Cravings for salty foods can be a cue that you’re stressed and overexerted. That’s because chronic stress can disrupt adrenal gland function. Along with regulating your stress hormone, cortisol, the adrenals are also responsible for regulating sodium via the production of the hormone aldosterone. When your body is stressed, it produces high levels of cortisol, which can lead to a decrease in the production of aldosterone. This can cause an imbalance of sodium—and an itch for something salty. If this sounds like you, focus on ways to manage and reduce stress, such as mindfulness and meditation, yoga and exercise, and improving sleep.
Dehydration or excessive sweating can also increase salt cravings. These cravings tend to be in more extreme cases such as excessive sweating from endurance training or working in very hot environments. You also might want to watch out for this if you’re frequently taking hot yoga classes or other heated workouts, or if you’re consistently not getting enough hydrating beverages into your day.
Craving sweets and carbs
Sugar cravings or constant cravings for carb-y foods can have a number of potential underlying causes.
You’re over restricting food
The first thing to consider is your relationship with sugar and carbohydrates. If you tend to label these foods as “bad”, “off limits,” or “unhealthy”, or you’re restricting them too much in your diet, this can contribute to a negative relationship with these foods. Significant restrictions of these foods combined with feelings of guilt or shame when eating them can actually cause us to think more about them and crave them more intensely.
If you feel like this may be the case, healing your relationship with sugar or carbohydrates may alleviate your cravings all together. Intuitive eating can be a great tool to start to understand your cravings and make peace with foods you lack trust around. This goes for any food that you may be overly restricting or feeling fear around.
You’re hungry or fatigued
Not eating enough at meal times or skipping meals can cause the body to look for the quickest source of energy it can find. Sugar and carbohydrates (specifically refined carbohydrates) are absorbed quickly and give us a boost in energy, causing cravings to set in after a day of limited food intake. For this same reason, we often crave simple sugars and carbohydrates when feeling tired or fatigued so our bodies can get a quick pick me up.
Your sleep is off
Research suggests a strong link between sleep quality and sugar cravings. Restless nights affect brain regions that control decision making and reward responses, resulting in increased cravings for sugar, as well as fat and salt. A lack of sleep also affects hormones like ghrelin and leptin, which regulate your hunger levels throughout the day, and may lead to an increase in cravings of quick energy sources like sugar and carbs.
Your plate is missing something
Craving carbs or sugar can also occur if blood sugar is too high or low. If your plate is imbalanced or your meals are mostly simple or refined sugar/carbs, this can cause quick spikes and drops in blood sugar and have the body looking for more. Refined or simple carbohydrates enter the bloodstream quickly and raise blood sugar and insulin. Protein, fat, and fiber, on the other hand, ensure meals are absorbed at a nice slow pace and help us to feel full and satisfied. Specifically, too little protein in the diet has been linked to an increase in food craving.
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