Most of us have experienced food cravings at one time or another. I dare guessing that for the majority of us these cravings were for sugary food or drink or to sweet tasting food or drink (those that are artificially or naturally sweetened).
Cravings are really common, especially among women, and our innate desire for sweet tastes means we are most likely to crave foods high in sugar or sweetened such as cakes, biscuits and, of course, chocolate.
They can be linked to hormonal changes or stress and are more common if you are dieting (the more restrictive the diet, the more likely they are to occur).
Craving sugar or sweet tasting foods may also be a sign of a small drop in your blood-sugar level as these seem to activate the brain to desire high calorie/sugar foods. This can occur for several reasons, for example if you haven’t eaten for a long time, you are exercising or you are stressed.
Eating regularly – a healthy breakfast, regular meals and healthy snacks, such as a banana or an apple, a low-fat yogurt or a couple of whole-grain crackers – will help reduce the chance of this happening.
Foods with a low GI (glycaemic index) and a relatively high fibre content, such as whole-grain breads, cereals or crackers, or brown rice and pasta, will help prevent blood-sugar levels fluctuating, so try to base your meals around these foods. Including a lean source of protein with each meal (white fish, chicken, meat, Quorn, pulses) will help to stave off hunger which can induce cravings.
If you just need something sweet, opt for fruit, as the fibre content helps slow the absorption of its sugar. If you find you are still craving specific sweet foods and drinks, a little of what you want may well be enough to satisfy you: place a small square of chocolate on your tongue and let it dissolve slowly.
Sometimes after we eat spicy (hot) food we feel a need to compensate with something sweet. We crave for the endorphin rush. After eating something spicy, our nerves feel pain. These pain signals are immediately transmitted to the brain. The brain interprets this signal and automatically releases endorphins (the body's natural pain killer). Once the endorphins kick in, it creates a temporary feeling of euphoria. We then begin to crave for this feeling. The endorphins control our inclination toward certain kinds of foods. One of our strongest cravings is for sweets. Sweets like chocolate cause an endorphin rush.