It is probably fair to say that all of us have experienced food cravings. This is an evolving area of research and currently we do not fully understand the biochemistry of food cravings. 

What we do know is that serotonin, the hormone many of us associate as a feel good hormone, also plays a role in the control of eating patterns. Research has identified that a decrease in serotonin levels can cause cravings of carbohydrate rich foods. Consumption of foods high in sugar such as pastries, chocolate and sweets are common to help alleviate cravings. The frequent consumption of refined carbohydrates and high sugar foods can lead to weight gain but depending on the severity of the cravings and the food consumed may predispose an individual to obesity and related disease such as diabetes. 

For some, low serotonin levels may be the cause however for others it is often a case of will power and discipline. 

Below are some tips to help you deal with cravings when they arise; 

  1. Firstly, ask yourself; am I really that hungry? Boredom or the easy access to food may be the reason you feel a sudden craving. If it is genuine hunger, maybe it is time for a main meal. If it is in between meals, snack wisely. Chose fruit, yoghurt or some popcorn (see our blog on Sensible Snacking for ideas)
  1. As well as carbohydrates, foods that contain amino acid tryptophan can increase serotonin levels. Foods that contain tryptophan include protein rich foods such as turkey, beans, eggs, red meat, lentils, tofu and chicken. Protein is also a satiating macronutrient - meaning it helps to keep you fuller for longer. This may help to avoid excessive snacking on high sugar foods between meals.
  1. Carbohydrates of course are an important part of a well balanced diet however the type of carbohydrates you chose to eat are important. Wholegrain breads, rice and pasta are high in fibre and release energy slowly. Fruit and vegetables are a source of carbohydrates as well as minerals and vitamins. 
  1. Remember to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Dehydration can be mistaken for hunger and may lead to excess energy intake. Read our blog on Fluid Intake for some tips on how to stay hydrated.