Did you know cravings are actually your brain needing a reward rather than your body needing food? It often happens when we're running low on certain hormones like leptin and serotonin.
Understanding the science behind why we crave certain foods helps us to put our cravings into perspective and ultimately make better food choices. Let's take a look at what happens to your body when you suddenly get the urge to raid the cupboards for a satisfying snack (or three!), and understand the roles of leptin and serotonin on the brain.
Leptin is the clever hormone that tells your brain when it's hungry and when to burn its fat stores. The more leptin you have, the less hungry you feel and the better your metabolism works. It's role on our cravings and weight management is therefore paramount.
But the body can build up leptin resistance if your hormones are imbalanced. A lack of sleep and exercise, too much stress and too much fast food can block our brain from receiving leptin's signals, making losing weight difficult, so it's important to look after your physical health in these areas.
In addition, foods that are naturally high in leptin include:
Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries
Green tea and herbal tea
Root and leafy vegetables
Beans, pulses and lentils
This article from Healthline.com is a really great resource for all things leptin and leptin resistance.
When we eat foods that promote the production of serotonin, our hormones are more stabilised and our brain satisfied, so it doesn't need to look elsewhere for a hit of sugar or caffeine.
Often referred to as the 'happy hormone', serotonin is proven to help fight against anxiety and depression. Certain foods contribute to the body's production of serotonin and are therefore key to consume as part of your balanced diet. We spoke about them in my Self-Love workshop earlier this month, but if you missed it, here are some of the top foods I recommended to naturally increase serotonin levels:
Oily fish for their Vitamin D and Omega 3 & 6
Eggs for their Omega 3 & 6, plus iodine
Seaweed for iodine
Pumpkin seeds for their tryptophan
Mushrooms and Milk for Vitamin D
Beans for magnesium
Beetroot for its betaine and folic acid
Here's the science simplified:
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps promote the production of serotonin
Vitamin D converts tryptophan into serotonin
Iodine helps to fight depression
Magnesium helps to increase serotonin levels
Omega 3 & 6 are support normal brain function
Exercise is another great way to boost serotonin naturally. Plus, you'll also feel great from the release of feel-good endorphins. As a holistic health coach, I've lived the benefits of taking a holistic approach to health and fitness. Fuelling your body with natural sources of vitamins and minerals allows the body to regulate itself better, ultimately leaving you feel more balanced and in control.
If you're looking for some guidance on your healthy eating journey, my nutritional consultations can help you to understand your current eating habits, highlight any possible deficiencies and suggest any healthy habits for your weight loss or maintenance goals.