How to control your sugar cravings after a workout

By: health enews Staff

Your desire to grab your favorite sweet treat after working out may be fueled by biology and not just self-sabotage, according to a new study.

As part of the study, done at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, college students were analyzed based on their natural responses to images shown on a screen. The participants looked at the photos, which contained images ranging from desserts to household items, and a favorable response was measured when a participant made even a small movement with the joystick towards an image.

Half of the group then exercised on stationary bikes, while the other half worked with cognitive puzzles. Immediately following these activities, the students participated in the test again. The researchers found that participants in the exercise group responded more favorably to the dessert pictures than those in the cognitive task group.

They theorized that people’s desire to eat sweets after exercising is a matter of the body wanting to replenish the calories and nutrients they depleted while working out.

Regardless of the motivation, since many people do crave sweets after working out, Mary Heinz, a personal trainer at Advocate Condell Centre Club in Libertyville, Ill., says it is important to plan ahead.

She suggests the following tips to avoid falling victim to your sweet tooth:

  • Always pack snacks for before and after a workout
  • Include snacks like fruit and chocolate milk to satisfy the sweet craving
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day
  • Prepare a meal before exercising so when you go home you have a healthy option that is easy to heat it up, instead of giving in to convenient food choices

However, if you do break down on occasion and grab a doughnut, it isn’t the end of the world, Heinz says.

“The fact that they are exercising is good. It is important to remember, though, that what you eat before and after working out impacts how you recover and grow,” says Heinz. “If you eat a doughnut after a workout, your body won’t be able to recover and grow as much as it would if you ate some nuts or fruit. Eating healthy will also allow you to perform better during your workout because your body has the proper nutrients and energy it needs.”

It’s safe to say that most people like sugar, at least to some extent. But sometimes sugar cravings can get so intense that you may feel they’re taking over your life.

We would never tell you to completely stop consuming sugar, especially if you have a sweet tooth (we do!). Because we know that that would only make you want more of it. Avoiding sugar altogether just isn’t sustainable for most of us.

But we do think that sometimes we certainly eat too much sugar. With the so many treats available at any time, it’s never been easier to overeat the sweet stuff. However, there are things you can do to get a better hang of your sugar cravings and understand why they’re happening in the first place.

Stay Away From Low Calorie Diets

The number one reason why you constantly crave something sugary might be this: you don’t eat enough regular food. If you don’t eat as much as your body needs, it’s simply craving more energy. When you get hungry, you want to have something quick and fast, and sugary foods seem to hit the spot best.

This is a typical scenario when you under eat in order to maybe lose weight. Do you want to try one of these 1,500-calories-a-day diets that show up in many magazines as the summer gets closer? Well, you can bet that you’ll find yourself not only hungry but also struggling with bad sugar cravings.

Eating so few calories is just not a sustainable weight loss strategy. If you try a new food plan and notice that your sugar cravings get more intense, take it as a sure sign that you should be eating more actual real food.

What Did You Eat During the Day?

Have you noticed how your sugar cravings don’t usually show up in the morning, but mostly in the afternoon or late at night? If that happens to you, keep this in mind: what you ate earlier on that day affects your cravings and their intensity later.

For example, if you notice sugar cravings creeping up on you in the afternoon, take a look at what you ate for breakfast and if it was enough. If your cravings show up in the evening, maybe your lunch wasn’t big enough or you didn’t get all the macronutrients you needed.

Did you eat enough protein, which helps you stay fuller, longer? Make sure to start your day off with a breakfast that’s high in protein and eat some protein-rich foods with every meal.

Did you have enough fat? Fat really helps fill you up—and keep you full. Remember, there’s no reason to avoid fat – the 90’s low fat trend is hopefully over for good.

Carbs are the first energy source for the body, and especially on days when you work out, you should pay attention and add good quality carbs to your meals.

Also, it’s important that you eat enough of all these things. Salads are great, but if your plate consists of only veggies, with very little protein and you skimp on fat, chances are that not too much later, you’ll find yourself hungry and craving something sweet.

Be Aware of Your Emotions

It’s really easy to turn to sugary stuff when you’re lonely, angry, sad, or bored. Reaching for sweets may be such an automatic reaction that you don’t even realize that you’re doing it when you feel one of those feelings.

The reason why a candy bar seems like a good idea when you’re feeling sad or lonely is that you hope that in some magical way the sweetness will fix that emotion, although you’ve probably experienced many times that that’s never the case. And if you totally overdo it, you’ll probably feel even more sad and angry than before, since you then end up feeling guilty about binge eating as well.

If that happens, try not to blame yourself for indulging in sweets because there’s nothing you can do about it after it happens. But what you can do is to go back and try to figure out if there was a feeling that triggered you to do it, and then deal with the actual cause.

Pay Attention To Your Habits

Another reason you end up eating too much sugar might be this: you aren’t necessarily craving it, but you’ve created a habit that has become a natural part of your life and is hard to stop.

If you want to cut back on sugar, it’s important to start paying attention to your habits. Do you eat chocolate after dinner because… well, that’s just what you always do? Or do you have a cookie a few hours after lunch because that’s just what you have with your afternoon coffee?

There’s nothing wrong with some post dinner chocolate or an occasional afternoon cookie if you really want it. But it’s always a good idea to take a moment to check in with yourself when you’ve finished your meal or when you’re having your afternoon coffee. Ask yourself whether you really want this treat right now, or if you’re about to get it just because that’s what you normally do.

If you really want it, then sure, go for it! That’s what the 80/20 rule is for. Just try and learn to eat your treats in moderation, because as we mentioned before, chances are that of you try to stay away from sugar completely, it will only make you want more of it. But sometimes you may realize that you don’t even want that cookie so badly, so don’t eat it because it’s just a habit.

