Food Cravings: What Gives?

Food Cravings Cookies

Food cravings. We’ve all been there. That undeniable gnawing in your gut — go onnnnn… just give in, go on.

Even the most dedicated of healthy eaters experience food cravings. What gives? What is happening in your body to create a feeling so strong that it can overwhelm all rational thinking?

Of course, food cravings don’t have to be unhealthy. Sometimes your craving can be for fresh fruit or a big salad. Or so I’m told.

More often than not, food cravings come for the naughty treats — the chocolate, the ice cream, the buttery pastries and the salty chips. Mmmmm, salty chips.

Food cravings are supposedly caused by the regions of the brain that are responsible for memory, pleasure and reward.

If you think about the foods you tend to crave — are they linked to a memory, pleasure or reward? I bet they are. It would be an interesting experiment to attempt to rewire these feelings and associate them with foods other than ice cream, chocolate, crisps & cheese.

The thing is though, I’m not sure I’d be a willing participant in such an experiment. I don’t mind giving in to the occasional craving. In fact, I sometimes go as far as telling myself ‘there must be a nutrient in there that my body needs’. Of course, I know fine well that there isn’t a cell in my body that needs a jam donut. But hey, as long as it’s occasional, I think the connection to memory, pleasure or reward is a good thing. Food for the soul, right?

Many experts believe cravings only last between 3–5 minutes.

Picture this: It’s 4pm, and you’re pushing through that last piece of work.
Your mind inevitably wanders…then BAM, right out of nowhere you’re transported to a vision. It’s sweet, it’s soft, it’s buttery, it’s…it’s just delicious. Your mind begins to signal that if you don’t get your hands on this item immediately all hell will break loose. Despite the rational part of your brain telling you this is ridiculous, you quickly, check the time. Still acceptable.. not too close to dinner, but far enough from lunch. Remind yourself you have worked very hard today. A swift search of the purse for coins and a whip round the team “Anyone want anything when I’m out?” and you’re off. 4.30pm and it’s jam donut’s & coffee galore in the office. Craving solved, crisis averted.

According to Medical News Today

“An imbalance of hormones, such as leptin and serotonin, can cause food cravings. It is also possible that food cravings are due to endorphins that are released into the body after someone has eaten, which mirrors an addiction. There is the possibility of a connection between the cravings and nutrients. This is the idea that the body craves certain foods because it lacks certain nutrients.”

Personally, I like the idea that the body is craving nutrients. Sometimes you really do just want to eat a big bowl of green vegetables. I also like the idea that the body is craving a bit of nutrition for the soul — that memory, pleasure or reward.

Although, I think we all know that if something sounds too good to be true (like your body needs jam donut nutrients)… it probably is.

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