Remember that one time when I got home late from school and started cooking lima beans for a quick supper? I ended up not eating them because while they were cooking, I realized that I was craving something else. We talked about slowing down to recognize internal hunger cues and honoring cravings for specific foods. Eating intuitively when hungry, stopping when full, and having exactly what you feel like is tricky but beneficial if the craving was identified correctly. For most people cravings for specific foods are purely mental (i.e. reaching for food when seeking emotional comfort) but in some cases a craving might be a sign of a deficiency (vitamin, mineral or calorie.) We’ve heard of those crazy iron-deficient pregnant ladies who turn into savages for red meat and drink laundry starch (although laundry starch has no significant amounts.) The well-known craving for chocolate amongst women may mean they have a shortage of magnesium, a mineral found in chocolate that relaxes muscles, regulates insulin and blood sugar levels, and helps certain enzymes function. It also helps to regulate your body’s level of cortisol, which tend to get depleted when we’re under pressure. The biological effects magnesium has on the body could explain my decision to choose a chocolate cake doughnut over the vanilla cream-filled when they were offered at the library to students studying for finals last night. If people were constantly in tune with their body and desired only what their body needs, we would all eat more broccoli and less chocolate. But chocolate generally tastes better and is easier to pick up at the check-out counter when paying for gas.
Food craving are fascinating to me and I feel proud when I take the time to successfully identify one of my own. For example, reasonable scientific data can back last night’s urge to drive to the 24-hour Kroger and buy a box of spinach and strawberries. On nearly every list of stress-busting foods you’ll notice carbohydrates that are rich in magnesium, Vitamin C, potassium, and Tryptophan. Together these elements help the body deal with high levels of stress and carbohydrates to stimulate the brain’s production of serotonin, which also helps to relax. A sweet potato for breakfast was the ultimate food for me this morning because I felt instantly fuzzy after eating it. Fuzzy is an adjective that I invented three seconds ago used to describe the specific feeling that I get after eating certain foods. These foods are generally rich in complex carbohydrates producing a slow rise to blood sugar levels, and are also loaded with vitamins and minerals contributing to depleted stores. In the past foods that make me feel fuzzy have been beans, oatmeal and sweet potatoes. Tonight I will feel fuzzy after eating my strawberry spinach salad; a meal that will provide beneficial vitamins and minerals during this busy week. Taking time to identify the specific foods that your body needs can be rewarding both mentally and physically. It’s tricky and takes discipline, but if you recognize internal hunger cues and eat intuitively you’ll get a nice fuzzy feeling too.
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