Food cravings can often sabotage your attempts to create healthy habits in your life. Have you ever caught someone with high cholesterol or heart disease eating something that they shouldn’t? Or have you done it yourself?
Food cravings can be one of the most challenging parts of starting a new weight loss plan. They also prevent diabetics or pre-diabetes from eating foods that balance their blood sugars. Learning how to manage food cravings is one of the most important behavioral changes for your health.
There are several types of food cravings. Sometimes they are emotional, sometimes they are physical. Sometimes you can have a combination of the two.
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found correlations between the memory centers and craving centers in the brain. The three areas of the brain that were studied were the hippocampus, insula and caudate.
When we eat certain foods they stimulate these centers of the brain similarly to drug addictions. So food can be an addiction too.
The pleasure centers of the brain are stimulated by the fat in foods. Fat gives foods flavor. This is why we love food loaded with fat. It helps us to associate positive memories with the foods we eat.
Our genes also make us want to eat fatty food or high calorie foods because we associate high calories with energy. Before the invention of modern day fast foods our genes wanted to storage energy.
As hunter-gatherers we didn’t eat on a regular basis and need the extra energy to survive. Our genes still want to store energy even though we now typically eat several times per day.
Huge swings in our production and release of insulin can trigger food craving. When we eat highly processed or sugary foods our bodies release extra amounts of insulin to help our high blood sugars after those meals get into the cells. The high insulin levels cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels making us feel hungry and triggering our craving start all over again.
Food craving can be used to calm emotional stress and anxiety.