A scientific exploration of cravings

Posted by Nutrition Strategy on 10/20/20
Nutrition Strategy

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"Craving" - it's one of those words that we tend to consider negatively, but cravings are perfectly natural and maybe even helpful at times.

Our environment, physiological state, emotional state, who we spend our time with, and our history with food are constantly interacting to influence the types of food that we're drawn to. Check out all the different factors that may contribute to cravings and some recent research on creative ways to manage them.


Cravings aren't good or bad, but understanding why we get them can help us feel empowered as we navigate our diets.

 

Four Very Valid Reasons for Food Cravings

 

1. Boredom 

As our boredom increases so does our consumption of calories and desire for high-fat, high-sugar foods that give us a dopamine boost.

 

2. Exposure

Maybe you saw an ad for a chocolate bar, or a beautiful dessert on Instagram, or walked by a bakery that smelled delicious. These types of exposures can prompt cravings.

 

3. Habit

Do you tend to seek out a 3 pm snack? Eventually, this behavior can become a habit, so that when 3 pm rolls around, you're craving a treat whether you're hungry or not.

 

4. Emotional longing

If we're looking for some comfort or feeling nostalgic, we may crave foods from our childhood that made us feel safe and loved.

 

Research-driven Techniques to Reduce Food Cravings

 

Avoid food rules. Being overly restrictive with our diets tends to backfire - we become more preoccupied with "off-limit" foods and tend to crave them more (while feeling less in control when we're exposed to them).

 

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Exercise. Regular physical activity may help to reduce the frequency with which cravings are experienced by helping to reduce stress and improve mood. Even the effects of a 15 minute brisk walk may have a lasting influence over how often we experience cravings. Some forms of activity, like yoga practice, may actually help to increase cravings for more whole foods.

 

Play a game. Research has shown that a game of Tetris may reduce the frequency and vividness of cravings.

 

Eat whole foods. Whole foods tend to make us feel more satiated in our diets and perhaps less prone to cravings.

 

Mindfully enjoying the food you're craving may be more effective than ignoring it, but these tips can help reduce how often you experience cravings.

 

Check out our social media accounts, @guckenheimerusa for more tips and recipes you can try!

Topics: Health and Human Performance, Culinary, health and wellness

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