Sunday, 24 Jan 2021

We Need Craving Crisps and Cakes

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Why do we craving crisps and cakes more than cauliflower and carrots? We asked nutrition experts what our unhealthy urges mean – and how to curb them.

We all get cravings and you don’t want to give in to them all the time. Since they usually involve bad-for-you foods, if you’re lacking the willpower to say no, it’s bad for your waistline and your overall health. Change your eating habits and you’ll improve your health rating and find you naturally lose weight too!


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Why? “Chocolate cravings can be a sign of a magnesium deficiency,” says Emma Ross, nutritionist at “In the lead-up to a period – or during the menopause – you’re more at risk of being deficient in magnesium.”


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Curb the craving

“Include lots of wholegrains, beans, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables in your diet to get your magnesium fix,” says Emma. If you must… eat a cube of dark chocolate (at least 50-70% cocoa solids): it’s a rich source of flavonoids and may help reduce blood pressure.


Really need biscuits and cakes. Why? Many experts say that sugar is addictive and that our bodies react to it like a drug, craving our next fix if we go too long without it. You could also crave sugar when you get an energy slump because your blood sugar levels are low (think 3pm when a cuppa and a biscuit or three call your name).

The worst thing you can do is succumb to your cravings by scoffing refined sources of sugar, like cakes and biscuits; these foods break down quickly, giving a short-lived boos of energy, followed by a sharp dip, leaving energy levels even lower than before. “For a sweet taste, try figs or passion fruit, which also contain soluble fibre that will help to slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream and avoid any extreme fluctuations,” explains Emma. The mineral chromium (which you can take as a supplement) is thought to help reduce sugar cravings by helping to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Adding cinnamon to foods is also a good tactic, as the spice is thought to work in the same way. To keep blood sugar balanced, don’t skip meals and eat low glycaemic (Low GI) foods that provide slow, sustained energy. Try snacking on walnuts or oatcakes.


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So wanting a stodgy pud

Why? You may be feeling down in the dumps and be yearning for some comfort food. “The combination of fat and sugar can have quite a unique effect on your brain,” says Emma.

“Consuming carbs can increase levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, and there’s some evidence to suggest that when fat is added to the equation, it can trigger the release of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward.”  CURB THE CRAVING:  “Try including omega-3 rich oily fish or flaxseeds in your diet and giving your dopamine levels a boost. Taking more exercise can also trigger dopamine pathways.”


Why? You may not be drinking enough, and are simply thirsty. “The combination of a fizzy sensation with a sweet taste can be particularly pleasurable and stimulating, and it can seem to quench your thirst better than non-carbonated drinks,” says nutritionist Cassandra Barns.


“For the fizz-effect, drink sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon. But even ‘diet’ drinks are often loaded with additives. If you’re craving a sweet taste, try Slissie (Ј24.99,, which delivers a burst of flavoured mist and is designed to help curb the sweet craving.” Can’t stop thinking about crisps

Why? Craving salty foods could mean you’re stressed and your adrenal glands are “burnt out”, says Emma. “Your adrenal glands release aldosterone, which is responsible for achieving water and electrolyte balance, helping your body retain the salt it needs. But if your adrenals are malfunctioning… you might crave salt to balance the sodium levels.”


Too much salt by prunes and spinach. is thought to raise blood pressure, so manage your stress by doing breathing exercises or yoga. Emma says: “Try a ‘calming’ supplement, such as A.Vogel AvenaCalm (Ј9.75, 50ml,, which contains Avena sativa and is said to help relieve mild stress and anxiety.”  Could go for a perk-me-up coffee Why? “You may be tired or low in energy and in need of a pick-me-up,” says Cassandra. But you may also have developed a dependence on caffeine. “If you drink coffee every day, eventually you need to keep drinking it just to feel ‘normal’, and then need more and more to give you an energy boost,” she adds.


“Think about why you could be low in energy – are you getting enough sleep? You may need to visit your doctor for a check-up; you may be low in nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12 or magnesium, which are essential for energy. Long-term stress, or highly demanding events, such as moving house or changing jobs, can also cause fatigue, even if you seem to cope well with the upheaval at the time. For a gentler energy boost, switch your coffee to green tea. It contains some caffeine – but much less than coffee – and a substance called theanine, which can have a relaxing effect as well as helping support concentration and focus.”


Why? “Craving cheese may signal a fatty acid deficiency (most likely omega-3) and symptoms to look out for include: dry or scaly skin, small lumps on the back of your arms, dry eyes and excessive ear wax,” says Emma.


“Cheese is high in fat – so rather than succumbing to it too often, try eating rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids – oily fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. Cheese cravings could also signal a calcium deficiency so be sure to incorporate lots of leafy greens and fish into your diet as they are good sources of this important mineral.”


Why? Spices, such as the capsaicin found in chillies, can stimulate the release of feel-good endorphins – so it’s no surprise we fancy a bit of hot stuff now and then. Another theory? Craving spice might mean we’re low in zinc, which regulates our taste and smell. If levels are low, we can’t properly taste blander foods.


“Eat a curry – but try making your own with good-quality meat, such as organic chicken, or go veggie with butternut squash and chickpeas,” says Cassandra. “Use a little bit of coconut oil, and go for tomato-based sauces rather than creamy if you eat curries regularly.” For a zinc boost, eat eggs, fish and pumpkin seeds.

Bring on the burger!   Why? “You could be lacking in iron or vitamin B12 – and red meat is a great source of these nutrients,” advises Cassandra.


“Go on, have a burger!” says Cassandra. “But make it a good-quality one, preferably made with organic meat or wild meat, such as venison.” And ditch the bun in favour of a salad or homemade sweet potato fries. “You could try supplementing with Natures Plus Source of Life Garden Vitamin B12, Ј17.50, or if your GP confirms that your iron levels are low try Natures Plus Source of Life Garden Iron, Ј22.95 (both,” adds Cassandra. Veggie sources of iron? Try prunes and spinach.

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