Awareness is Key

If your sugar cravings are out of hand, you need to ask yourself these three things: Are you eating enough and (and the right foods) at your meals, are you craving sugar to deal with your emotions (although you know it doesn’t help), or are you reaching for treats because it’s just a habit that you may not even be aware that you have?

By being aware and paying special attention these three things, you should be able to reduce your sugar cravings.

Kersten Kimura is a NASM PT, bootcamp instructor and personal trainer located on the East Bay, California. Check out her website here to learn about her take on womens’ health and hormones and balanced and obsession-free eating and exercising.

Been Eating Watermelons for Dinner? You Need to Read This

Summer is here, and so is the constant need to keep ourselves hydrated and fresh. What better than a bowl full of watermelon, which is not only tasty, but filling and healthy too. One of those fruits boasting of high-lycopene content, watermelon has a lot to offer, especially when you are looking to lose weight. Rich in numerous nutrients and health benefits, watermelons make for a great snacking option. The fruit is known to promote heart care, healthy kidneys, relief from heat stroke and is believed to help normalise blood pressure too. If you ever feel like binge eating or crave sugar, trust a watermelon to do the job without worrying about the calories. Renowned Nutritionist, Dr. Shilpa Arora shares, ‘Watermelons consist of 94 percent water, lycopene, potassium and a lot of other nutrients. It has fiber that is a wonderful source to keep the digestion process going.’

So while a watermelon may be a healthy fruit to enjoy overall, when you eat it is equally important. It is recommended to not consume watermelons at night right before going to bed. “I would not recommend consumption of watermelon or any fruit after 7 pm. Watermelon is slightly acidic and if consumed at night, it may delay the process of digestion when the body is inactive. The best time to eat watermelon is around 12-1 pm when the digestion rate is high and active.”

Also Read: 5 Side Effects Of Eating Too Much Watermelon

According to experts, watermelons are not a good alternative to munch on at night and may cause certain health issues –

  • Watermelons are not digestion friendly when it comes to consuming it at night and may cause irritable bowel syndrome and other problems, making your stomach upset the next day. The digestive process is slower than usual at night, hence, it is recommended to keep off sugary and acidic foods.

  • Watermelons have a large percentage of natural sugar which may promote weight gain in some cases if eaten at night.
  • Consisting of a huge percentage of water, watermelons may actually lead to frequent trips to the toilet leading to poor sleep and sleep deprivation and fatigue the other day.

What Does Ayurveda Recommend?

Ayurveda, according to Dr. Dhanvantri Tyagi, does not recommend eating watermelon or any fruit at night as they promote diarrhea and in some cases, constipation too. Hence, it is advisable to eat alternative foods rather than fruits. The right time to eat a watermelon is in the morning or afternoon and not after that. “Considering these hot summers, one must remember to soak the watermelon in water for some time, as it minimises any harm to the consumer. You must eat the watermelon right when it is bought, do not store it, and rather have it fresh for best results on health.” Dr. Dhanvantri insists.

The Good Side – Benefits of Watermelons

While nobody recommends consumption of watermelons at night, let us not forget that watermelon when eaten in the daytime has many benefits.
Also Read: Summer Care: 4 DIY Watermelon Juice Face Masks For A Flawless Skin

Here are a few reasons that will make you fall in love with watermelons this summer:

1. Refreshing Fruit to Beat The Heat

The hot sun may take a toll on your body, but watermelons are great to prevent heat strokes. It also keeps you hydrated because of the water content. Try having watermelons regularly so as to prevent yourself from falling sick in summers.

Read also : (Heatwave Safety: 7 Tips You Should Follow This Summer to Stay Healthy)
2. A Friend of Our Kidneys

Watermelons are full of potassium, the nutrient that helps to flush all the toxins from the kidneys.

3. Heart Friendly

Watermelons contain lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant that protects and repairs the body from causing multiple diseases. It also carries beta-carotene that has anti-aging properties that keeps you active and young. Vitamin C and potassium helps reducing cholesterol and keep the heart safe.

4. Good for the Eyes

The phytonutrients present in the watermelons help maintain the healthy functioning of eyes. Lutein, Vitamin C and beta-carotene help in preventing degeneration, hence protecting your eyes from blindness and cataract.
Also Read: Drinking Water After Eating Watermelon: Is it Safe or Not?

5. Maintains High Blood Pressure
The magnesium and potassium contents in the watermelons are responsible for keeping the blood pressure normal.

How to Make the Most of Watermelons

Here are healthy yet fun watermelon drinks to savor this summer!

1. Lime and Watermelon Tonic

The Detox Cookbook & Health Plan book by Maggie Pannell has suggested this refreshing juice that will not only quench your thirst but also cool your body. It reads, “This refreshing juice will help to cool the body, calm the digestion and cleanse the system – and may even have aphrodisiac qualities.” A mix of watermelon, chilled water, lemon juice, clear honey (to taste) and ice cubes will rejuvenate your mind too!
Also Read: 5 Spectacular Benefits of Watermelon and Refreshing Recipes

2. Fresh Watermelon and Cucumber Juice

How about we mix two summer foods together to make a cooler that’s tasty and healthy? Prepare some quick juice from fresh watermelon and cucumbers, with a dash of mint to give it an even better taste. It will help your body cool down from the hot summer day.

3. Watermelon Smoothie

If you feel like having a hearty and heavy watermelon drink, mix some strawberries, watermelon and tangy yoghurt to make a yummy smoothie. Do remember to miss out on sugar as the natural taste of melon and berries will make it sweet enough.

Recent studies have found that watermelon seeds are also wonderfully nutritious, especially if they are sprouted and shelled. They are high in protein, magnesium, vitamin B and good fats, according to an analysis by the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences.

