Friday, May 3, 2013

The Experts Weigh In: Deconstructing Your Cravings

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We all have them - those longings for something sweet, salty, fried (or all of the above!). Cravings come when we least expect them. Even with the best of intentions, we've all found ourselves bee lining for the nearest package of cookies, sour cream and onion chips or fast food.

As a recovering sugar addict and emotional eater myself, I know these feelings ALL too well! Today, I'd like to help you understand the origin of your cravings so that you know exactly how to defeat them. Yes, that's right! You can win the war over your cravings.

So where do they come from?

Your body is smart. If you are not consuming enough of the right things, your body will nudge you to eat the things that will keep you alive - usually fats and high calorie foods - in an effort to replenish stores of nutrients, or at a very basic level, prepare for famine. Unfortunately, if you don't learn what your body is trying to tell you, you run the risk of being overfed (calorie-wise), yet still malnourished (nutrient-wise).

Cravings can signal anything from a lack of nutrients to an emotional imbalance. Cravings often strike because you are tired, stressed or unhappy. You may feel hungry when you are actually thirsty, or cravings may result from eating too much of one type of food while neglecting another. Basically, any sort of imbalance in your diet or lifestyle can signal your body to request nourishment in the form of a craving.

Cravings are not weakness; they are your body's way of telling you that SOMETHING is missing. Our bodies are wonderfully intuitive. Learning to hear what your body is telling you is the biggest step in fulfilling your cravings the healthy way.

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I need cookies!

Craving sweets can be a sign of dehydration so grab some water and wash your sweet tooth away. I recommend sipping warm water throughout the day because warm water is particularly helpful in flushing out toxins.

You may also be craving something sugary because you are missing something sweet in your life or in your relationships. Sugar releases endorphins, which make you 'feel' happy and comforted. Instead of giving into the craving, try finding a way to treat yourself to something 'sweet' and unrelated to food, like a quick stretch or maybe a massage.

The need for sweets can also be an indication that you are missing certain nutrients - chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur or tryptophan. Here are some foods you can eat to calm your sweet cravings. Broccoli, grapes and beans help to replenish missing chromium. Fresh fruit replenishes carbon and helps fill that need for something sweet. To get more phosphorous, you can consume lean meats, free range eggs, nuts, legumes and whole grains, like quinoa and millet. Sulfur is found in cranberries, kale and cabbage, while tryptophan can be replenished through organ meats, lamb, raisins and sweet potatoes.

Try incorporating more sweet fruits and vegetables into your diet. When you do, you will notice a reduction in your need for processed, sugary treats after just a few days. Also try using a more natural sweetener like barley malt, stevia and maple syrup. You can find stevia under the brand name Kal. They make delicious flavored stevia that is great in coffee, tea and hot breakfast cereals.

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Pass the salt!

Cravings for salt signal that your body is missing the trace minerals found in natural salt. Processed salt (ie. table salt) is stripped of these natural minerals during processing, with magnesium taking the biggest hit. To boost your intake of this important mineral, try incorporating pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax and dark chocolate (good quality dark chocolate... M&M's don't count!) into your diet. 

Cravings for salt can also be a sign of adrenal fatigue. If you suspect that adrenal fatigue is the culprit, try eating foods high in vitamin C like citrus fruits, peppers and broccoli. You can also include foods high in potassium, such as apricots, raisins, figs and bananas.

When buying salt, it is important to purchase a good quality, unrefined mineral or sea salt. A trip to your local health food store may be in order or has a great variety and is only a click away. 

Begin incorporating dried herbs and spices into your cooking to take the place of excessive salt. There are so many to choose from!

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French fries... mmm!

The craving for fatty, fried foods usually results from a lack of just that - fats! But keep in mind that all fats are not created equal. If you find yourself craving fries, fried chicken or anything oily and heavy, try supplementing with healthier fats. Eating avocados and raw nuts like almonds and cashews, while also consuming a serving or two of coconut oil or flaxseed oil, can give your body the fat it needs without exposing you to harmful partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.

So what's it all mean?

In the end, the most important thing to remember is that your body is perfect in every way. It breathes. It pumps blood. It converts food to fuel. You don't have to think about any of that - it just happens. Learn to listen to your body and trust that it has your best interests in mind when it sends you a request in the form of a craving. 

Love your body, listen to it and use your nutritional choices for good. Cravings will become few and far between once you learn to be more in tune to your nutritional needs.

Cheers to you and your health!

Nikki Knudsen is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor, Reiki Practitioner, Tough Mudder in training, yogi and cautiously optimistic future runner. Recovery and remission from a serious illness led Nikki to her passion of helping others reclaim their vitality, lose weight and learn to love themselves back to good health. You can find Nikki at  and on Facebook at

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