We've all see-sawed between depriving ourselves and binging on the food we crave, usually because we crave things that we know we should avoid. According to Annemarie Colbin, PhD, founder of the Natural Gourmet Institute and prominent author and lecturer on natural health and holistic medicine, we should listen to some cravings. They are the body's signal to search for nutrients it needs to operate properly. However, we often also crave addictive foods and substances that are nonessential (and often harmful) to our bodies.
People who experience a food addiction indulge in stimulants such as sugar, white flour, chocolate, coffee, and alcohol. Giving them up can lead to withdrawal symptoms like unpleasant headaches, intense cravings, depression, and anxiety. One bite can instantaneously alleviate these symptoms while propelling the body to pig out. Remember, easily ridding yourself of the symptoms won't reverse the addiction. Colbin says the first four days of a cleanse are the hardest, but the cravings will diminish with patience and time.
Let's take a look at the biggest culprit. We all know that white sugar is detrimental to our heath, but here's why sugar should be hard to swallow. In her book Food and Healing ($16), Colbin explains, "To metabolize refined sugar, the body draws out the missing companion nutrients (needed as catalysts in the digestive process) from other sources." The "other sources" can be additional foods eaten during the meal, or else your body strips the micronutrients from its own tissues. Colbin warns that to digest sugar, "We lose B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, [and] iron . . . from our own reserves." This is obviously a body's last resort, and the body will try to flash a hunger signal first to search for foods with essential nutrients. Instead of bulking up on unnecessary calories to find the right food to satisfy your munchies, Colbin has mapped out an easy-to-use chart.
Refer to Colbin's chart of "Common Cravings and How to Deal With Them" to figure out types of food your body really wants when you are craving food you shouldn't eat.
|To Diminish Cravings For||Have More||Eat Less||Substitute|
|Sugar (cakes, cookies, pastries, candy, ice cream)||Whole grains, baked yams, squash, apples, dates, cooked fruit||Meat, salt, dairy products||Frozen bananas (for ice cream), desserts sweetened with barley malt, rice syrup, maple syrup|
|Alcohol||Complex carbohydrates, vegetables, corn, leafy bitter greens||Fats, salt, miso, soy sauce, animal protein||Nonalcoholic beer, fruit|
|Coffee||Vegetables, salad||Meat, sugar, flour, grain, salt||Grain coffee|
|Salt||Seaweed, black beans, vegetables||Sweets, fats, alcohol, meat, grain||Natural soy sauce, miso (small amounts), herbs, and spices|
|Milk Products||Leafy greens, whole grains, beans, fish||Sugar, baked goods, fruit, meat||Tofu (small amounts), nut milk|
|Fats and Sweets||Protein: beans, fish, chicken, eggs||Grain, fruit, salad||Try to eliminate from diet|