Here are the nutrition facts for the watermelon, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:

Nutrition facts

Serving size: 2 cups diced (10 oz / 280 g) Calories: 80 (Calories from Fat 0)

Amount per serving (and %DV*) *Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Total Fat: 0g (0%)

Total Carbohydrate: 21g (7%) Dietary Fiber: 1g (4%) Sugars: 20g

Cholesterol: 0mg (0%) Sodium: 0mg (0%) Potassium: 270mg (8%) Protein: 1g

Vitamin A: (30%) Vitamin C: (25%) Calcium: (2%) Iron: (4%)

Health benefits

Heart health

Watermelon’s high levels of lycopene are very effective at protecting cells from damage and may help lower the risk of heart disease, according to a study at Purdue University. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that watermelon extracts helped reduce hypertension and lower blood pressure in obese adults.

Watermelon may be especially important for older women. A study published in Menopause found that postmenopausal women, a group known to have increased aortic stiffness, who took watermelon extract for six weeks saw decreased blood pressure and arterial stiffness compared to those who did not take watermelon extract. The authors of the study attributed the benefits to citrulline and arginine.

Arginine can help improve blood flow and may help reduce the accumulation of excess fat.

Anti-inflammatory properties

“The lycopene in watermelon makes it an anti-inflammatory fruit,” Jarzabkowski said. Lycopene is an inhibitor for various inflammatory processes and also works as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals. Additionally, the watermelon contains choline, which helps keep chronic inflammation down, according to a 2006 article published in Shock medical journal.

Reducing inflammation isn’t just good for people suffering from arthritis. “When you’re sick, you have cellular damage, which can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, smoking, pollution, disease, and your body becomes inflamed,” Jarzabkowski said. “It’s called ‘systemic inflammation.'” In this way, anti-inflammatory foods can help with overall immunity and general health.


“Watermelons help with overall hydration, and that is a great thing,” said Lemond. “They say we can get 20-30 percent of our fluid needs through our diet alone, and foods like these certainly help.” Additionally, their juice is full of good electrolytes. This can even help prevent heat stroke.


The watermelon contains fiber, which encourages a healthy digestive tract and helps keep you regular.

Skin and hair benefits

Vitamin A is stellar for your skin, and just a cup of watermelon contains nearly one-quarter of your recommended daily intake of it. Vitamin A helps keep skin and hair moisturized, and it also encourages healthy growth of new collagen and elastin cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Vitamin C is also beneficial in this regard, as it promotes healthy collagen growth.

Muscle soreness & athletic performance

Watermelon-loving athletes are in luck: drinking watermelon juice before an intense workout helps reduce next-day muscle soreness and heart rate, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. This can be attributed to watermelon’s amino acids citrulline and arginine, which help improve circulation.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that watermelon’s citrulline may also help improve athletic performance. Study participants who took citrulline supplements saw a boosted performance with more power production in high-intensity exercise like cycling and sprinting.

Cancer prevention

Like other fruits and vegetables, watermelons may be helpful in reducing the risk of cancer through their antioxidant properties. Lycopene in particular has been linked to reducing prostate cancer cell proliferation, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Health risks

If eaten in reasonable amounts, watermelons should produce no serious side effects. If you eat an abundance of the fruit daily, however, you may experience problems from having too much lycopene or potassium.

The consumption of more than 30 mg of lycopene daily could potentially cause nausea, diarrhea, indigestion and bloating, according to the American Cancer Society.

People with serious hyperkalemia, or too much potassium in their blood, should probably not consume more than about one cup of watermelon a day, which has less than 140 mg of potassium. According to the National Institutes of Health, hyperkalemia can result in irregular heartbeats and other cardiovascular problems, as well as reduced muscle control.

Loading up on water-dense foods like watermelon can be tempting for those looking to lose weight because they help you feel full, but Lemond cautions against going to extremes. “Eating more fruits and vegetables of any kind naturally helps decrease overall calories (energy) of the diet,” she said. “We know that people that eat higher quantities of fruits and vegetables typically have healthier body weights However, I do not recommend eating only watermelon … You will lose weight, but that weight will be mostly muscle.”

Jarzabkowski also warned watermelon lovers to be mindful of their sugar intake. “Though watermelon’s sugar is naturally occurring, is still relatively high in sugar.”

“My recommendation is always to vary your selections,” said Lemond. “Watermelon is a great hydrating food, so keep it in along with other plant foods that offer other benefits. Variety is always key.”

Watermelon facts

Some fun facts about watermelons, from the National Watermelon Promotion Board and Science Kids:

The watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is related to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.

The watermelon probably originated in the Kalahari Desert in Africa.

Egyptians placed watermelons in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife. The first recorded watermelon harvest is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics from about 5,000 years ago.

Merchants spread the use of watermelons along the Mediterranean Sea. By the 10th century, watermelons had found their way to China, which is now the world’s top producer of watermelons.

The Moors in the 13th century brought watermelons to Europe.

The watermelon likely made its way to the United States with African slaves.

Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

The first cookbook published in the United States in 1776 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.

About 200 to 300 varieties are grown in the United States and Mexico, but only about 50 varieties are very popular.

By weight, watermelon is the most consumed melon in the United States, followed by cantaloupe and honeydew.

The watermelon is the official state vegetable of Oklahoma.

All parts of a watermelon can be eaten, even the rind.

Guinness World Records says the world’s heaviest watermelon was grown by Lloyd Bright of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in 2005. It weighed 268.8 lbs. (121.93 kg).

The United States ranks fifth in the worldwide production of watermelons. Forty-four states grow watermelons, with Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona leading the country in production.

