A leading food psychologist has revealed the reasons why you succumb to everyday cravings – and provides crucial tips on how to cheat them.
Dr Christy Fergusson, working with Seasonal Berries, delivers the answers to why so many Brits can’t resist foods such as sugar, salt, carbohydrates, cheese and coffee.
She claims that by providing the body with quick solutions it IS possible to lower the amount of unhealthy food consumed and stop these cravings in their tracks.
The craving – Most Brits crave sugar when trying to eat healthily, but snacks such as chocolate bars and cakes simply serve to send us on a blood sugar rollercoaster – which means we ride high and then crash soon after. Fergusson says that the body needs essential glucose for energy.
The cure – to ensure the body is fed glucose every three to four hours, folk should be stocking up on strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries as these fruits contain fructose (fruit sugars) which are released slowly into the blood stream. Eating these regularly will keep moods consistent and energy levels steady throughout the day. Fresh berries are one of the best foods to snack as they are loaded with antioxidants and highly nutritious. You could say they are nature’s brain food. They pack a serious nutritional punch for every calorie consumed. This makes them the ideal way to supercharge your system with nutrients, without escalating your blood sugar levels.”
The craving – Fergusson claims that what the body actually wants is minerals. The body needs minerals such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, and zinc to stay healthy – if you are deficient in any of these you will think you want salt. Similarly, craving salt can be a sign of dehydration, as sodium works by keeping water in the body to hydrate cells.
The cure – Rather than opting for pretzels, salty nuts or crisps which are sprinkled with table salt, opt for Himalayan pink salt of Celtic sea salt which are rich in minerals. And always drink plenty of filtered water.
The craving – During the dark winter months the lack of sunshine leaves most of us deficient in our feel-good brain chemical serotonin. As our serotonin levels drop, our brain seeks balance and we crave carbs. Refined carbohydrates – such as white rice, white bread or white – spike our blood sugar levels causing amino acids to get shunted out of our cells giving tryptophan gets a free ride across our blood/brain barrier. This gives a temporary boost in serotonin. The problem is that refined carbs are often nutrient deficient and lack the building blocks we need to create serotonin. So when our blood sugar plummets again, the craving comes back, but what the body really wants is serotonin.
The cure – to keep your brain brimming with serotonin without spiking your blood sugar levels, you need to eat good quality protein such as turkey, fish, chicken, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, seeds, beans, and pulses to provide your body with a good supply of amino acids including tryptophan. Avoid serotonin sabotages such as caffeine, nicotine, and artificial sweeteners. These deplete the body of nutrients essential for converting tryptophan to 5-HTP to serotonin.
The craving – If you struggle to start the day without a strong cup of coffee, your body might need a boost of catecholamines – adrenaline and dopamine which help to energise and motivate. This means the body really wants Tyrosine – as this supports the production of catecholamines.
The cure – rather than drinking coffee you could increase your intake of tyrosine-rich foods such as bananas, meats, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and oats.
The craving – although delicious, eating a cheese board every night isn’t ideal, but if the body is craving cheese this could be a sign of an essential fatty acid deficiency. These are good fats which the body can’t manufacture itself – omega 3 and omega 6.
The cure – rather than tucking into a block of Edam, Fergusson recommends eating foods such as nuts and seeds, as well as oily fish such as tuna, salmon and trout.
Dr Christy Fergusson, a food psychologist for Seasonal Berries, said: “Serotonin is our feel good happy brain chemical which keeps our moods high and our cravings at bay.
“As the dark nights roll in and our serotonin levels plummet, we can find our energy drops, our moods turn and the sugar cravings kick in. Relying on high sugar foods, biscuits and crisps to keep us going can leave us riding the blood sugar rollercoaster.
“We feel buzzed for a spell but soon our energy, concentration and mood can plummet. If you find yourself losing focus and the brain fog descending as the afternoon wears on, bust out a punnet of fresh berries and the antioxidants will help sharpen your mind.”