especially for those on low calorie diets
  • Ensuring good nutritional balance of fats and carbs can help to ease cravings