A nutrition expert shares her best advice
Feeling guilty about reaching for a delicious slab of chocolate, especially around the 3pm mark? Your sweet cravings could mean so much more than a love of the creamy taste. In fact, certain bad food cravings can actually be a sign that your body is hungry for a particular vitamin or healthy nutrients: Anxiety, neurotic behaviours,an inability to cope with stress and overwhelming urges to eat the entire contents of the fridge or pantry may be your body’s way of trying to tell you something.
“Emotional outbursts, anxiety, mood disorders, obsessive routines and neurotic behaviour such as overreacting to certain situations and physical responses such as panic attacks, nail picking, nail biting, hair pulling and even eating disorders may be a sign that your body is deficient in a certain vitamin or specific nutrients,” says Fiona Tuck, Nutritional Medicine practitioner, forensic nutritionist and accredited member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society.
Here, the nutrition expert shares her best advice for curbing the cravings to achieve a healthier mind and body.
Cut back on caffeine
Stimulants like coffee can be a big contributing factor to the foods you want to eat through the day. “Stimulants increase the adrenal hormones that may over-stimulate the nervous system, thereby heightening anxiety levels,” says Tuck.
Try a test
A food allergy test may give you clues as to what you can and can’t eat. “Sometimes symptoms of anxiety can be indicative of an underlying food intolerance,” says Tuck.
Watch your carbs
You know to pick low GI carbohydrates to prolong energy release in your body, but did you know that they can also decrease your food cravings? Tuck recommends you “cut back on refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice, pasta, sugar and alcohol: These foods can cause fluctuations in our blood sugar and our moods and are low in nutrients.”
Steer away from processed foods
Anything you buy from a packet can contain lots of nasties that cause your body to want even more unhealthy foods. “Cut back on packaged, processed foods such as packet sauces, cereals, processed meats, frozen meals and fizzy drinks,” says Tuck. “These tend to be highly processed, high in salt and sugar, and low in vitamins and nutrients.”
Tuck recommends adding a special ingredient to supercharge your diet to prevent bad food habits. “Tryptophan, an amino acid, is required for the production of mood-enhancing, stress-busting serotonin,” explains Tuck. “Tryptophan is found in most protein-rich foods, namely nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, bananas, lentils, and eggs.”
Another vitamin that’s a must-have in your daily diet is vitamin B. “Vitamin B-rich foods can help support the nervous system, reduce symptoms of anxiety and curb carb cravings,” says Tuck. You’ll find vitamin B in bananas, avocados, zucchini, whole grains, eggs, poultry, lean meat and dairy.
Eat more greens
In particular, a vitamin like magnesium is a must when you’re trying to eat healthy. “Increase fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet,” says Tuck. “Aim to eat veggies with every meal and include lots of leafy greens that are particularly high in vitamins like magnesium. Magnesium helps to keep us feeling calm and relaxed and can help to limit coffee and chocolate cravings.”
Iantha is BEAUTYcrew's Beauty Editor, and has been part of the team since the site launched in 2016. Besides pinky-nude nail polish and wispy false lashes, she has a healthy obsession with face masks and skin care ingredients. Her previous work can be found in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Women's Health, and SHOP Til You Drop.