How many decisions does your gut make for you? Sometimes your gut tells you when it’s hungry or how much it wants you to eat. Often, your gut might try and get you to eat something specific, too. That’s called a craving. But, your body can trick you into craving the wrong thing.
Whether you crave milk chocolate, blueberries, or tortilla chips, a craving can be strong enough to cause you to make unhealthy food choices. And while food cravings are natural, sometimes the type of craving isn’t.
Cravings can be good for you though. For instance, the good gut bugs in your body trying to tell you that they need something to grow or survive. But, in some circumstances, your bad gut bugs might be trying to trick you into listening to them instead.
However, in certain circumstances, your bad gut bugs might be trying to trick you into listening to them instead. So, how do you stop food cravings?
Why Do I Crave Food All the Time?
To understand how to stop food cravings you have to understand why you crave food to begin with. Three main reasons for craving food all the time are listed below:
- Conditional Craving
- Physiological Craving
- Addictive Craving1
Conditional craving means that at some point in your life you learned to associate a certain craving with certain experiences. For instance, you may associate ice cream with your favorite TV show. If you were allowed to have dessert while watching a show before bed, you grew to crave dessert at this time of day.
Physiological craving means your body is sending you a legitimate signal of what it may think you need. If you go for a run, you may crave a watermelon slice or oranges when you get home. This could be your body telling you to hydrate as these foods contain a good amount of water.
Addictive craving is very common — especially if you crave sugar. Sugar is a drug and your body could become dependent on the “fix” you get from sugar.
Craving 101: Let’s Break Down Where Cravings Come From
Turns out, low serotonin levels can affect your brain’s center for appetite. And usually, when a serious craving strikes, you want a food with a higher sugar level. It’s why you might crave a chocolate bar over a plate of, say, steamed broccoli. But, when glucose interacts with the opioid receptors in your brain, this can trigger an addictive response. And that’s no good.
Why? When this happens, the sugar eater only wants to eat sugar. You’re conditioning the brain to release happiness hormones every time you give in and scratch that sugar itch.
So, the trick to staying healthy is learning to recognize the difference between the cravings you should listen to, and those you’ve got to ignore.
Knowing what your good gut bugs want to eat, and how to feed them, is more than half the battle. And today, I’m going to share with you the things that can really help when you’re good gut bugs tap on your gut and say, “Feed me!”
What should you feed your good gut bugs when they’re hungry? (& simultaneously put an end to your unhealthy food cravings!)
First of all, you want to amp up your resistant starch intake. Resistant starches are the undigested starches that pass into the large bowel. Here, they help fermentation. They also help your friendly gut bugs produce short-chain fatty acids and ketones.2
In case you’ve not heard of them before, ketones are the fats you absorb from your gut – the ones you can use instantly as fuel. So, you definitely want to be getting more of the following foods into your diet –
- Green plantains
- Taro root
- Shirataki noodles
- Celery root
- Jerusalem artichokes
- And certain unripe fruits, like green bananas, mangoes, and papayas.
Furthermore, resistant starches can help improve insulin sensitivity, increase satiety, and reduce fat storage.3 All in all, they’re a good go-to food group when your gut bugs demand to be fed.
Don’t let the length of the name intimidate you.
In fact, let’s just abbreviate the word fructooligosaccharides to the letters FOS … sound good? Now, an FOS is a type of indigestible sugar in the form of inulin or yacón.
Now, I know, I usually caution you against sugar, but your gut bugs actually need indigestible sugars for proper growth and function.
In fact, they help feed the cells that line and guard your gut. These indigestible sugars are called prebiotics. And they’re not to be confused with probiotics. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that help your gut. Prebiotics are the food that feeds them and gives them what they need to grow. The best prebiotic foods act like fertilizer to probiotics.
Inulin is a major help to your good gut bugs because it’s a prebiotic fiber they can chow down on to stay healthy. And yacón is a tuber; its syrup is prebiotic in nature. Yacón may actually reduce your appetite too.4 And while you can’t actually digest a FOS, your good gut bugs can. In fact, they thrive on it. Speaking of thriving, the best probiotic foods do their part as well.
You can find FOS in –
- Belgian endive
- Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
You can also munch on figs – which are technically flowers, not fruit. On rare occasion, I’d also suggest using dates or dried figs as a sweetener. Both happen to be great sources of FOS. I love to add a couple of figs or dates to kick my salads up a notch.
Alternative Ways to Stop Your Junk Food Cravings
Here are some other, alternative natural ways to feed your hungry gut bugs …
Juicing isn’t as healthy as some nutrition gurus would have you believe. But, you don’t have to throw your juicer out. In fact, you can actually use it to increase your good bacteria and their gut buddies.
A great way to do this is to eat your polyphenols in pulp form! Remember, polyphenols are antioxidant compounds found abundantly in natural plant food sources. Simply juice fruits, then throw out the juice. That’s where the candy (aka sugar) hides, so get rid of it.
Take the leftover pulp, and add that to a delicious smoothie. You can blend it with plain goat, sheep, or coconut yogurt. You can even toss the mixture into your salad dressing.
Hot Tip: Further enhance your salad dressing by mixing extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil with lemon or orange flavored cod liver oil – I love Carlson’s. It’s really good on cooked veggies, too.
Your good gut bugs love nuts. But, not just any nut. Your gut bugs want gut-friendly, polyphenol-rich nuts like –
How Do I Stop Stress Eating?
Stress eating is incredibly common. In fact, the American Psychological Association discovered approximately 40% of adults reported overeating in response to stress. Often, people think of food as a numbing agent. So, could it be you’re self-medicating with junk food? Perhaps.7
For one thing, your cortisol levels rise when you experience regular stress. And higher cortisol levels mean a heftier appetite.
Also, food is a great distraction. If you can think about food instead of focusing on the source of stress or pain in your life. But stress eating is just a bandaid… it simply covers up the source of your stress for the moment.
To try and stop stress eating, it’s best to focus on a healthy distraction. Get up and get out. Go for a walk or a run. Fresh air or a simple change of scenery can do more than you know.
Other tactics that might help you refrain from stress eating could be to phone a friend or do a 5-minute meditation. A cup of tea or glass of water might help refocus your stress-induced craving too.
Your gut bugs are begging for the foods listed above. So, feed them as many of the foods listed above as you can. To recap, you want to fit more of these into your diet –
- Resistant starches, like parsnips, turnips, and jicama
- FOS foods, like okra, onions, garlic, and mushrooms
- Polyphenol-rich fruit and vegetable pulp from the juicer
- Nuts, like pistachios, walnuts, macadamias, and pecans
These are the food cravings you want to answer. These foods will keep you feeling full and happy, and they’ll help you avoid making a mistake when processed sugars come to taunt you.