If youâre someone who prefers to keep an eye on their diet, weâre sure youâve already noticed a certain trend with your carb intakeâyou often findÂ yourself craving a gooey grilled cheese sandwich or a chocolate chip cookieÂ after a long day at work, or a longer night about town. In an attempt to help youÂ close the pantry door and eschew the grilled cheese for a healthier snack option like avocado toast, we spoke to celebrity nutritionistÂ and fitness chef Eefa Shrof to understand carb cravingsâwhy they happen and what you need to do to get through themâarming you with all the information you need to motivate yourself. Scroll ahead for an in-depth download.
Understanding carbohydrate cravings
Most people have a love-hate relationship with carbs, which, according to nutritionists, is baseless. âThe bodyâs primary source of energy is carbs. So if youâre craving carbs, itâs a sign from your body. A craving is always a messenger. Listen to it,â states Shrof. Forgoing carbs sends the body into âstarvation modeâ, which in turn increases cravings, especially for quick energy sources like sugar and simple carbohydrates.
Craving simple carbohydrates like pizza and cookies is a way for our body to tell us it is looking for a serotonin and dopamine boost (which are the pleasure and reward neurotransmitters in the body). But once that bowl of pasta is consumed, the simple carbs are not enough to satisfy the body. Since the brain doesnât have the nutrients it needs, it keeps searching for more, which is why hunger pangs kick in just shortly after chowing down the plate of cookies. A sure shot way to prevent this situation would be to load up on protein and magnesium-rich foods. Protein aids in balancingÂ blood sugar levelsâmost protein sourcesÂ contain glutamine, an amino acid responsible for combating blood sugar issuesâand helps youÂ stay fuller longer. Magnesium, on the other hand, is also extremely important for maintaining blood sugar levels, but most people are deficient. Eating magnesium-rich foods like cacao and green leafy vegetables will train your brain to put down the cookies and reach for more fruits and vegetables.
Another important factor that manipulates carb cravings is sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to a spike in the secretion of ghrelin, which is the hormone in charge of controlling sugar and carb cravings.
Make complex carbohydrates the stars in your diet
Carbohydrates are essentially made of three components: fibre, starch and sugar. Shrof explains, âSimple carbohydrates are sugarâwhite sugar, jaggery, honey, et al. Middle chain carbs are fruits and vegetables that are bound in fibre, and complex carbs are the whole grains such as ragi, jowar, amaranth, legumes and beans. Complex carbs are more nutrient-dense than simple carbs because they are higher in fibre and digest more slowly. This also makes them more filling and better for weight management.â
If you look toÂ overly processed carb options to satisfy to your longing most of the times, keep in mind that this will only work for a brief period, and leave you hungry again an hour later.Â Similarly, when craving carbs, a super low carb option, like baby carrots and celery, will not work. Reach for nutrient-rich hummus with whole-grain crackers or avocados on toast. Fibre and healthy fat also provide satiety, so you donât feel hungry again too soon.
âEating carbohydrates is not evil. In fact it is needed, and it is good. Just be mindful. If you persistently avoid carbs in a vow to lose weight, you will end up bingeing on sugar,â warns Shrof. Keep it simple. âIf you are craving a sandwich, have a sandwich. Just look for whole grain, less processed [versions] and make sure that the bread is the best possible quality. Go for a lighter dressing if there is an option available, or request the chef to go easy on the mayonnaise. Instead of ordering a keto pizza (unless you are on a ketosis diet), I would suggest that you order a thin crust Margherita, which cuts down the amount of starch by half. If you are craving the grain, go for the grain, but choose the best quality option.â
Unless you are on a detox diet plan, you can have your bit of white rice, potatoes, peas, corn, bread and pasta, says Shrof. âCarbohydrates are fine. Problem is when we abuse them. 30gm is one serving size, so 60gms of spaghetti and a salad on the side is good. The challenge is when we try to polish off a restaurant-serving of pasta, which is way beyond the recommended serving size,â she explains. When you give yourself permission to eat the carbs your body needs to add, you will not be in a constant feeling of deprivation.
The only way to get ahead of our carb-cravings is to be prepared. Keeping your blood sugar balanced with regular meals and light snacks is ideal. For instance, choose a wholesome snack, like a small portion of boiled sweet potatoes, before you head out to a party to avoid carb cravings later in the night. Shrof recommends carrying a multi-grain snack bar with cranberries in your bag to fend-off hunger pangs too. Berries like cranberries, blueberries and strawberries are a nutritious choice to stop sugar cravingsâthey taste sweet, but their high fibre content means they are actually quite low in sugar.
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