Carbs are seen as the enemy when it comes to dieting and weight loss. And while no food is or should be the enemy, it’s true that for many people reducing carbs can be an effective way to lose weight. But what do you do if you’re constantly craving bread, pasta, potatoes and rice? Is there an underlying issue you need to tackle? Are you deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral? Let’s talk about what exactly your carb cravings mean and how you can stop them once and for all.
Reasons You Might Be Craving Carbs
1. You’re not eating enough: First things first, it’s important to make sure you’re eating enough throughout the day. If you’re waking up and skipping breakfast and even lunch, your body is going to be screaming out for food and calories (i.e. energy!), particularly of the carb variety. So, listen to your hunger cues and eat when you’re hungry to avoid overdoing it on the carbs later on during the day.
2. Simply not eating enough carbs: If you’re not eating enough carbs, it’s not surprising your body will be craving carbs. While keto is an effective diet, it will take some time for your body to adjust, so if you’re craving carbs during the first few weeks of keto, don’t sweat it – just do your best to avoid carbs when you can. Keto doesn’t work for everyone, however, so if you’re not on a specific keto diet, it’s important to be getting enough carbs during the day. So for example if you’re having eggs and avocado for breakfast, add a slice of whole grain toast.
3. You’re not sleeping enough: Poor sleep can increase carb cravings as it boosts appetite and ghrelin hormone levels, leading to cravings for high-carb foods. Additionally, sleep deprivation disrupts hormone balance and makes it harder to feel full after meals. Tiredness can also drive you to choose high-carb snacks for a quick energy boost, creating a cycle of carb cravings and sleep disruption.
4. You’re waiting too long to eat between meals: It’s also important to not let yourself get too hungry or wait too long between meals and snacks. When you’re over-hungry, your blood sugar drops, and your body will crave quick energy, which is usually carbs. So, make sure to eat regularly throughout the day.
5. Your meals aren’t balanced enough: Eating a balanced meal that includes carbs, protein, and fats can also help prevent cravings. This helps keep your blood sugar steady and prevents it from swinging too high or too low. Make sure to include enough protein and fats on your plate along with your carbs.
6. You’re depriving yourself of carbs and sweet treats: Lastly, don’t deprive yourself of sweets. If you have a sweet tooth, it’s okay to indulge in a treat every once in a while. When you focus on how food makes you feel instead of what you can’t have, you’ll notice your cravings for carbs begin to fade.
Are You Deficient In Magnesium If You’re Craving Carbs?
There is some evidence out there to suggest that a magnesium deficiency may contribute to carbohydrate cravings. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including those related to carbohydrate metabolism. It also plays a role in regulating neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that affect mood and cravings.
However, it’s important to note that carb cravings can have many different causes, and a magnesium deficiency may not be the only factor at play. Other factors that can contribute to carb cravings include stress, not eating enough, hormonal changes, inadequate sleep, and imbalanced meals.
Why Am I Craving Bread?
Craving bread can happen for a few reasons. Firstly, bread is high in carbs which can give you a quick energy boost. If you’ve been doing some serious physical activity or just feeling a little low on energy, your body might be naturally craving carbs, and bread might be an easy and accessible source.
Another reason for bread cravings is stress or emotional eating. Carbs can cause the release of serotonin, a chemical in your brain that can help improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or a bit down, your body might be looking for comfort in high-carb foods like bread.
For some people, bread is a comfort food that’s tied to positive memories from the past. Sometimes, bread cravings can also be a sign of nutrient deficiencies or an underlying medical condition, like celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. So, it’s always worth checking with your doctor if you have any concerns!
What Do My Pasta Cravings Mean?
Like when you’re craving bread, pasta cravings can happen for several reasons from low-energy, poor sleep, emotional or stress reasons, or simply because your brain sees it as a comfort food.
Why Am I Craving Potatoes?
