February 18th, 2014

Deconstructing Cravings- Nutrient Imbalance

A few weeks ago, I started a series on understanding our cravings.  If you missed it, the first piece was about addiction and you can catch up here.

Deconstructing our cravings

The second reason we can crave food (especially salt and sugar) has to do with the energetics of food and imbalances of nutrients in our bodies.

Are you getting what your body needs?

An imbalanced diet can off set your cravings and send you looking for the “extremes” which are sugar and salt.  In eastern medicine, the extremes are considered ‘energizing’ and ‘grounding’ (or expanding and contracting).  The expanding foods are the lighter foods- fruits, simple carbs, sugars, the things that give us quick energy and pick us up.  On the contracting side, it’s meat, animal protein, eggs, dairy and salt- the grounding foods, things that give us power, satiety, even aggression.  In the middle are vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts  and legumes- some of the foods that have the least impact on our mood and energy levels.

This makes sense, right? We’ve all had the experience of the sugar rush from an ice cream sundae, or the sluggish, stuffed feeling after a big Thanksgiving meal.  And as for the more balanced foods in the middle, I’ve never had extreme energy affects from a veggie stir fry- no sugar high or sluggish too-full feeling.

When we are imbalanced to one side of the other, our body will crave the extreme other side (usually sugar or salt).

I had extreme sugar cravings when I was a vegetarian, and learned that as hard as I tried to eat well, I was missing a few nutrients.  Making some small adjustments to my diet made a huge difference.

Did you know that the #1 missing food in the American diet is greens?

Any kind of green vegetables are lacking, but especially green, leafy ones. If you make one change to be healthier, make it the addiction of greens in your diet (every day!)  They are nutritional powerhouses. 

Many times cravings (sugar and salt in particular) can be tied to a lack of greens.  Think of your body as having this check list it needs to hit with nutrients.  Greens nail SO many of them so your body can quickly go down the list- check, check, check.  When you’re not hitting the nutrients your body is looking for, it looks elsewhere and sugar, fat and salt ALWAYS sound good.

There can be other imbalances in your body too, such as:

-ignoring the seasons in your food choices

-craving salt due to a lack of iodine

-craving sugar due to a lack of protein

-craving salt or sugar due to lifestyle factors: too much stress, too much or too little physical activity, dehydration, or not enough sleep

Here’s a fun graphic on some of the additional nutritional deficiencies that can lead to cravings:

Taking care of yourself on EVERY level can help your body maintain ultimate balance for health, well-being, and can get your cravings back under control.

There is one more reason linked to our cravings, which I’ll cover next time.

Is your body well balanced with nutrients, sleep, exercise, and stress management?

What foods does your body ask for when you’re out of balance?

If you think you could benefit from one-on-one coaching to deconstruct and mange your cravings and take back control of your health, contact me to see if health coaching is a good fit for you!

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