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Maybe you often hear that cravings indicate a deficiency. That’s pretty far out the window, and I’ll explain why.
Most of our foods today, are so highly processed that our nervous system gets greater pleasure satisfaction from them than nature intended. What happens in the brain when we eat bread, chocolate, and similar foods? More dopamine is released. Especially more than with unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. As a result, unprocessed foods no longer taste as good to us, and that’s why we eat less of them.
Reasons for cravings
The reason you have cravings for pizza or chocolate is quite simple. The nervous system demands foods that provide the quickest pleasure satisfaction, as well as those with the highest calorie density. Until recently, mankind’s main problem was getting enough food. Hunger was the order of the day. Thus, it made sense for our ancestors to crave the most calorie-dense foods because they didn’t know how long it would take to find the next food source. One ate in stock, so to speak.
Over millions of years, our bodies have adapted to their environmental condition, in this case, food scarcity. Today, the opposite is true. We have an abundance of food. Not only that, the food we consume is too calorie-dense for us.
Because we eat so much processed food, the foods originally intended for us no longer taste as good. Vegetables get spiked with oil to get them down. You probably know this when you eat candy and then a piece of fruit. The fruit doesn’t taste as sweet as it should.
Do you get cravings for vegetables on a regular basis? Probably not. Surely more likely to crave unhealthy things, right? The more you consume these processed foods, the more you crave them. The same pleasure centers are triggered in the brain as with drugs, cigarettes, and other stimulants. Although not in the same strength, strong enough to have an impact on your nervous system in the form of cravings.
Your nervous system is conditioned to it when you regularly eat the certain extras. If you reduce or completely eliminate processed foods, the cravings will go away. However, it can happen from time to time that it flares up. This is called spontaneous recovery. Your nervous system never forgets the taste explosion of high-calorie food.
However, cravings will occur less and less often the longer you don’t eat processed foods. Why is that? You’ve probably heard of the Pavlovian reflex, which describes classical conditioning. You can find the exact explanation in this article: The most common mistakes in weight loss under point 6) Indulging in cravings.
Vegetables that help with cravings
To prevent cravings, there is one food group that does it best. Green vegetables! Especially:
The greener, the better in the fight against cravings. Green vegetables contain a substance called thylakoid, which turns off the hunger switch and helps fight cravings for unhealthy foods. A pound of vegetables that have no starch has fewer calories than a tablespoon of olive oil.
Eat at least 1–2 pounds of vegetables every day and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be just green vegetables by any means. Fill half your plate with starches (potatoes, brown rice, legumes, etc.) and the other with vegetables. This will make a huge difference in your craving levels and on the scale if you have weight to lose.
For example, you could have a big salad with rice for lunch and vegetable soup with potatoes in the evening.
Your perspective on cravings
A pound of vegetables sounds like more than it is. That’s because vegetables contain a lot of water. When my husband and I were RVing for several months, we had to empty our camping toilet three times as often as anyone else for that reason. It was so heavy that sometimes I was afraid my husband would fall into the abyss along with the poo. 10 pounds just has to go into the abyss 😉
Don’t let the crowd scare you off. It’s helpful to change your mindset when it comes to cravings. Put the right perspective on this situation. You are eliminating the unhealthy foods from your life on one hand, which feels more like a loss at first – however, you are now eating more fruits and vegetables. So it is easier to try to eat more fruits and vegetables every day because you will automatically eat less unhealthy things.
It is not how much we eat, but what we eat that counts
Our ancestors ate a diet with a caloric density of about 500 calories per pound. In total, they ate about 4–5 pounds per day, which equates to about 2000–2500 calories at a caloric density of 500 kcal/pound. The average person today eats between 3–5 pounds of food, according to Barbara Rolls. The big difference, however, is in what is eaten. Food today averages 720–820 calories/pound. The result: obesity, constipation, disease, etc. For optimal health and weight management, your daily caloric intake should be under 600 calories per pound.
It is important to fill up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes every day. Definitely don’t limit them. What you cut back on these foods will show up as cravings after a few weeks at the latest, and you’ll end up with exactly what you didn’t want to eat in the first place. If you keep this up, then cravings will be reduced to a minimum.
Chewing is good
It’s unusual to eat a lot of vegetables in the beginning because raw vegetables in particular require a high level of your chewing ability.
Our jaws are designed to chew a lot. Did you know that one of the main reasons we have cavities is because our food has become too soft? Smoothies, buns, cakes, pasta, and the like are all soft foods. We love soft things because humans conserve energy when they chew less. And we humans are masters at saving energy.
If we wanted to have a more pronounced chewing bar à la Brad Pitt, we should have nibbled more carrots ;-).
Pimp up my Veggies
Especially in the beginning, when you’re not used to eating a lot of vegetables yet, you can prepare them in a versatile way to make them taste better. If you bake the vegetables in the oven, it intensifies the flavor. A salad is catapulted in taste to another level by a good (oil-free!) dressing, e.g. Caesar dressing.
What’s your favorite green vegetable or which one should become your favorite in the future?
Don’t forget: eat your greens!
If you need help with weight loss, binge eating, or healthy eating in general, feel free to schedule a consultation with me.
Asp, Karen (2019), Losing Weight on a Plant-Based, Vegan Diet: Tips for Success viewed on 01/21/2019 from https://www.forksoverknives.com/vegan-plant-based-diet-weight-loss-diet-tips/#gs.t3bxw2
Wikipedia, Volumetrics Diät, viewd on 01/21/2019 from https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volumetrics-Di%C3%A4t