Archive for the ‘cravings’ Category

Q&A Roundup #4

Time to answer some questions I’ve received via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail over the past few weeks.

Enjoy — and keep the queries coming!

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In The News: Water Is In Your Corner

glass-of-waterThe Montreal Gazzette is sharing the findings of a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition — “people who get much of their daily liquids from plain water rather than other drinks tend to have healthier diets overall.”

More specifically, “people who drank more ‘plain water’ tended to eat more fiber, less sugar and fewer calorie-dense foods.”

Participants in the health survey — which interviewed 12,283 people over the course of 7 years — who drank high amounts of other beverages, meanwhile, consumed less fiber, more sugar, and more calorie-dense foods.

Clearly, “other beverages” refers to sugar-laden drinks.

Makes sense to me.  Apart from the additional calories that sodas, sweetened teas, and other caloric beverages tack on, they pose another problem — cravings.

A can of soda — diet or otherwise — often makes one crave chips, pizza, and other less-nutritious items.

Similarly, a bottled coffee or tea beverage — spiked with as much sugar as soda — is more likely to be accompanied by a donut or 500-calorie muffin than yogurt or nuts.

Keep in mind that while artificial sweeteners are calorie-free, our tastebuds register them as several-hundred-times sweeter than sugar.  They, too, often make us crave high-calorie foods.

This is why I always recommend that meals be accompanied by water or unsweetened tea to which you can add freshly squeezed lemon juice for a flavor boost.

For individuals who drink large amounts of soda every day, I recommend “soda pairings”.  In other words — make a list of “soda-friendly” foods and stick to them.

You may, for instance, declare that you will drink one glass (or can) of soda only when eating pizza, Thai food, and that delicious grilled shrimp salad from the favorite restaurant you visit twice a month.

If each of these foods is eaten sparingly (no more than twice a month), it will help keep your soda consumption down without making you feel deprived.

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Survey Results: What Happens In The Bedroom…

According to the latest Small Bites survey, eighty-three percent of respondents believe a lack of sleep affects their eating habits.

They are certainly not imagining things!

A fair number of research studies have found that sleep deprivation (usually defined as less than five hours of sleep a night) can affect hunger levels and, in some instances, even food choices.

The majority of studies focus on two hormones — leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, decreases hunger levels.

Ghrelin performs the opposite function. The higher your ghrelin levels, the hungrier you feel.

When sleep deprivation occurs — particularly when it happens on a consistent basis — leptin production decreases and ghrelin product increases.

End result? You are hungrier than normal.

One mystery that has baffled researchers is why sleep deprivation is often linked to a stronger desire for starchy, sweet, high-carbohydrate foods.

The answer appears to be found with orexins, neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus that have been linked to increased cravings.

It is theorized that increased ghrelin production also raises levels of orexins.

It should also be pointed out that sleep deprivation not only gets in the way of performing physical activity, but also makes routine tasks — like cooking a 15 minute meal — seem daunting.

Lower physical activity and increase your intake of takeout or fast foods over a consistent amount of time and you can see how sleep and eating habits are closely linked.

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You Ask, I Answer: Food Cravings

Is it true that craving a certain food is a sign that you are low in the nutrients that food has?

– (Name withheld)
Albany, NY

This is a much-believed myth.

Food cravings have more to do with rises and drops in specific brain chemicals (i.e.: serotonin) as well as emotional states than nutrition.

Many people find, for instance, that they are more likely to crave fatty and/or sugary foods when they are stressed, sad, anxious, or lonely.

It’s also worth pointing out that most cravings are for particular tastes and textures, as opposed to specific vitamins and minerals.

A craving for ice cream, for instance, does not mean the body is in need of calcium. Nor does a craving for potato chips signify low potassium levels.

If this were the case, people would be just as likely to crave a glass of milk or some baked tofu in place of ice cream, or an avocado or bananas rather than potato chips.

Additionally, if craving were about nutrient needs, no one would ever have a nutritional deficiency!

I find that frequent cravings often signify eating patterns that are too strict or limited.

Liberalizing food selection usually leads to less cravings, and, consequently, less chances of losing control once that craving is fulfilled.

Another important factor worth keeping in mind with cravings is to truly identify what is being sought.

A lot of people fall into the trap of attempting to satisfy a craving by eating anything BUT the very thing they want.

If you are craving chocolate, fruit isn’t going to cut it. Neither are whole wheat crackers or peanut butter. Coincidentally, sometimes the avoidal of a craving results in a higher caloric intake than the craving itself!

The key, particularly with fatty and sugary cravings, is to find a small amount that is truly satisfying.

For instance, when I crave chocolate, I have a few squares of an intensely dark chocolate that I love.

Those two squares are less than 100 calories but, thanks to the rich and decadent flavor, fulfill my craving much better than, say, 250 calories of a regular milk chocolate bar.

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