Why we crave chocolate, sugar, cheese, and meat:
All four of these foods are addictive for the same reason. They have an opiate effect on the brain, which means they may have a calming effect that our bodies like. These opiates are produced in the brain as sugar or chocolate touch your tongue. Meat works similarly. For cheese, the opiates are actually in the dairy protein, casein. These opiates take a little longer to work their magic as they are released during the digestion.
Why we crave salty foods:
Salty foods are not really addictive; they don't have a particular effect on the brain. But people become habituated to the taste of a certain amount of salt on the taste buds, and they tend to object when given less salt.
When cravings intensify:
Cravings can strengthen in the winter. The shorter, darker days cause the body to crave sugar and starches, both of which tend to cause the brain to produce serotonin -- the mood-boosting neurotransmitter. Cravings can also get stronger for women during the week before their menstrual periods, due to the effect of shifting estrogen levels.
Want to conquer your craving?
1. Start with a healthy breakfast. It reduces cravings later in the day.
2. Use foods to hold blood sugar steady. This means emphasizing low-glycemic-index foods, such as beans, vegetables, fruit, and pasta to keep blood sugar from going on a roller coaster (which can be caused by white bread and sugar, for example) that can trigger changes.
3. Dieters: Use the Rule of Ten. If you are dieting, be sure not to starve yourself, because extreme hunger triggers cravings. Eat AT LEAST 10 calories per pound of your ideal weight per day.
4. If you crave a food every day at the same time, plan an activity, such as a walk or visit with a friend, that is inconsistent with eating.
5. Have regular exercise and rest.
6. Use social support. Let your family and friends know that you need help.
7. Take advantage of other motivators. Young people can be motivated to avoid meat because of concerns about animals or the environment. A married man might avoid junk food if he remembers that he needs to stay well to take care of his family.