Let's face it, in today's world and with the amount of time spent on social media, one is bombarded with irresistible sights and descriptions of mouth watering and mostly not-so-healthy food. One’s healthy routine and willpower is tested by these cheat meals. The modern food industry has mastered the art of creating foods that are high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats, which can trigger pleasure centres in the brain, leading to addictive-like behaviours. Add to that the convenience of processed foods and the widespread availability of sugary snacks along with the omnipresence of advertisements and triggers like stress and boredom making them more alluring.
The cravings for these unhealthy foods then negatively impact our health in the form of
weight gain and obesity, metabolic disorders like diabetes, digestive issues, cardiovascular problems and even impacts one’s mental health because of the rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels that affect mood and overall emotional well-being.
If you are someone trying to find ways to not give into the cravings and are looking for how to stop food cravings or how to control food cravings, then worry not! We're heading into this battlefield of tempting foods armed with Ayurvedic tips and tricks to fight those cravings and emerge victorious on your journey to better health.
Cravings and Their Connection to the Brain's Reward System:
Cravings are intense desires or urges for specific foods or substances, often characterised by a strong psychological and physiological drive to consume them. These desires can be triggered by various factors such as emotional states, environmental cues, and physiological imbalances. Cravings are closely linked to the brain's reward system, which involves a complex interplay of neurotransmitters and brain regions. When we consume certain foods or engage in certain behaviours that are pleasurable, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of reward and pleasure. Over time, the brain associates the consumption of those specific foods, especially the sugary treats, with the release of dopamine, leading to the formation of strong cravings.
There are many reasons that contribute to one's cravings for unhealthy foods and sugar, let’s take a look at some of them
Evolutionary Factors: Our ancestors were programmed to look out for high-calorie, sugary, and fatty foods to ensure survival during times of scarcity. However, in today's environment of abundance, this programming can lead to cravings for foods that are no longer necessary for survival.
Stress and Emotional Triggers: Stress and negative emotions can lead to cravings as a way to cope with these feelings. Comfort foods, often high in sugar and unhealthy fats, can provide a temporary sense of relief or pleasure.
Palatability and Food Industry: Processed and fast foods are often designed to be highly palatable, combining sugar, fat, and salt in ways that stimulate the brain's reward system intensely. This can create addictive-like responses, leading to repeated cravings for such foods.
Blood Sugar Imbalances: Rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels, often caused by consuming sugary foods, can trigger cravings for more sugar to stabilise blood sugar levels. This creates a cycle of craving and consumption.
Let’s take a look at how to control food cravings and how to stop food cravings
Certainly! Here are some ways to stop and control food cravings:
1. Stay Hydrated
Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger. By drinking water when you feel a craving, you can quench your thirst and potentially reduce your desire for unnecessary, sugary treats.
Drinking water also creates a sense of fullness, making you less likely to overeat or experience strong cravings. Proper hydration is essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism. Dehydration can slow down your metabolism, making it easier to gain weight or experience cravings, particularly for high-calorie or sugary foods. So remember next time you feel those intense cravings, drink a glass of water and see if it subsides.
2. Eat Balanced Meals
Eating balanced meals is an effective and healthy way to curb cravings because it helps provide sustained energy. Fibre-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, provide bulk to your meals and promote fullness. They also help regulate blood sugar levels, preventing rapid spikes and crashes that can lead to cravings. Healthy fats should also be a part of your meal. Healthy fats found in nuts, seeds etc help slow down digestion of carbohydrates, which stabilises your energy levels and keeps you feeling fuller.
Also, it is best to avoid unnecessary added sugars by snacking on sugary and unhealthy snacks.
3. Incorporate Protein
Protein is not only an important part of a balanced diet but also helps to control food cravings Include a source of lean protein in each meal. Let’s take a look at how to control food cravings by upping your protein consumption.
