This article has been authored by Dr. Sanjay Khanna, who is a Senior Consultant – Gastroenterology Department, at Jaypee Hospital Noida. He is a DNB Gastroenterologist & holds expertise in Luminal Gastroenterology, Therapeutic Endoscopy especially ERCP / EUS & Hepatology. To know more about Dr. Sanjay Khanna or book an appointment, please call 0120 – 412 2222
3 Reasons You Crave Sweet or Salty Foods & Why it’s important to listen to your body
Does chocolate start calling your name around 2 p.m.? Does that bag of potato chips start talking to you an hour after dinner?
The reasons we crave sugar and salt are partly physiological, partly psychological and partly because of the environment in which we live.
The human body functions a bit like a car – you put fuel in the tank, and then you drive. If the body doesn’t get the fuel it needs, then strong physical cravings can manifest. What kind of fuel does your body need? A balanced intake throughout the day of high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein and heart-healthy fats.
Consider three factors that can contribute to cravings:
You’re starving yourself
Think you’re being “good” by having coffee for breakfast and a garden salad for lunch? Truly, you’re setting yourself up for failure in the afternoon and evening. If you go too long without eating, your body will crave the fastest fuel it can think of — refined grains and simple sugars. Cramming them into your body late in the day means the calories will get stored as fat.
Another popular trap: Skipping meals or waiting too long between meals. This leads to significant hunger, which makes you crave anything sweet or salty you can get your hands on.
An all-or-nothing mentality — forbidding all foods with sugar or salt —can backfire too.
Some research suggests that eliminating sweet and salty foods makes you crave them less. But eventually, most people tend to give in and resume eating the foods they’ve restricted and that often leads to binging.
You don’t realize how addictive sugar and salt can be
Why do we crave sugar and salt, in particular? For one thing, they taste good. Manufacturers conduct research to determine which food components will tempt consumers’ taste buds the most. Our brains are wired to enjoy things which make us happy. Sugar, in particular, releases brain chemicals that make us feel good. This leaves us wanting to experience that good feeling over and over again, day after day. Sweet and salty foods and beverages are incredibly addictive that’s why many processed foods are loaded with them. They trigger the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that motivates us to engage in rewarding behaviors.
Over time, our tolerance for sweet and salty foods builds up, and we need more to reward ourselves. We’re basically feeding our taste buds and this creates a vicious cycle, because our taste buds typically crave what we feed them.
You’re not listening to your body
Before you indulge, check your fatigue level. Research shows that when you’re tired, you’re more likely to turn to whatever you crave to get more energy or to wake up. Perhaps you find yourself binging on salty snacks. The next time it happens, pay attention to your stress level. Stress may impair your adrenal glands’ ability to regulate sodium, which may lead to salt cravings. Take thirst into account, too. Some research suggests that mistaking dehydration for hunger may trigger cravings as well.
Finally, if you have diabetes, you probably know you get more hungry than other people. Excessive hunger can mean your blood sugar is too high or too low. If you find yourself craving sweets, check your blood sugar first. If it’s over 200, try exercising, drinking lots of water or if your doctor prescribes it, take insulin. If your blood sugar is less than 70, eat 15 grams of carbohydrate to bring it up.
Understanding that starving yourself can boomerang, that sugar and salt can be addictive, and that your body may be trying to tell you something can help you reduce cravings and embrace a more balanced diet.
“Developing a habit of healthy and clean eating with consistency can help you get rid of sugar and salt addiction. Start by reducing the quantity of your daily intake and progressing slowly to bring it down in normal limits. There are a number of diets which can ensure to curb the urge of sugar and salt intake if followed properly. The key to begin with is to start understanding nutrition labels which mention all percentage content of salt and sugar and you may get surprised to know about your daily intake !”