Craving Carbs? Here's What Causes It & How to Take Back Control

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"Carb" cravings and addictions are common these days because many people have lost the taste for wholesome, real food.

Unfortunately today, the word "carbs" have become an unhealthy word. 

But it's important to remember that this term is derived from "carbohydrate", which is an important macronutrient that the human body needs to thrive.

Generally, "carbs" refers to all manner of processed and refined sugars and grains. 

And the problem with these foods is that they've been stripped of their natural nutrients, keeping you malnourished and in a cycle that can lead to obesity, diabetes and a host of inflammatory diseases.

If you have constant "carb" cravings, it's generally a sign that you're lacking nourishment in some way.

You might be thirsty, tired, upset, or lacking a balanced diet. It could also mean that you are addicted to processed food, which needs to change if you want to avoid sickness and chronic degenerative disease down the road.

Whether you’re craving sweet treats or salty snacks, controlling your carb cravings is completely doable but it is a process to unwire because there is usually an emotional attachment that has developed over time.

The good news is that once you figure out the triggers and what causes the craving, you can consciously adjust with healthier habits and more wholesome food choices. 

The result is that you'll become more nourished, energised and you'll be more in control of your overall wellness.  Keep reading to find out why you might be craving carbs and how you can get back to a healthier you.

1. What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are often seen as the enemy, but they’re actually a crucial part of a healthy, balanced diet. The trouble is that "simple" and "complex" carbs are very often interpreted as the same thing. The good (complex carbs) get lumped in with the bad (simple carbs), leading to a complete avoidance of a main food group. 

So, what are carbohydrates and why should you eat them?

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient found in high quantities in whole foods from nature's table - fresh fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.

These are vital sources of energy for your cells, cardiovascular health (heart and blood) and they deliver crucial fibres for healthy digestion.

Refined carbohydrates on the other hand - "carbs" - which include foods like white flour, white bread, white pasta, white rice, cereals, cookies and cakes, are highly processed and devoid of vital nutrients. Your body can’t use them as intended and they spike your blood sugar levels in an unhealthy way, as well as often leading to obesity, diabetes and more.

Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, like quinoa, sweet potatoes, oats, beans, whole grain bread and wild rice, take longer for your body to break down.  They deliver slow release energy and don't disrupt the pancreas by spiking insulin, and they provide key nutrients such as fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and quality protein. You’ll feel more satisfied after eating them and you won’t feel suddenly tired or hungry an hour later. 

2. 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, protein, fibre and healthy fats each day, you could simply be malnourished, and therefore, constantly hungry.

This will cause 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, energy bar or cookie which will bring you only temporary satisfaction.

If you find yourself regularly craving these types of foods, be sure to have a handy supply of raw nuts and dried fruit e.g. macadamias, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts and dried mango and dried apricots, are all great ways to go and will knock out cravings when they take hold.

When it comes to meal time, think "nourishment" in terms of whole foods you can incorporate that have not been processed or refined. Now, that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy your pizza, pasta or stir fry.  It just means you should find ways to shift the balance of whole unprocessed food in your diet as close to 80% as you can get.  Once your body gets used to receiving the nutrients it needs, you'll be less likely to desire processed carbs over time. 

Learn more in Essential Plant-Based Foods for Balanced Nutrition.

3. Are You Eating a Balanced Diet? 

Eating refined carbohydrates leads you to crave more refined carbohydrates.

It becomes a vicious cycle: you eat a donut, your blood sugar spikes, you feel satisfied for a short amount of time before your blood sugar drops again, and your body needs to replace it before you become tired, irritable, and unfocused.

You could be craving carbs all the time simply because you’re not eating a balanced diet.

Make sure your meals are filled with whole foods as much as possible, with a variety of nutrients to ensure you’re getting everything you need. Eat a mix of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based protein. Try and eat food in its most natural form to reap even more health benefits.

Healthy snack and meal time choices include:

  • Fresh Fruit
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Dried Fruit
  • Pulse Sacred Meal
  • Green Salads
  • Bean & Lentil Salads
  • Steamed, Baked and Stir Fried Vegetables
  • Vegetable & Bean Soups 
  • Avocado and Salad Sandwiches on Wholegrain Bread
  • Cornucopia Epicurean Snack
  • Homemade Dips e.g. Hummus
  • Nut Butters e.g. Peanut, Almond & Macadamia.

At the same time, limit the amount of highly processed food you eat, including fast food, soda, fried foods, refined carbohydrates, added sugar, and other food additives. You’ll quickly stop craving them once you’re not consuming them all the time. 

Learn more in 8 Tips for Healthy Blood Sugar Balance. 

4. Emotional Need

If you’re following a balanced diet and getting enough food every day and you still can’t control your carb cravings, there could be an underlying issue.

Over eating or an addiction to processed food is usually a sign that you're eating for emotional comfort. 

There’s no doubt about it, carbs can be comfort food, but because they're addictive they're only a temporary band-aid. 

When you’re upset, stressed, or tired, refined carbs are often what we turn to for a burst of energy or a serotonin hit. 

The key is to find a way to quickly de-stress or shift your emotional state so that you don't default to the processed food. A walk, workout, swim in the ocean, deep breathing exercise, or calming music are all quick ways to reset your state of being and feel better about yourself so that you'll make better choices and distract you from your carb craving. 

If you’re upset, don’t hide from the source of it. Figure out what you can control, deal with it, and let it go. Talk to willing friend who can support you or journal your thoughts rather than reaching for a pastry or bowl of sugary cereal. 

Also, consider going to bed earlier and diffusing essential oils when you sleep. A well rested body is more likely to make smart dietary choices than one that is constantly jittery and exhausted.

Remember to exercise daily to boost your energy and self esteem.  The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you'll choose healthier, more wholesome food.

Learn more in 7 Top Energy-Boosting ‘Superfoods’. 

The main takeaway is that we need to keep in mind that "carbs" are not the enemy.  Instead, we need to realise that there are good and bad carbohydrates and that it's up to us to nourish ourselves with the good ones so that we can have energy, vitality and help to avoid disease and health problems. 

Tolman Self Care.

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