What Causes Cravings?

what-causes-food-cravingsIf food cravings are so bad for us, what causes them? Is it physical or mental or something else entirely? That depends.

It’s all in your head or is it? People who don’t have food cravings might believe your food cravings are all in your head. However, in some cases they may be right. There are certain areas, according to research, that specific areas of our brains are responsible for food cravings. Our memory factors and the area responsible for sensing pleasure are two of those areas.

  • There are three areas of the brain – the hippocampus, insula, and caudate – appear to be activated during food-craving episodes. This is according to research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center. According to their brain tests, these memory areas of the brain are important to food cravings.
  • Food cravings can be caused by emotions and desires. We often crave certain types of food when we are stressed or anxious. Carbohydrates boost the hormone serotonin, which has a calming effect on our body.
  • A lack of variety in our diets can lead to food cravings. If you eat the same foods every day, like when you are on a very restricted diet, your body craves the foods you are no longer eating.
  • Certain activities, people, or places can often trigger a craving for certain foods. For example, Friday nights might be movie night with your family. That could also mean it’s pizza and popcorn night. You’re body doesn’t necessarily need pizza every Friday, but you’ve conditioned yourself to crave it on movie night.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiencies in your diet can cause food cravings. Many people who eat a lot of processed foods are suffering from mild malnutrition because they are not getting the nutrients they need from whole, nutrient filled foods.
  • Addiction may be causing you to crave certain foods. Aside from alcohol, sugar is the one most people seem to have trouble with. Certain foods stimulate the reward center of your brain in the same way drugs as cocaine does. These foods allow your body to release “feel good” hormones every time you eat them.

There is no simple answer to why you have food cravings. Everyone is different and cravings can be caused by several different reasons. If you are stressed, you may have a craving for sugar, which in turn stimulates an addiction like need for sweets.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for details on how food cravings can be harmful.

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