Craving High-Carb or Sweet Foods
High-carbohydrate foods such as breads, muffins, cakes and baked goods basically get converted into sugar (glucose) when they’re digested, so cravings for carb-rich (as above) or sweet foods (lollies, ice-cream, chocolate, flavoured milks and yoghurts, sugar icing/frosting, sweet biscuits) can often arise from the same underlying issue. There are a few possible reasons for craving these types of foods, and just like craving fatty foods, a deficiency in carbs or glucose can cause a craving for carb-rich and sugary foods. Other reasons are blood sugar imbalances, low energy, and disregulated serotonin production.
Low intake of carbohydrates
There’s really no such thing as a deficiency in sugar, but we can become deficient if we’re not consuming adequate carbohydrates each day. Carbs have been painted as the devil in many weight loss diets, and while it’s true that over-indulging in carbs and sweet treats has an impact on your waistline, it’s also detrimental to your health and your weight loss efforts if you excessively restrict your carbohydrate intake. Ideal sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroot, whole grains, brown rice and fruits provide your body with glucose, which creates energy to get through each day. Without enough glucose for energy, you might feel lethargic, experience low moods and headaches, and you guessed it – start to crave carb-rich or sugary foods. Perhaps most importantly, your brain runs on glucose, so without enough carbohydrates (glucose) your brain will go into survival mode and send you a really strong craving for glucose – pretty hard to argue with the most important organ in your body!
Blood sugar imbalances/hypoglycaemia
Hypoglycaemia is a fancy word that means your blood sugar levels are poorly regulated. This is one of the most common causes of cravings and whilst it may seem complex at first, you’ll probably find that it makes a lot of sense and once you’ve corrected your blood sugar regulation, cravings will drastically reduce. Since it’s a bit of a large topic, I’ve explained blood sugar balance later in this chapter. It applies to more than just sugar cravings, but can be a big factor behind wanting sweet or carb-rich foods.
Serotonin deficiency/mood disorders
If you suffer from low mood states, depression, anxiety, high stress levels, emotional-PMS, lack of motivation or just having “the blues”, you may have an issue with serotonin regulation and/or production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) and one of it’s functions is to regulate and control mood – so it’s involved in helping us feel happy or sad. A boost in serotonin leaves you feeling happy, and a lack of serotonin can leave you feeling down, blue or depressed. Certain types of anti-depressants work by increasing your brain’s use of serotonin, proving it’s significance in mood regulation. Carbohydrates contain a few amino acids that are required to produce serotonin, and when we produce insulin (another hormone) in response to carbohydrate intake it improves our body’s ability to use serotonin. So in combination, carbohydrates can help use to produce serotonin as well as improving our body’s ability to use it. And as a result, carbohydrates can give us a boost in serotonin, improving our mood and making us feel happier, at least temporarily. If you suffer from depression, low moods, anxiety or stress it is best to seek professional advice from a psychologist, counsellor, naturopath or GP. Working with a health professional to ensure your serotonin levels are regulated and adequate (among other factors) may be an important part of improving your mental health, and also reducing your reliance on carb-rich foods as a source of serotonin, therefore reducing or maybe even eliminating your cravings for carbohydrates and/or sugar.
P.S. If you’re struggling with food cravings, I invite you to join my online program Overcome Food Cravings <– click the link to find out more.