A seedless watermelon is a sterile hybrid, which is created by crossing male pollen for a watermelon, containing 22 chromosomes per cell, with a female watermelon flower with 44 chromosomes per cell. When this seeded fruit matures, the small, white seed coats inside contain 33 chromosomes, rendering it sterile and incapable of producing seeds.

Aliaksandra Ivanova / EyeEm / Getty Images

You know the moment when it hits you: All of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, a food craving comes on—the one that tops all others—so badly you can’t even think straight. It’s so weird, right? Well, not really. It turns out that food craving is just your body communicating with you. Not to tell you that it’s in desperate need of a sugar hit, but rather that there’s an imbalance happening.

“Food cravings are often thought to be associated with nutrient deficiencies, but this may not always be the case,” says Vandana Sheth, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “They may also be caused by a combination of social, emotional, cultural, and environmental cues.”

That’s because food often becomes associated with what we turn to when we’re sad or feel like we deserve a reward—which is exactly why cartons of ice cream are now synonymous with heartbreak, and beer is a go-to when you’ve accomplished something badass. (Speaking of: Here’s the #1 myth about emotional eating.) But food cravings for specific items can also mean that something deeper is churning beneath the surface.

Here’s how to decode your own food cravings—and what to do if you’re not feelin’ ready to indulge.

Why You’re Having a Food Craving for Sweets

Remember how ice cream is always associated with breakups? Same goes for all sweets, as a craving for sugar can mean your body is trying to give you a glimpse into your emotional health. Studies show that it’s common to crave cakes, cookies, and saccharine-coated goodies when something is bothering you, be it stress, sadness, or even anger. What’s worse: research out of Yale University found that women are more susceptible to cravings (the reasons for why are complex, but it could be pegged to hormones), so it’s no wonder that it ain’t no thang to polish off a pint when your heart feels like it’s been shattered.

To combat the food cravings, head out for a hike. Research shows that walking for 15 minutes can help, and another study found that soaking up some sunshine and breathing fresh air helps relieve mental—and emotional—stress.

Why You’re Having a Food Craving for Chocolate

Chocolate definitely falls under the sugary sweet category, but if you feel like you’ve got your emotional game under control, check your magnesium levels—this food craving could indicate a deficiency, says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. “Around the time of your period, your body uses up more magnesium, which is why many women experience PMS and chocolate food cravings simultaneously,” explains Young. Reboot your taste buds by reaching for foods rich in the nutrient, like dark leafy greens, avocado, and bananas. (Related: 9 Surprising Things That Make Your PMS Worse)

Why You’re Having a Food Craving for Something Crunchy

A handful of nuts a day can be a healthy snack, but it can also hint to an inner frustration and irritation, says Sophie Skover, author of The Continuous Appetite. “The act of chewing and cracking the food in your mouth can momentarily release that angst, but the problem is the second that the crunching stops, the frustration returns—and many people go back to eating more and can end up polishing off an entire bag of chips.” (DYK overeating can actually rewire your brain?!)

A better way to release that tension is to punch a punching bag or do any kind of exercise, which will release endorphins to boost your mood, explains Elizabeth DeRobertis, R.D., a registered dietitian in Westchester, New York. (And make that healthy exercise high last longer with these tricks.) Or put in your earbuds: Several studies have shown that relaxing music really does relieve stress. “And pack carrot sticks to have on-hand when you want a healthier crunchy snack,” DeRobertis adds. (Related: 9 Low-Cal Crunchy Snacks to Satisfy Your Food Cravings)

Why You’re Having a Food Craving for Cheese

When you have a bad day, there’s a reason you want all the ooey, gooey, cheese—it’s a comfort food that your body has learned to indulge in after processing a hefty load of emotions, says Young. That’s because those meals are usually dripping with l-tryptophan, an amino acid (found in cheese) that boosts serotonin production—the hormone that influences how happy you feel. If you’re trying to resist (which you don’t always have to), Young suggests a relaxing yoga flow, as the gentle movement can help clear your mind and serve up an immediate hit of the feel-happy hormones.

Why You’re Having a Food Craving for Carbs

While food cravings for pasta, bread, and other carbohydrates can come from a number of physiological reasons, including a high insulin level or low blood sugar, DeRobertis says it’s more likely that you’re depriving yourself. “Typically, when someone is on a strict eating plan or has declared certain foods ‘off-limits,’ they will want them that much more.” (Don’t forget your body needs carbs to exercise in peak form!)

So remember that all foods—in moderation—fit into a healthy eating plan, and you’ll be less likely to need to overindulge in them to feel like you are letting loose or doing something fun, DeRobertis says. (Holla to the 80/20 rule.) And having a good time or rewarding yourself doesn’t have to come in the form of food: “Clear your schedule and go on a weekend trip by yourself or with friends. Don’t bring a watch and don’t be on a schedule; just get into the day and enjoy it,” advises Skover.

Why You’re Having a Food Craving for Salt

Have you ever finished an intense workout only to feel like you could house an entire bag of chips? Sure, you likely burned a ton of calories—so your bod is ready for a refuel—but the craving for salt is probably due to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance, Young says. “If you exercise a lot, you’re sweating and losing salt, which means you end up craving more to replenish those stores,” she says.

Instead of grabbing a bag, try rehydrating with a sports drink for a hit of electrolytes, or down flavored water to see if you’re just thirsty. (Use fruits like lemons, limes, strawberries, and watermelon for natural flavor.) If the cravings hit all the time though, consult with your doc. Although it’s less common, Young says being a salt fiend could indicate an underlying medical condition.

Why You’re Having a Food Craving for Red Meat

When it feels like a big hunk of red meat is the only thing that’ll satisfy, your body is likely trying to say it’s deficient in iron, zinc, or Vitamin B12, says Sheth. And a dose of red meat can provide a quick hit of whichever one you may be lacking, she adds. (Related: Is Red Meat *Really* Bad For You?)

