Why is it that junk foods always smells and tastes so good? It’s strange how we train our bodies to crave food that is of low nutritional value and damages our health.
A big part of the “junk food cycle” is that we have gotten into the habit of using food for reasons other than simple nutrition to energize our bodies. A hallmark of an unhealthy diet is to use food to satisfy cravings that are generated by stress, boredom, depression, frustration, anger, etc. Patients in my San Diego Chiropractic Clinic struggle with junk foods cravings all the time. This type of eating usually involves cookies, cake, chocolate, candy and a host of fattening foods.
The Science Behind Junk Foods
Cravings aren’t simply gaffs in will power. There are physiological reasons behind our desire to eat junk foods. Although these physiological reasons are many and complex, the bottom line is that eating sweets triggers the release of insulin which stimulates neurotransmitters and hormones that make us feel better. This sugar induced “feel good” is only a short term solution that has us quickly reaching for more junk foods. There are also specific “trigger foods” that cause cravings for sugars. A specific example is that hot and spicy foods increase the desire for chocolate. By keeping a close eye on your diet you may discover similar patterns – once you are aware of them you can start to avoid or control them. For example, I know that if I brush my teeth right after eating spicy foods that my chocolate craving is almost immediately “fixed”.
We know that emotional stress triggers the desire to consume foods that make us feel better but these situations remain difficult to control. Unfortunately, emotional eating usually doesn’t just start – it is typically a learned behavior that is carried from childhood making it extremely difficult to control. The best bet is to not have junk foods in the house at all – if they are not there you can’t eat them. If that doesn’t work for you, try these other techniques based on actual physiological responses to control your cravings.
- Choose chicken, tuna, or eggs to cut your carbohydrate cravings. These foods contain tryptophan which increase serotonin and lifts your spirits making it easier to resist cravings for sugary carbohydrates.
- Practice deep breathing to help reduce stress. Put one hand on your belly and one on your chest – inhale deeply to a count of five, feeling your belly expand. Next, exhale slowly to a count of seven, drawing your belly in toward your spine. Breathing like this moves nitric oxide to your lungs, widening your blood vessels and sending extra oxygen and blood to your brain. This exercise is calming and can help you resist comfort foods.
- Getting enough sleep can curb sugar cravings. When your body doesn’t get at least 7 hours of sleep every night to rejuvenate its supplies of serotonin and dopamine, it tries to compensate for the shortage by making you crave sugary foods.
- Be wary of “trigger foods” that increase junk food cravings. Hot, spicy foods and sweets can make you crave sweets. Spicy foods in particular make us crave chocolate. Lose the spicy stuff and you will lose some of your cravings.
If you can get some of your cravings for sweets and other junk foods under control and add regular exercise and stretching to your lifestyle you will make fast, noticeable improvements in the way you look and feel!
The primary purpose of chiropractic care is to improve your overall health through chiropractic adjustments, nutritional support and specific exercises and stretches.