The fact is, cravings are simple biology. Just as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine affect your brain, certain foods can have that same affect. It is the chemical makeup of certain foods that actually cause the cravings. However, we only crave certain foods....for example, apples, peaches or strawberries we may like, but we don't "binge" on them. The foods we tend to crave are:
- sugar and starchy foods that turn into sugar
Believe it or not, each one of these foods triggers an opiate effect in the brain that peaches and apples just can't match.
First, sugar....it calls our name and it can be insistent. The fact is, sugar has a mild drug-like effect. The sensation of sugar on your tongue triggers the release of opiates in your brain. Then, the opiates trigger the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that is responsible for the feeling of pleasure. So, whatever you were doing just as dopamine was released becomes a new favorite activity. Right around the same time tomorrow, an alarm clock goes off inside your brain and will remind you about sugar. And, having sugar again resets the alarm to go off again the next day. This is exactly what recreational drugs do.....tobacco, marijuana, heroin, alcohol, and every other drug of abuse triggers the release of dopamine within the brain...food or drinks that trigger dopamine become very popular.
If it's bread and bagels you're craving, this is probably because your digestive tract breaks the starch into sugar. However, you don't crave just any kind of starch...your taste buds are calling for cookies, bread, crackers, cereals, etc....they are not calling for beans and fruits. The reason is, fruits and beans release their sugars very slowly which is great for energy and endurance, but they don't give you a "sugar high". White bread, on the other hand, digests quickly which releases sugar into your bloodstream within minutes.
Chocolate has opiate effects as well, but it also contains stimulants along with traces of caffeine. Now, some people will say a piece of dark chocolate has health benefits--but, if a little piece becomes a lot, your thighs are expanding before your very eyes. Chocolate can have the same effect as sugar.
Cheese--who doesn't love cheese? This is the one food that many people have an extremely hard time with. Really, when you think about it, it smells like dirty socks, it can be marked with blue speckles, it's loaded with cholesterol, is as greasy as Vaseline and yet, we just can't get enough of it! The reason for this is called "casomorphins". Casomorphines are opiates that trigger the opiate receptors in your brain...they can behave like morphine.
If some people eat too much cheese, they become constipated---same effect as a narcotic drug---if a person takes too many, they become constipated. Just like pain killers cause constipation, cheese can slow down your digestive tract the same way. The reason we crave cheese more than milk or yogurt is because as milk is turned into cheese, the water and whey protein are removed, leaving casein and fat--the most concentrated form of casein in any food. Casein fragments attach to the opiate receptors in our brain and keep us coming back for more. (Please don't forget, casein feeds cancer cells)
Meat--especially for men--is the food that many people crave. Meat also has an opiate effect on us. However, meat eaters pay a very high price with far more weight problems, cholesterol issues, as well as a much higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and many other problems.
So what do we do about all these cravings? Some people find that it's just easier to steer clear of a food you know you crave. If you can manage to avoid whatever you crave for several days, cravings will diminish. Here are some ideas that work:
- Have a healthy breakfast. Hunger fuels cravings. If you avoid excessive hunger, cravings tend to stay at bay.
- Eat foods that keep your blood sugar steady...foods that are full of fiber like whole-grains and fruits and vegetables.
- Don't restrict calories. Low-calorie diets cause people to binge.
- Break craving cycles. If cravings kick in at about the same time each day, do something else at that time. For instance, take a walk.
- Get plenty of exercise and rest. Vigorous exercise not only gives you an opiate effect of its own, but also helps you to sleep.
By getting away from these types of foods, your taste buds will "wake up"...you will be eating more of the foods that are good for you without gaining weight. That's the beauty of all this--when you follow a Whole Food Plant Based diet, you can eat until you're satisfied--no counting anything--your health will soar as the numbers on the scale drop like a rock.
Cravings will not go away overnight....but, just take it one day at a time...wake up in the morning and just tell yourself you won't be having any (fill in the blank with your trigger food) today. Take it one day at a time and before you know it, the cravings will disappear. If you give yourself "just a little bit", the craving will never go away--it really is easier to just eliminate that food. Remember, those foods that we crave are NOT GOOD FOR US ANYWAY--they cause all kinds of health problems!
I promise, the longer you can stay away from these trigger foods the easier it will become....just take it one day at a time...