There’s a lot of talk about food cravings stemming from nutritional deficiencies, but research has not proved this to be true. If you’ve ever been tempted to blame your chocolate urges on a magnesium deficiency, Kimberly Snyder, a clinical nutritionist and the author of The Beauty Detox Power, would beg to disagree. She claims your desire for chocolate is more likely coming from an emotional place than a biological one.
“I do believe it’s important to listen to your body and feel what foods you are naturally drawn to,” says Snyder. “Overall though, many common cravings are tied to emotional root causes. We often crave foods with specific textures — crunchy, soft, creamy, or smooth — and these textures correspond to particular emotions.”
“There are two types of hunger,” explains Amy Gorin, RDN, of Amy Gorin Nutrition, in the New York City area. “Homeostatic hunger, or the physical need to eat, and hedonic hunger, the desire to eat foods for pleasure.” For instance, she notes, “you might be craving salt when your body actually needs it, such as after a hard workout during which you lost salt through sweating. Or you might be craving the salty food as more of a comfort food, since foods that tend to be salty are also ones that are higher in fat, like potato chips, which is what we crave sometimes during hedonic hunger.”
It’s not hard to grasp the psychological component of food cravings and how we may have been conditioned, from childhood, to want certain foods right now. Take sweets, for instance. “Most of us grew up with sweets being presented as a reward,” says Snyder. “The very anticipation of a reward triggers the neurotransmitterdopamine in our brain and studies show that regular bingeing on sugar stimulates dopamine — the ‘feel-good’ chemical, which is very addictive.”
Or maybe you don’t have an out-of-control sweet tooth but you still find yourself wanting to reach for the carton of cookie dough ice cream. Snyder sees clients craving fatty foods like ice cream and cream-laden dishes during extremely busy times, when they are being pulled in different directions. “During these times, fat can feel stabilizing. It’s heavy in your stomach and takes a while to digest, which can feel like it is grounding for you,” she says.
Different cravings also appear to have different consequences. A study published in December 2015 in the journal Eating Behaviors looked at the relationship between food cravings and addictive eating. Researchers found that cravings for sweets and other foods high in carbohydrates may be more closely linked with bingeing and other addictive eating behaviors, while cravings for fats seem to be more closely associated with increased body mass index.
Cravings announce themselves clearly, but what’s behind them is complex, and various factors come into play. While cravings aren’t always tied to emotional eating, before you reach for that piece of cake or bowl of pasta, check to see if your emotions may be to blame — and learn the smart ways to combat the cravings.
Additional reporting by Deborah Shapiro.
Satisfy a Craving for Sweets With Less Sugar
From a young age, many of us come to associate celebrations with sweets, from cake at birthday parties to dessert after finishing our veggies. “This is part of what makes sugar so comforting. And for many of us, sugary treats are like a hug — soothing and reassuring,” says Snyder. “The sugar can make us feel temporarily happy or comforted, especially if those feelings are lacking or if we’re stressed or sad in any way.”
If you buy something through a link on this page, we may earn a small commission. How this works.Can Epsom salt baths help you lose weight?
Since its discovery, people have turned to Epsom salt as a folk remedy to heal all sorts of ailments. Named for the location in England where it was discovered, Epsom salt is estimated to have been in use for at least 400 years.
The effectiveness of Epsom salt baths for health benefits is open for debate. Many believe that when you bath in water with dissolved Epsom salt, the active ingredients (magnesium and sulfate) are rapidly absorbed through your skin.
Those who practice folk remedies believe these ingredients produce many health benefits, including weight loss.
A 2016 review of magnesium in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Services reported that there’s no scientific proof that magnesium can be absorbed well via your skin.
Researchers noted that the only study that has conclusively shown the skin’s ability to absorb magnesium was small, not peer-reviewed, and has not been replicated.
However, in a 2017 pilot studyTrusted Source, researchers found that individuals who used a cream containing magnesium had increased levels of magnesium in their urine compared to a group that used a cream that did not contain the mineral.
Despite conflicting evidence, if you’re interested in trying Epsom salt baths for weight loss and other potential health benefits, it’s low risk and might be worth a try.Benefits of Epsom salt
The main benefits of Epsom salt come from its active ingredients. Though Epsom salt looks like and shares a name with table salt, they’re actually different chemical compounds.
Table salt is sodium rather than magnesium and sulfate. However, the ingredients in Epsom salt are vital minerals for the body and hard to come by through diet alone. This is why many people try to absorb them through their skin during a bath.
Taking Epsom salt baths will not cause drastic lose weight, but it can support your healthy lifestyle. Combined with other weight-loss strategies, Epsom salt baths might help you reach your weight-loss goals.
If you like the blog get my free illustrated letter every week, for a brief respite from the world. The letter has a fun, quirky & often historical range of subjects. See 'Contact' page to join The Motley Crew.