Carb cravings can be good and bad for our bodies. Learn how to use carbs in your everyday diet the right way.
1. Any of a group of organic compounds that includes sugars, starches, celluloses, and gums and serves as a major energy source in the diet of animals; they are produced by photosynthetic plants and contain only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually in the ratio 1:2:1.
Why Do I Crave Carbs?
Eating carbs like pasta, rice, bread and sweets will raise your blood sugar levels. It also temporarily elevates the levels of certain neurotransmitters in our bodies, most notably dopamine which releases chemicals including endorphins that give us a feeling of pleasure and serotonin which produces a feeling of well being.
Many of our comfort foods are also heavy in carbs. Think about the foods you want and crave when you are feeling stressed or sad. Is it mac’n cheese, fried chicken and mashed potatoes or a bowl of spaghetti? Maybe you start craving cake, cookies or pastries. One way or another we go back to the foods mom used to give us to make us feel better after a hard day at school or when we got hurt. Combine this with the raise in serotonin levels that tell our brains that we are happy and it’s no wonder we crave foods rich in carbohydrates when we are stressed or sad.
Are Carbs Really Dangerous Or Addictive?
Yes and No. Our body needs carbohydrates as a source of energy, but not in the amounts our society as a whole has been consuming carbohydrates, especially in the form or refined products such as bleached flour, white rice and processed pasta. It is also a good idea to stay away from white table sugar as much as possible. This refined sugar has almost no nutritional value other than the “empty” calories it provides.
Eating whole grain products combined with some lean protein is a much better way to give our bodies the carbs they need while also absorbing an array of other nutrients, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Combining some lean protein with the carbs will also keep us feeling full and satisfied longer than eating carbs by themselves.
The high consumption of refined carbohydrates from white bread to pasta, in the western world is leading to an increase in health conditions from diabetes to obesity.
Can refined carbs be addictive? Yes – not only to we get addicted to the neurotransmitters that are released by the consumption of carbohydrate rich foods, which is a reaction very similar to the “high” of a drug addict, consuming simple carbohydrates also causes our blood sugar levels to rise quickly and then plummet back down just as fast, resulting in a craving for more food. This is a desperate (and futile) attempt of our body to keep the blood sugar in balance.
What Can I Do To Curb My Carb Cravings?
One of the best ways to curb the blood sugar related cravings is to add some lean protein like egg whites, chicken breast or low fat cottage cheese to your carb rich meals. It will take your body longer to digest the protein, which balances and buffers the release of sugars from the carbohydrates in your blood stream, avoiding the blood sugar crash that will have you craving more food.
If you are craving carbs as a way to deal with strong emotions such as sadness, stress, depression or feeling lonely, address your emotions and the reason behind them directly. Pay attention to when you are craving carbs, and find better ways to deal with the emotional causes of the craving. A great way to do this is to keep a food journal. Record what you eat along with a paragraph or two about how you feel. Review the journal after a week or two and it should be obvious what feelings and situations make you dig out the Peanut Butter & Jam sandwich.
Good ways to deal with the emotional problems behind your cravings are to talk to people who are making you feel upset or stressed and trying to resolve the issue, cutting as much stress as possible out of your life, exercising and even seeking the help of a professional if you are feeling depressed. Reconnect with some old friends, or make an active attempt to go out there and meet new people if you are feeling lonely. Remember, eating a big bowl of pasta, or a piece of cake may make you feel better for a little while, but it’s really only a temporary Band-Aid.
What can I do to help curb my carb cravings?
Diana Walker, YOUR Cravings Coach