Have you ever wondered why you crave a certain food or drink at certain times, like margaritas with chips and guacamole always so good or a dessert after dinner at your favorite restaurant? Ever crave curtain foods when you are happy, sad, stressed, or need comfort? There is a scientific reason behind these cravings!
There is a chemical in our brain called Dopamine that makes us happy and creates a positive memory when it occurs. We were created to release this chemical when we found food so that in the caveman days, we would remember where we found the food and repeat the process to survive. The bad news is that there is food everywhere now, so there is more of an opportunity to get that Dopamine release. This is very similar to a drug addiction. Dr. Doug Lisle, a psychiatrist, did research on this cycle while working with drug and alcohol addicted patients and found that 3 elements in food simulated a similar dopamine response as drugs and alcohol. They are Fat, Salt and Sugar. Everything we love to eat. Think about a fast food meal, like burgers and fries, you have a lot of Fat and Salt; therefore, you naturally crave that Sugary drink. When we go out to eat, we generally get more fat and salt than we would at home, so we crave a sweet cocktail or dessert. Dr. Lisle discovered when we eat all three elements together, we actually get even more dopamine than if we eat the elements individually. Now our brain is on overload and is looking for more Fat, Salt and Sugar, hence the cravings.
So what is the answer? We have to retrain our brain to accept a moderate amount of Dopamine to make us feel good. This is accomplished by eating a nutrient dense diet. That means enough fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans to maintain at a healthy level. Eating these will naturally satisfy cravings in a healthier way. Plan ahead if going to a restaurant by snacking ahead of time. Have a high fiber snack prior to going or bring one with you. Increase fiber in your daily diet to 40 grams. Foods that are high in fiber include 1 cup beans -14 grams, 1 cup whole grain-5 grams, 1 cup veggies-4 grams and 1 piece of fruit -3 grams. Fiber is best from a whole food, so you get soluble and insoluble fiber (the fiber powders only contain one of these forms usually).
The next time you start craving a certain food or drink, stop and realize what is happening in your brain and how you will react to that craving. Retrain your to not use your food as a reward or punishment. It is designed to fuel your body so that you can do all the things you want to do and more!
Tracy Cook is an Adult Nurse Practitioner who owns and operates a private medical practice: Adult Health Services and Argyle Med-spa and Wellness Center is a resident of Robson Ranch and a Living Well committee member. For any questions or more information please visit her website: www.Argylemedspa.com.