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How to curb those food cravings?

Cravings are what make us mere mortals. We all have them. They strike fast and hard and before you know it, you have shoved down your mouth fistfuls of potato chips or half-a-dozen chocolate cookies, or both.

There’s a study out there that says 91 % of people have food cravings. It’s a vicious cycle. These urges are fuelled by feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine which is released when you eat comfort foods and this creates a rush of euphoria that your brain then wants over and over and over again.

While not everyone may have the willpower to resist giving in, here are some questions to ask yourself the next time you want to reach for that jar of peanut brittle so you are more aware of what’s really driving those food cravings:

• Am I stressed?
When you’re under pressure your body releases a hormone called cortisol which signals to your brain that it wants a reward. Comfort food, especially the kind loaded with sugar and fat, helps “Apply The Brakes” to the stress building up in the system by blunting this hormone.

• Have I been eating less than usual?
By consuming fewer than 1,000 calories a day or restricting an entire food group (like carbs), you tend to put your body in prime craving mode. Sometimes making certain foods off-limits can lead to obsessing and binge eating.

• Am I sleeping enough?
Sleepless nights can lead to a drop by up to 18% in levels of a hormone called Leptin – this is the one that signals to the brain that the body has had its fill of food. At the same time, it also boosts levels of a hormone called ghrelin, an appetite trigger, by about 30%. These two changes alone can cause one’s appetite to kick into overdrive resulting in a craving for starchy foods.

• Am I a creature of habit?
Our brain loves routines. We may not realize how routines such as eating cheese popcorn while watching TV seem innocent enough but can create powerful associations resulting in cravings.

Once you answer these questions, here are a few foods that can help curb cravings:

Fava beans, chicken, oats, wheat germ, mustard greens, cottage cheese, dates pureed fudge cookies (fudge cookies made of pureed dates?).

You can combine them as you like to make your own comfort food but with fewer calories.

Sweet Potato Pancakes with Coconut Cream

These fluffy, slightly sweet pancakes are topped with coconut cream and toasted coconut, which helps keep the sugar count low without compromising on flavor. They’re made with an entire cup of mashed sweet potatoes, which are a great source of vitamin A and potassium.

                                                    Buckwheat Pancake with Roasted Tomato Salsa

If you prefer savory over sweet flavors, this pancake and salsa duo is just for you. The buckwheat pancakes are super thin, making them perfect for wrapping up the tomato, corn, onions, and avocados.

Dr. Rajat Gupta

Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Panchsheel Park