"Carb Cravings" is a common term used for addictions to sugary or starchy foods that cause a short term 'feel-good' response in the brain.
This feel-good response is due to the release of a chemical called "serotonin", which is directly linked to refined grains and simple sugars that cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, making you constantly crave sweet foods to stay on a 'high'.
The problem with Carb Cravings is that they're one of the biggest causes of obesity, diabetes, inflammation in the body and chronic fatigue syndrome, so it's important to know what causes this addiction and what to do about it.
Here we reveal the truth about carb cravings, why not all "carbs" are created equal, and which carbs you should eat to avoid the health problems associated with carb cravings.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are an essential macro nutrient which are often seen as the enemy, even though they're a crucial part of a healthy, balanced diet.
The problem is that "simple" and "complex" carbohydrates are often interpreted as the same thing, when the truth is they are very different.
Too often a blanket gets thrown over good carbs (complex carbohydrates) and bad carbs (processed simple sugars & refined grains) together, and this unfortunately causes many people to completely overlook an entire food group that is actually very important for a healthy diet.
So, what are carbohydrates and why should you eat them?
Carbohydrates are a key macronutrient used by the body to produce energy, which are found in all whole plant food sources - fresh fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
In their natural unrefined state, these foods are vital sources of energy for your cells, cardiovascular system and they deliver crucial fibres for healthy digestion.
On the other hand, processed and refined carbohydrates are the problem "carbs" that lead to insulin resistance and a variety of health issues as already stated.
The typical 'culprit carbs' are white flour, white bread, white pasta, white rice, cookies, muffins, cakes, energy bars, packaged cereals and frozen foods. These are all usually highly processed and devoid of the vital nutrients that your body needs for slow release sustained energy. Instead, these processed, man-made foods release fast-sugars into the blood stream that causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash, depleting your energy and causing you to constantly crave more fast sugars and calories.
On the other hand, examples of good carbs are complex carbohydrates such as whole grain rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oats, beans and real whole grain bread. All of these deliver slow-release energy to the cells as well as key nutrients such as fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and quality protein which your body needs to function optimally.
The bottom line is, when you eat complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbs and simple sugars, you’ll feel more satisfied after eating them and you won’t feel suddenly tired or hungry soon after eating, which is ultimately the key to avoiding the hapless cycle of carb cravings and carb addictions.
Are You Getting Enough Nourishment?
One of the reasons you might be craving carbs could be that you’re not getting enough nourishment from healthy food.
If you’re trying to cut out calories to lose weight or if you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals, quality protein, fibre and healthy fats each day, you could simply be malnourished without even realising it, and therefore constantly hungry.
This is what causes your body to crave anything that will give it a quick source of energy - and more often than not, you’ll want to reach for a sugary snack which will only bring you temporary satisfaction.
If you find yourself regularly craving these types of foods, it's a great idea to have a supply of raw nuts or nut butters on hand, such as macadamias, brazil nuts, almonds or walnuts.
Alternatively, keep handy with you during the day some whole or dried fruits, such as ripe bananas, dates, dried mango or dried apricots. All of these are simple solutions to keep you satiated, which will keep your energy steady instead of up and down like a yo-yo as is the case with carb cravings.
Are You Eating a Balanced Diet?
When you have constant carb cravings it means you're addicted to simple sugars, which is not good for your long term health.
Carb cravings become a vicious cycle: you eat a muffin, your blood sugar spikes, you feel satisfied for a short amount of time...and then before your blood sugar drops again, your brain sends a message to you to eat once again to stop you from becoming tired, irritable and unfocused!
This means you could be craving carbs all the time simply because you’re not eating a healthy, balanced diet.
The solution is to make sure you limit processed food and to fill your snacks and meals with whole food as much as possible. Add as much variety to your diet as you can to ensure you’re getting everything your body needs - a good mix of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, good fats, quality protein and grass-fed/pasture raised animal products (if you're not vegetarian).
The basic rule of thumb should be, "eat as close to nature as possible" and this will begin the process of helping to avoid carb cravings and reap the benefits of a healthy diet.
The Main Take Away
Carb Cravings are the result of an addiction to simple sugars and refined foods that put you constantly on the energy and blood sugar merry-go-round.
This is definitely something you'll want to avoid if you care about your long term health and vitality, which means you should make the switch to whole food energy sources that are designed to sustain and nourish you.
Start by following a balanced diet consisting of a variety of whole foods that you source locally. Eat plenty of quality protein, good fats and don't be afraid of carbs - just ensure that you eat the unrefined versions the way nature intended.
When you consciously adjust your approach to the way you eat in this way, you'll quickly find that carb cravings will become a thing of the past.
Plus, you'll feel great, you'll be less hungry, you'll be less prone to inflammation and disease, and you'll have more energy than you ever thought possible.
Learn more in our blog 7 Top Energy-Boosting Foods
Tolman Self Care.