If your goal is to cut back on the beef, Sheth recommends setting a timer for 10 minutes and going about your business. This short window of time allows your mind to chill out, since it thinks it will be rewarded at the ding, but in reality the pang for a greasy burger can peak after just a few minutes before starting to die down. So by doing something that requires focused attention—like sending an email or paying a few bills—you’ll likely distract yourself long enough for the food craving to pass. (If not, go on and have the dang burger already.)

For a more long-term strategy, Sheth suggests talking to your doctor or a dietitian about whether you need more of the above-mentioned nutrients built into your diet. They can suggest a wide range of meat-free options (like beans and legumes) to help keep you satisfied.

Why You’re Craving Caffeine

Anytime the coffee shop or a soda machine calls your name, you’re likely more than just thirsty. “You may feel discouraged or dissatisfied with your job and reach for these ‘quick fixes’ to perk you up and get you through the day,” Skover says.

It could also mean you’re dehydrated. “Not drinking enough water leads to a lack of energy,” says DeRobertis. So instead of a latte, you may just need some H2O. “Picture a wilted plant that needs water,” DeRobertis says. “Shortly after you water it, it will perk back up. With people, it’s the same thing!” (Up Next: What Happened When One Woman Drank Twice as Much Water Than Usual for a Week)

  • By Andrea Stanley and Jené Luciani

We’ve all been there: That moment when you just need to have a burger (or a milkshake, or a bag of potato chips) and nothing else on earth will do.

But why exactly do we have food cravings? And what do they mean?

First, let’s clear up a big myth. It’s a popular belief that cravings are the result of nutritional shortfalls. Chocolate cravings are often blamed on low levels of magnesium, for example. But most experts say there’s just not enough research to support this idea.

“There is very little science-based evidence on food cravings linked to nutritional deficiencies,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of The Plant-Powered Diet. “And if food cravings were related to something you need, then wouldn’t you be craving kale or apples, not ice cream and French fries? Instead, people tend to crave foods that are rich in fats, carbs, and sugar.” (Especially sugar, according to a new study.) Even the popular chocolate theory falls pretty flat when you find out that an ounce of dried pumpkin seeds has more than twice the magnesium of an ounce of chocolate. But you don’t see anyone hankering for pumpkin seeds. Plus, one study found that, even on a nutritionally complete diet, people still get cravings.

MORE: The 13 Most Health-Boosting Food Combos on the Planet

This doesn’t mean that food cravings aren’t real. It’s just that your hankering for pizza is probably linked to emotional needs—seeking a comfort food that releases feel-good chemicals in the brain during a time of stress, for example—not nutritional ones. (Here are 5 weird tricks to make your food more satisfying.) Other studies show that cravings can crop up simply because you’re on a restrictive or monotonous diet and want what you can’t have.

That said, there are some cravings that really do signal health problems. Here are three to look out for:

Craving: Water
Could be: Diabetes
Excessive thirst is an early symptom of diabetes—but this isn’t just the craving for water that hits when you finish a workout. This is far more pronounced thirst that’s also typically coupled with excessive urination. If you have diabetes, extra sugar builds up in the blood, and your kidneys have to work extra hard to filter and absorb that sugar. But sometimes they can’t keep up, so the extra sweet stuff is diverted into the urine. This means frequent pee breaks, which in turn leave you thirsty for more water.

Craving: Salt
Could be: Addison’s disease
We don’t crave salt because we need more of it—in fact, most Americans are getting more than enough salt from their diets. (The only exception? Endurance athletes who can lose too much salt by sweating profusely.) For the rest of us, intense salt cravings could point to Addison’s disease, in which the adrenal glands (the ones that sit on top of the kidneys) don’t produce enough hormones. And these hormones are important: They include cortisol, which helps the body respond to stress, and aldosterone, which keeps blood pressure balanced. Left untreated, Addison’s disease can make your blood pressure drop dangerously low—so see a doctor if you have a new, persistent, excessive craving for salty foods, especially if you’re experiencing any of the other Addison’s disease symptoms.

Craving: Ice
Could be: Iron deficiency
Craving things with no nutritional value—ice, paper, clay, dirt—is a phenomenon known as pica. (Here are 8 things you definitely didn’t know about what your food cravings mean.) And although these cravings aren’t totally well understood by scientists, some studies have linked the desires with an insufficient supply of iron. One recent paper in Medical Hypotheses suggests that compulsive ice chewing increases blood flow to the brain, combatting the sluggishness caused by an iron deficiency.

The 7 Most Common Cravings and What To Do About Them

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Food cravings are something that most of us experience at some point in our lives.

Many of us attribute these cravings to poor self-control. This is when guilt, anger and disappointment with ourselves creep up.

Having said that, I want to offer you a reframe (a different way of looking at the same situation) about cravings.

Cravings are not about you being weak or lacking discipline; they are just your body’s way of telling you that it needs something from you.

The human body is very complex with an intricate system of balances and signals that help it function properly. Food cravings are just another way for the body to signal what it needs from us. And we have the chance to give it what it needs.

My sudden cravings for pasta and fiery-hot food

What’s up with that?!

It has since become clear that there are two likely causes: elevated levels of a heavy metal called thallium found in the cruciferous vegetables in California (like kale, cabbage, collard greens) and a nasty parasite I failed to clear with the strongest of herbs.

For the first time in 10 years, I gave in to a 10-day antibiotic treatment. And a strong one too.

Gosh, how that messed me up! I stepped into the world of extreme fatigue, complete apathy, and dark mood. I had to push myself to respond to the most critical emails just to manage my business but anything beyond that was simply impossible. I watched more movies on Netflix in those 10 days than I did in two years.