There are several reasons why you may be craving potatoes. One possibility is that you may be deficient in certain nutrients, such as potassium or vitamin C, both of which are found in potatoes. Whether a deficiency in these nutrients actually causes a potato craving isn’t scientifically proven, but it has been theorised. Another reason could be that you have an increased need for carbohydrates because you’re low on energy. Potatoes are a starchy carbohydrate-rich food that can provide a quick boost of energy when you’re feeling lethargic or tired.
What Do My Rice Cravings Mean?
Cravings for rice may indicate a few things about your body’s nutritional needs. Rice is a high-carbohydrate food that provides energy to your body, so your cravings may be a sign that you need more carbohydrates in your diet. Additionally, rice is a good source of fibre and some essential vitamins and minerals, so your body may be craving these nutrients.
How to Stop Your Carb Cravings
If you’re struggling with carb cravings, there are several things you can try to help reduce or stop them altogether.
1. Get enough protein and fibre: Firstly, make sure you’re getting enough protein and fibre in your diet. These nutrients can help keep you feeling full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of cravings. When putting together your meals, think about the “plate method”. Half your plate should be reserved for non-starchy vegetables like carrots, asparagus, green beans, spinach and broccoli, one-quarter of your plate is for lean protein like eggs, tofu, poultry, fish, shellfish etc and one-quarter of your plate is for some of those high-fibre carbs mentioned above. You can also include starchy veggies, like potatoes, sweet potatoes corn or peas.
2. Avoid processed/high-sugar foods: Try to avoid processed and high-sugar foods, as these can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that can trigger carb cravings. Instead, choose whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
3. Improve your sleep: Stress and lack of sleep can also contribute to carb cravings, so make sure you’re taking care of your mental and physical health by getting enough rest, practising relaxation techniques, and engaging in stress-reducing activities like yoga or meditation.
4. Manage your stress: To avoid turning to food for a dopamine rush when stressed from work or family life, try finding non-nutritive ways to deal with the stress instead. There are various ways to relieve stress and get that dopamine rush that don’t involve unhealthy foods. You could take a walk, spend time in the garden, or talk to a friend. Find things that make your heart happy without relying on food. Although bread or pasta may temporarily relieve stress, it may lead to regret later on. Instead, look for replacement behaviours that release dopamine without relying on nutrition.
If you’re really struggling with cravings despite these strategies, consider speaking with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can help identify any underlying nutrient deficiencies or medical conditions that may be causing your cravings.
Healthy Foods to Eat When You’re Craving Carbs
Here are some tips to help you manage your carb cravings in a healthy way:
Get your protein fix. Eating protein-rich snacks like raw spinach, carrots, celery with hummus, nuts, seeds, or protein shakes can help keep blood sugar in balance and avoid insulin spikes and drops.
Opt for crunchy snacks. When you crave something salty and crunchy, go for nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, or macadamia nuts.
Try zoodles instead of pasta. Spiralized raw zucchini with freshly made pesto or seaweed spaghetti can satisfy your pasta cravings without all the carbs.
Choose healthy dessert alternatives. Avoid diet-wrecking sweet cravings by opting for nutritious desserts like avocado chocolate mousse, or other low-carb dessert options.
Stay hydrated. Low-carb eating requires extra hydration, so drink plenty of water throughout the day. Adding a pinch of salt to a glass of lemon water can help rebalance electrolytes and stave off headaches and cravings.
It’s All About Balance
Carb cravings can be a major challenge when you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet. However, with the right strategies, it is possible to overcome these cravings and make healthy choices. By understanding the root causes of carb cravings and adopting a balanced approach to nutrition, such as incorporating protein-rich snacks, crunchy alternatives, healthy pasta substitutes, and finding nutritious alternatives to desserts, it is possible to curb carb cravings and avoid unhealthy food choices.
Remember to stay hydrated, manage stress, and listen to your body’s signals. With time and effort, you can break the cycle of carb cravings and achieve your health goals!