Protein is highly satiating, which means it makes you feel full and satisfied after eating. When you consume protein, it triggers the release of hormones like leptin and peptide YY, which signal to your brain that you've had enough to eat. This reduces the desire to continue eating or to snack on additional foods. Protein also helps stabilise blood sugar levels. Protein can help provide longer-lasting fullness compared to carbohydrates and fats. This can lead to reduced overall calorie intake, as you're less likely to snack or consume additional calories between meals.
Including lean protein sources in your diet is a must. If you are looking for an effective way to include protein in your diet especially due to dietary restrictions (vegetarian or vegan diets) or certain intolerances/ allergies you can use protein supplements such as Panchamrit’s Plant Protein Powder. It gives you 22g of Protein per serving and has the added benefit of Ayurvedic ingredients like Ashwagandha, Gokhru, Safed Musli that not only help meet your daily protein requirements but also keep you energised and make you stronger.
4. Control Portion Sizes
Being mindful of portion sizes is a great and effective way on how to control food cravings. One of the primary reasons one experiences food cravings is overeating or consuming larger portions than needed. When you're mindful of portion sizes, you're less likely to eat excessive amounts of food, which can lead to feelings of discomfort and guilt and subsequent cravings.
5. Manage Stress
Stress can trigger cravings. Practice stress-reduction techniques like Stress management is a crucial step in how to stop food cravings. Stress can trigger emotional eating and cravings for unhealthy comfort foods.
Some good ways to help you calm down and reduce stress include taking slow, deep breaths to calm your nervous system. Including regular meditation sessions can help you stay centred and better manage stress.
Exercising or regular physical activity is a great stress reliever. Find an exercise routine you enjoy, whether it's jogging, yoga, swimming, or dancing. Even short, brisk walks can help reduce stress and curb cravings. Limiting stimulants like caffeine and alcohol especially in the evening will help to improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels.
Remember that managing stress is a lifelong journey, and it may take time to find the strategies that work best for you. By incorporating stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine, you can reduce the impact of stress on your cravings and overall well-being.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night is a must, not just to help control food cravings but for your overall well being. Sleep has a significant impact on your cravings and food habits, and the relationship between sleep and nutrition is a complex one. Sleep helps in regulating hormones (mainly Ghrelin and Leptin) that influence hunger and appetite. Insufficient sleep can disrupt the balance of these hormones, leading to increased cravings and changes in food preferences.
Sleep deprivation also leads to an increased appetite, particularly for foods that are high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. This can really exacerbate those unhealthy cravings.
Sleep deprivation is also associated with a preference for comfort foods, which are typically high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
Practising good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine, can contribute to better sleep quality and, consequently, better food choices.
7. Keep Craving Journals
Another great way on how to stop food cravings is to maintain a journal. Make a note of when and what you crave. This can help you identify patterns and triggers, making it easier to address them and help you stop or control your food cravings in the long term for your overall well being.
8. Supplements to Control Cravings
Certain ingredients like apple cider vinegar help you to control your cravings and keep you feeling fuller and satiated for longer. But if you have tried ACV before you know its taste and mouthfeel can be very sour and acidic. If you wish to incorporate ACV in your diet, consider ACV tablets. Apple Cider Vinegar helps to reduce cravings, increases satiety, improves metabolism and which helps aid weight loss as well.
Remember that occasional cravings are normal, but with these strategies, you can better manage and learn how to stop food cravings to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.
The prevalence of cravings for unhealthy foods, particularly those high in sugar, is a significant concern in modern society. These cravings have detrimental effects on overall health and well-being, contributing to weight gain, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular issues, digestive problems, and mental health issues. However, adopting strategies on how to stop craving and how to control food cravings through mindful eating, balanced diets, hydration, proper sleep, stress management, and moderation can significantly improve one's health and quality of life. You can also consider including supplements like our Apple Cider Vinegar Effervescent tablets that include ingredients like Garcinia Cambogia that help you feel satiated for longer and curb your cravings.