That antibiotic was, of course, no joke (I was forewarned) and it’s probably the parasitic die-off combined with the changes in the microbiome (the gut bacteria) that caused some unusual food cravings.

For the first time in I don’t know how many years, a craving for rich Bolognese pasta hit me hard. Resisting it was out of the question.

Then, I developed a craving for some fiery curry which would take me on 40-min one-way ride to my favorite South Indian thali (they are a much spicier and lighter fair than North Indian food). I would ask them to add more chili to the already “extra hot” option. The waiter was worried that I would hurt myself.

One of the things I’ve learned about times like this is: do not to resist the cravings. Instead, just listen to my body.

What does it need?

Why does it need it?

What can I do to support it?

Hot and fiery food is well known to be antiparasitic and highly stimulating for the digestive system. If that’s what my body was calling for, my job was to just support it. The next day it was a Vietnamese pho, the super-spicy option (and I would still add the sesame chili oil). And so it continued for 4 days of food fire and then it stopped.


They are there for a reason.

And what a reminder it was that a compromised microbiome (and especially the lack of good bacteria) can create these cravings as well.

A quick side note: I am currently undergoing a natural chelation protocol for the heavy metals and in spite of not having started the candida protocol yet (that’s coming next after the heavy metal protocol), I’m glad to report that 80% of my candida symptoms have already subsided. I’m so excited and what a reminder it is how parasites and heavy metals can mess up our immune system (which has the innate ability to fight candida). I will write another post about that when it’s all done, so stay tuned!

So, I’ve compiled a list of cravings for you today which will help understand what each could mean and what can you do to support your body.

And remember: no judgment, just listening.

Common Causes of Cravings

  1. Water – very often when we feel hungry, we are just thirsty. Being dehydrated can cause you to feel hunger. If you are craving something, you could drink a large glass of water first. Often, this will curb the feeling of hunger and save you from eating unnecessary food your body doesn’t need.
  1. Seasonal – people often crave food that coincides with the current season. The temperature may play a role here: do you often find yourself craving warming foods in the winter (soups, meat, oil) and cooling foods (fruit, raw food, ice cream) in the summer? That is no coincidence. Fall is a time people crave “grounding” foods (squash, onions, nuts) and Spring is the time for detoxification (fruits and vegetables).
  1. Life deficiencies – having a physical, emotional and spiritual practice in our lives is just as important as the food we eat. It consists of having satisfaction in these areas of your life: career, relationship, financial, fitness, sleep, recreation, etc. If you are unhappy in any of these areas or feel stressed out, you may start to crave certain foods to keep you fulfilled emotionally (see about craving dairy below).
  1. Yin/yang imbalance – all foods are considered to have either expansive qualities (yin) or contractive qualities (yang). Everything in life has a balance and our bodies are no different. Often, when we eat foods that are one extreme of yin (e.g. sweet food), we will crave foods at the other extreme of yang (salty food) to balance us out.
  1. Mineral deficiencies – the body will crave certain foods that contain the minerals it lacks. Below you will find specific mineral deficiencies and their cravings and what foods you can eat instead to have a healthier alternative.
  2. Hormonal imbalance– cravings occur during certain times for women such as menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. This is due to certain fluctuations in the hormones like a drop in estrogen and progesterone. Imbalance in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA can also be big contributors.

Let’s dive deeper into the 7 common cravings

Craving #1: salt and salty food

Potential reasons:

  1. Adrenal fatigue: since the adrenals are also responsible for keeping our blood pressure up, when they are overworked, our body calls for support (here: salt) to bring up the blood pressure so the adrenals are released from this task.
  2. Mineral deficiencies – start the day with ¼ teaspoon of sea salt like the pink Himalayan salt in a glass of water or lemon water. Don’t be afraid of salt, sea salt won’t give you hypertension.

Craving #2: chocolate

Potential reason: magnesium deficiency.

Solution: add to your diet: legumes, raw nuts and seeds, 85% cocoa dark chocolate, leafy greens and whole grains. Take good quality magnesium supplements (not in oxide form) in glycinate or citrate form. Topically, apply magnesium oil at the bottom of your feet before bed.

Craving #3: sugar and processed food like pasta, bread

Potential reasons:

  1. candida yeast overgrowth in the gut, skin or respiratory system
  2. low estrogen and progesterone before our period


  1. Start an anti-candida diet and add plenty of top-notch probiotics.
  2. Learn to regulate your estrogen and progesterone levels throughout the cycle so the dips don’t effect you as much. You can learn how to rebalance these hormones naturally in the free exclusive 8-day full program viewing.

Craving #4: caffeine (coffee and tea)

Potential reasons:

  1. Adrenal fatigue; you need coffee to get you started and get you going through the day as your adrenals are too pooped.
  2. Lack of quality sleep; you need caffeine to compensate for the lack of energy from insufficient sleep.
  3. Stress and habit.


  1. Adrenal fatigue; adopt an adrenal recovery protocol of de-stressing, diet change and herbal/hormonal support.
  2. Stress and habit; switch to herbal teas or green tea (lower caffeine), especially matcha tea. Try the roasted chicory root “coffee” (recipe here) if it’s the taste you are after.

Craving #5: dairy

Potential reasons:

  1. Stress, loneliness, a need for an emotional connection.
  2. Calcium / magnesium deficiency.

Solutions: If tolerated, add unpasteurized, raw dairy (amino acids in milk act like opiates to relax us). If you don’t tolerate dairy, add nut or coconut-based products and creamy food like guacamole, hummus, etc.

If it’s an emotional issue, go deeper– are you feeling lonely, unloved? What do you need to change in your life to fill in this gap?

