Unfortunately, cravings are natural and no matter what we do, we’ll still end up with a hankering for that sweet treat, a salty snack or even an occasional, seemingly weird, urge for a particular food or beverage. Food cravings are both biologically generated and mentally and emotionally driven.
In each of us, our stomach signals to our brain that it’s time to eat, by way of the vagus nerve. The stomach produces increasing levels of the “hunger hormone” or ghrelin, as it completes its digestion processes and as blood sugar and insulin levels drop. The ghrelin hormone signals the hypothalamus in the brain that it’s time to start consuming nutrients again. The hypothalamus in turn releases the substance, neuropeptide Y, stimulating the feeling of hunger. This process is one of sustenance and not necessarily of craving. As such, we can’t change the biology behind this process without serious pharmaceutical interference–and we wouldn’t want to! Some have argued that cravings are a result of the body fulfilling a particular need—whether it is for protein, fats, carbohydrates or simply glucose. Though no one really knows exactly why we crave certain foods, most experts agree that cravings aren’t normally targeting an actual need.
We don’t necessarily need what we are craving in order to function at our best, why do we crave certain foods, particularly sweets? Unlike other animals, we have many varieties of foods to choose from. We’re not limited to the foods in our immediate area or just what are laid in front of us. The availability of sugars, carbohydrates and even fatty meats are significant factors in the development of our cravings.
Starting to make some sense now, right? Even though these feelings are short-lived, the pleasures gained from consuming that slice of chocolate pie or bag of chips can be powerful incentives to eat more of the same. That’s what makes cravings so dangerous to our waistlines. Just like a drug addiction, the more we take in, the more we want! The brain learns quickly to stimulate our urges to take in more of the pleasure-creating foods that will, in appreciable amounts, make us fat, lethargic and unhealthy! Add into the mix our memories of sugary, fatty foods and past, good feelings associated with those goodies and our brains can quickly take us down Memory Lane; though that street may be a rocky road to obesity.
If we have all these hormones and emotions driving us toward satisfying cravings, how in the world do we resist these urges to overindulge? Well, it’s not easy, even for the most healthy-minded among us. It takes more than willpower to defeat cravings. And the solution might even include giving in—if only a little bit! Most experts agree that an occasional sweet indulgence, in very small quantities, can sometimes quash that craving and let you move on to a reasonable mealtime without too much damage done. Variety at mealtime can also help to ease urges.
Sweet fruits and vegetables can often satisfy cravings for sugary treats. These foods offer actual nutrients along with natural sugars, including fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Then there are appetite and craving suppression supplements. Of the many supplements on the market, the most promising are the ones showing success over the long haul. Don’t necessarily fall for the newest product to hit the shelves. Rather, do your research when choosing a weight loss or appetite suppressant.
Again, if you give in to the occasional craving, don’t beat yourself up. Try to limit your consumption of these less than beneficial snacks and move on to healthier choices most of the time.
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