When you are living a life without awareness, food craving can make you run for that unhealthy bite of sugar laden cake or brownie, candies or processed, salted canned fatty snacks, even when you know you have had one too many. But a deeper assessment of causes and imbalances that make you crave for specific type of food almost uncontrollably can help you deal with unhealthy food cravings better.
An underlying balance in Doshas or three fundamental bio energies that govern all the biological processes in the body, stress (that causes stress eating), anxiety, emotional conflicts or fluctuations in prana or life force, need for sugar, can all lead to food cravings and overeating.
1. Doshas and Cravings
- Stress, anxiety and Vata
Stress and anxiety can lead to Vata imbalance. Vata induced food cravings make you crave for sweet, sour or salty foods. In such an event, make sure you have black pepper, cumin, coriander, proteins and more grains in your food plate, to ground Vata imbalance. You can also have walnuts, almonds or coconut milk.
- Emotional low
When you are undergoing an emotional low, it could affect your Pitta dosha (sadhak pitta-a sub type of pitta dosha that correlates to heart region). An imbalanced Pitta dosha could make you long for sweet, moist foods. Instead of running for sugary drinks, you can go for date milk, naturally sweet fruit juice, soaked raisins or aloe vera juice, among other pitta calming foods.
Craving caffeine or chocolate? This is a sign of vitiated Kapha dosha when your body is trying to signal you to have something that increases your prana and lets the lethargy out of the system. Foods should be light, warm and dry for bringing Kapha into balance. Fruits like cranberries, apples, nonfat milk, beans, and pumpkin seeds are a good alternative too.
In general, it is good to remember that salty, sweet and sour foods help pacify vata dosha, where as sweet, bitter or pungent foods calm pitta dosha and pungent and astringent foods pacify kapha.
2. Sugar Cravings
Believe it or not but sugar cravings could be due to lack of sufficient natural sweet taste in our food. According to Ayurveda, our daily diet is incomplete without the six tastes-sweet, sour, pungent, bitter, salty and astringent. When your food lacks the natural sweet taste when you are on a low carb diet or no carb diet, then the system’s need for sweet taste can increase your sugar cravings. But know that sugar does NOT mean sweet. You can compensate for the sweet taste by having some grains, fruits or root vegetables in your diet.
3. Have nourishing food
We often eat food that is high on carbs and sugars, stale foods, laden with preservatives, additives and other chemicals but is not nourishing enough. Having such foods are unlikely to help calm your cravings. Having properly cooked, warm and nourishing meals will keep you full longer and douse the cravings.
4. Have more color and food groups
Make sure your food has variety of colors and food groups for fuller satisfaction of your mind and body. Visually appealing food with colors like red, orange, green, yellow and brown, have phytochemicals that improve immune system, reduce food cravings, help you live longer and better.
5. Dealing with the mental aspect of food cravings
Food cravings are caused by the same region of the brain which is responsible for memory, pleasure and reward. An imbalance in stress hormones like serotonin can lead to food cravings. You can manage the serotonin levels by-
- Engaging yourself in practices like yoga, meditation, deep rhythmic breathing techniques (SKY technique is known to increase the serotonin levels in the body).
- You can also go for abhyanga or self-massage or Shiro Abhyanga to relieve the stress symptoms that are leading you to overeat or cause food cravings at odd times in the day. Treatments like Shirodhara restore the nervous system, relieve anxiety, stress and produce sense of pleasure and relaxation. It also triggers an increase in the level of serotonin that induces sleep. Read more to know what oils suit your Prakruti or individual constitution for Abhyanga.