Craving #6: more food in spite of being full

Potential reasons: insulin resistance or food intolerances

Solutions: learn to regulate your sugar levels with diet and supplements. Address food intolerances by doing the Elimination Diet (by cutting the big 5 and small 5) or deeper protocols like low FODMAPs, paleo etc. My partner, Brad, has been on a low FODMAP diet for 6 months now – it has changed his life and he no longer goes on out-of-control binges after a full meal!

Craving #7: meat

Potential reason: amino acid, iron and/or B12 deficiency

Solution: consider eating meat. If you are a vegetarian and you crave or dream about meat, re-think your choices as a temporary solution to fix your health. Some people need meat to function well. The best way to start is with a bone broth or collagen powder added to drinks, smoothies or soups. If you really can’t, look into iron and B12 supplementation.

Which cravings to give in to?

It’s important to differentiate between the foods we really need to get us well and cravings that will drag us down. Here is a simple rule:

Cravings not to give in to are sugar, processed dairy, and starches (unless you’ve been on a grain-free diet and you feel like your body calls for grains in a “healthy” way) and processed food.

Cravings to give in to are fats (good quality fats only), meat, oils, fresh/raw/cooked vegetables, whole foods, salty foods containing sea salt, and good quality dairy (if tolerated).

What about you?

Have I covered all the cravings? Probably not. What are you craving? Feel free to comment below on what are you craving and what you think is causing it.

I hope this article gives you some clarity what is going on in your own body. And equally important, let’s turn our frustration with cravings to a listening exercise.

What does my body need from me?

What can I do to support it?

February 09, 2015 – 12:19 GMT 5 food cravings: what cravings for chocolate, meat, something sweet and carbohydrates actually mean

Cravings are our body’s way of telling us that something is missing. By sending these messages across, our bodies can maintain the balance of minerals, vitamins as well as energy levels. But what do our desires for certain foods really mean? We’ve asked Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at NutriCentre to help explain…

Food cravings can be the body’s way of saying something is missing, such as vitamins and minerals

Craving: Something sweet
You need: Chromium
“As you eat, your blood sugar goes up and insulin is released. If you are eating refined sugar and carbs they will hit your bloodstream fast and cause an imbalance in blood sugar. Your body will release more insulin to deal with this rapid rise in blood sugar. Once dealt with, the blood sugar levels will drop, but because you’ve generated the release of so much insulin, the levels will drop too low and you will soon feel like snacking on a bar of chocolate. The more sweets you eat, the more you will crave them – it is a catch 22.
“Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, which contains protein as well as carbohydrates (scrambled eggs with rye bread) and continue later during the day with vegetables; this helps to maintain a steady flow of blood sugar. This means that by the time you get to 4pm, your blood sugar should not have dropped so much that you need that quick sweet fix.”
To help curb sugar cravings, you can also try taking Chromium – a mineral that helps balance insulin levels and keeps afternoon sugar pangs at bay.
Craving: Chocolate
You need: Magnesium
Another craving that most of us experience on a daily basis is chocolate. However, what we really want and need is magnesium. It has been estimated that approximately 80% of the population is lacking magnesium in their daily diet. “Magnesium not only can support the immune system by preventing inflammation but it also plays a crucial role in balancing the nervous system and easing anxiety. It is also important for good bone health. The best way to deal with this craving is to reach for a square of dark chocolate (70% of cocoa).”
If you feel like you are not eating enough fish, green leafy vegetables and nuts to keep your magnesium levels balanced, try to include a supplement, for example Synergistic Magnesium, available from for £5.99.

Craving chocolate? What you need is magnesium, says nutritionist at NutriCentre, Shona Wilkinson

Craving: Salt
You need: Sodium
“If you crave salty food, it could mean that your sodium levels are too low, usually due to dehydration (after exercise, illness or drinking alcohol),” says nutritionist Shona.
“Sodium is a very important mineral that helps to maintain water balance in our body and regulate blood pressure. You can quickly replenish it by snacking dried anchovies or salted popcorn, which are naturally high in sodium. You can also find small amounts of this mineral in celery and carrots, which should help your craving.”
Craving: Stodgy carbohydrates
You need: Tryptophan
“Carb cravings are a sign of low levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is necessary for the serotonin production – a ‘happy’ brain chemical. It plays a crucial role in sleep and wake cycles as well as digestion. A lack of it can lead to low mood and anxiety. Instead of reaching for stodgy carbs try to include certain protein in your diet that can provide you with a fair amount of tryptophan, such as turkey, eggs, bananas or walnuts.”
Craving: Meat
You need: Iron
“Craving meat could mean that your body needs iron. Recently, there has been a growing tendency to cut down on red meat in our diet, which is a main cause of iron deficiency. It plays a vital role in supporting the immune system, as it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without it, we become fatigued and tired. Try to include red meat at least once a week in your diet and add lentils, spinach and pumpkin seeds, which are also a great source of minerals and vitamins.”
Alternatively, you can replenish iron deficiency by taking Iron by Nature’s Plus, available from for £8.09.

Why I crave bananas and you should too!

Bananas seem to get a bad rap for being high in calories, sugars, and carbohydrates, but really they are one of the best foods for you. Bananas are loaded in magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and of course, potassium, making this fruit a serious health booster.

Their potassium and magnesium combination can:

  • lower blood pressure, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease
  • keep your bones healthy and fight against osteoporosis

Their vitamin C helps to:

  • strengthen your immune system to fight off colds
  • boost your collagen production to keep your skin fresh and plump

Their B6 and magnesium helps:

  • improve cognition and fight off premature cognitive decline
  • boost your mood, reduce irritability, and help combat stress

They are also a great source of fiber, providing 3 grams per banana (about 12% of your daily needs) that promotes gut health, lowers cholesterol, and helps to prevent diabetes.

