Low carb

Five Tips to Curb Carb Cravings – Cleveland Clinic

Five Tips to Curb Carb Cravings - Cleveland Clinic

You know the feeling: you get hit with a hunger pang and start consuming any high-carb snack you can get your hands on. But after the bulimia, comes the regret and then, a few hours later, we are hungry again.

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It’s a vicious circle, but one that most of us are familiar with. And while it may seem like a mystery, there are actually several reasons why you might be craving carbs throughout the day. To better understand why this happens and how you can reduce your carb cravings, we spoke to a Registered Dietitian. Anna Taylor, Dt.P..

Why we crave carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are one of the three main sources of fuel for us in our diet, alongside protein and fat. And for that reason, Taylor says it’s important to remember that carbs are not forbidden foods.

“Carbs aren’t bad,” she says. “They play an important role in a balanced diet. We want carbs because they are our body’s preferred fuel source, especially for activity and exercise.

The important role carbohydrates play is the root of why we need and want carbohydrates as part of our overall diet. But there are also specific times when certain behaviors trigger particularly strong carb cravings and, according to Taylor, these are the times we need to watch out for.

Too many refined carbohydrates

One of the main reasons you might crave carbs is because you eat refined carbs or simple sugars. Some of the most common examples are white bread, pastries, sodas, and even pizza.

“When we eat too many of these refined carbs, it increases our cravings for these foods,” says Taylor. This is a process known as the insulin response. When we consume a lot of these refined carbohydrates, these foods are more quickly digested and absorbed by the body, causing blood sugar levels to rise. This spike, in turn, triggers hunger which forces us, yes, to seek out those refined carbs again and keep the cycle going.

Too few healthy carbs and calories

Another reason you might be craving carbs is that you’re consuming too little to begin with. Of your body’s three main fuels – carbs, protein, and fat – carbs burn the fastest.

“Your body digests and absorbs these fuels at different rates and they all do different things for your body,” Taylor notes. “So if you don’t include enough carbs in your intake, your body is going to crave it.”

Taylor says sometimes people don’t eat enough calories overall. “If you’re not eating enough at all, then you’re definitely not getting enough fuel,” she says. “Restricted diets or skipping meals might sound like a good idea, but it’s counterproductive because then you’re on an empty tank which can trigger more – you guessed it – cravings.”

Dopamine research

According to Taylor, when we eat carbohydrates, our body releases dopamine, a “feel good” hormone that can function as a kind of reward. “When we feel stressed, we have these food cravings that we attribute to a lack of willpower,” Taylor explains. ” But this is not the case. This is because eating things, especially refined carbs and simple sugars, triggers this dopamine response.

How to curb those carb cravings

If one or more of these examples hits a little too close to home, don’t worry. There are several ways to adjust the way you eat to reduce those carb cravings without completely disrupting your diet or routine.

Eat fiber-rich carbs

To break this vicious cycle of refined carbs, Taylor advises adding fiber-rich carbs to your diet. “Fiber-rich carbs are absorbed and digested more slowly, which keeps your blood sugar levels from rising as quickly, minimizing insulin-triggered hunger.”

Here are some examples of fiber-rich foods:

  • Whole wheat dough.
  • Quinoa.
  • Lenses.
  • Chickpeas.
  • Beans.
  • Edamame.

An added benefit is that the slower digestion and absorption of fiber-rich carbs means your body will have the fuel for longer. “It helps you feel more satisfied for longer, especially between meals,” Taylor notes.

She also notes the other health benefits of fiber, including feeding healthy bacteria in your gut, improving cholesterol and heart health, controlling blood sugar, and helping with regularity.

Cut out white grains and simple sugars

If you can limit those refined carbs, Taylor says, you can limit those vicious cycles. And foods made with white grains and simple sugars are a great source of refined carbs. Avoid things made with white flour like white bread, crackers, tortillas, and even pancakes.

For simple sugars, try limiting high-sugar foods like ice cream, candy, cookies, and sugary drinks. But Taylor also cautions against added sugar in foods we don’t typically associate with these examples, like granola, cereal and yogurt.

Add lean proteins and fats

In addition to making sure you’re eating the right kind of carbs, a balance of lean protein and fat can keep you full for several hours between meals and give your body the fuel it needs.

Taylor recommends what’s called the “plate method,” an approach to a full meal that gives you the right balance of food and fuel. The plate method requires:

  • Half your plate is reserved for non-starchy vegetables like carrots, asparagus, green beans, spinach and broccoli. Salads also count here.
  • A quarter of your plate is reserved for lean proteins like eggs, tofu, poultry, fish, shellfish, or even low-fat cottage cheese.
  • A quarter of your plate is reserved for some of the fiber-rich carbs mentioned above. You can also include starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, or peas.

“It’s a ‘Goldilocks’ approach,” Taylor said. “You get the right balance and the right amount of everything you need.”

Get the right plan from a dietitian

If you think your energy sources are still out of whack or you still aren’t getting the calorie count that’s right for you, consult your doctor and a dietitian. They can guide you through the plans that are best for you. We are all different and our bodies operate at different speeds. But by consulting with an expert who knows you and your overall health, you can work to find the right plan for you.

Manage stress in a non-nutritive way

When you’re feeling stressed from work or family life, you can turn to food for that dopamine rush. Instead, advises Taylor, find a non-nutritive way to deal with that stress. “There are so many ways to relieve stress and get that dopamine rush that doesn’t involve unhealthy foods.”

Going for a walk, spending time in your garden, or talking to a friend are just a few ways to replace unhealthy foods. Even watching TV while having a hot cup of tea or listening to a podcast is a great way to unwind without relying on food.

“Find things that make your heart happy without going through your stomach first,” encourages Taylor. “A chocolate bar can temporarily relieve that stress, but later you’ll end up regretting it and being hard on yourself. It’s a perfectly human reaction, but look for replacement behaviors that release that dopamine but aren’t dependent on nutrition.