Peel + Eat

Make bananas a part of your daily plan by eating them for 1 of your 2 daily fruit servings. Pair them with a little protein and you have the perfect snack. I love to eat them with 2 tablespoons of nut butter or nuts. You can also slice them up and add them to your plain Greek yogurt with some hemp hearts or try this smoothie. Have a banana solo for the ultimate pre-workout snack since their easily digestible carbohydrates will give you a quick boost of energy. Post-workout, bananas are a great way to restore the potassium you lost during that sweat session.

So why the bad reputation?

Bananas contain about 14 grams of natural sugar, because fruit, which has seemed to cause the false alarm. Their naturally occurring sugar along with those essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber is what makes this fruit a healthy choice. The fiber actually slows down your body’s absorption of sugar, preventing spikes in your blood sugar that occur when you drink juice, soda, or eat sweets. Yes, if you overeat ANY food, you will gain weight. (Here are some tips to help with that!) But if you keep your daily fruit intake to two servings a day and make 1 of them a banana, you will come out way ahead of the health game.

For more of my nutritional superfood picks and wellness weapons, make an appointment and get your very own list of all my favorite foods, brands, and products!

What Your Cravings Could Be Telling You (And How To Troubleshoot Them)

Cravings frequently signal a need for specific nutrients. Generally, if you are consuming whole food meals that contain vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, then cravings are usually kept at bay.
Besides eating well balanced, nutrient-dense meals, here are more ways to combat cravings:
• Drink more water! Sometimes we mistaken thirst for hunger.
• Don’t skip breakfast! Start your morning with protein and fat to stabilize blood sugar levels
• Consume fibre, protein, and good fat at every meal
• Notice if your meal contains all ‘6 tastes’ to keep you satisfied
• Be prepared. Always have healthy snacks on hand in between meals
• Use spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to enhance the flavour of your food and balance blood sugar levels
• Steer clear of tip toeing into the vicious carb/sugar vortex in the first place by avoiding white, refined food like pastas, breads, and white rice because they will cause a quick spike in blood sugar, leading you to crave sweets and more refined foods!
Here are some cravings I hear most often from my clients and the foods I suggest they combat them with:
Craving chocolate? This can be a deficiency of magnesium, b-vitamins, chromium, and/or essential fatty acids
Troubleshoot it with: dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, mackerel, beans, lentils, brown rice, avocado, or make a Creamy Chocolate Banana Smoothie: 2 tsp raw cacao, 1 cup almond milk, ¼ avocado, 1 small ripe banana, 1 tsp almond butter, 1 pitted medjool date
Craving salty foods? It could be an indication you have a mineral imbalance and that you actually are lacking in enough sodium. Also you are not hydrating enough!
Troubleshoot it with: sea vegetables like nori, kelp, dulse. I sneak 1 tsp of this into my smoothies. Stay away from table salt which is stripped away of its minerals, instead sprinkle celtic sea salt, himalayan pink salt at every meal. And get in some of that good ol’ H2O!
Craving bread? It could mean you are not getting enough amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. One amino acid in particular,tryptophan, is needed to synthesize the mood-regulating brain chemical (serotonin) that can be lacking in the diet.
Troubleshoot it by: upping your protein, consuming quinoa, nuts, fish, and tryptophan containing foods like turkey, eggs, cashews, walnuts, and bananas.
Craving sugar? Your body really wants glucose.
Your body needs some glucose to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Troubleshoot it with: fruits like apples, pears, berries, and starchy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, squash, plantains, grains, legumes
Craving pizza, cheese and fried foods? You are probably not consuming enough healthy fats.
We need fat! It helps fuel our brain to keep us sharp and focused, and improves our mood! It’s also needed to boost immunity, and send signals to our glands to produce hormones. Also, consumption of fat during a meal actually helps you feel full since it’s slow to digest. Another bonus? Eating fat actually helps you lose excess fat from your body!
Troubleshoot it with: avocados, coconut oil, ghee, butter, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, salmon, flax seeds. NOTE: Craving cheese is also a sign of calcium or vitamin D deficiency – load up on leafy greens and un-hulled sesame seeds, fish, and eggs
Craving Coffee? You’re body is just looking for energy!
Besides the fact that coffee contains an addictive chemical in it (caffeine), take notice that maybe it’s the sugar you are craving that you put into it. Regardless if you enjoy it black or not, your body is looking for energy. But since coffee is a stimulant, it ends up depleting some of your body’s mineral stores, making you end up feeling worn out later on in the day.
Troubleshoot it by: opting for a green smoothie, green tea, raw honey or stevia sweetened matcha latte, or fresh green juice instead.
Sometimes, cravings can be related to an emotional need. Sadness, boredom, stress, poor self-esteem, negative body image (and the list goes on) may trigger the desire to fill a void using food. I know it’s tempting to want to dive into a box of cookies after a long, stressful day. But since food cravings are often fleeting and disappear within an hour, those times when we are emotionally sensitive are actually the times when our bodies need to be most properly nourished in order to lift our spirits up and boost our mood! Choose healthier options that give you enough satisfaction in the moment while the craving passes.
If cravings are very strong no matter what you have tried to do, you might want to consider consulting with a healthcare practitioner to investigate chronic symptoms. For example, you might do this through your ND (Naturopathic Doctor). They have access to a variety of unique tests and can be a great guide to support and ask for other tests, that are covered, from your doctor. There are specialized food and environmental allergy testing businesses that provide useful answers as well.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle should never be stressful. If you are looking for more guidance with tweaking your diet for optimal health in order to reach your fitness goals, I can help you take the guess work out of it all and help you transition smoothly. Book a nutritional consultation with In-House Holistic Nutritionist, Maya Eid to get started!

Why do I crave sugar after a workout?

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