Our health and nutrition expert Anu Paavola looks into what’s really going on with those cravings.
Oh boy. I just finished a chocolate brownie! A sneaky afternoon craving took possession of my mind and led me to the café opposite our shop. But what is that telling me as I usually wouldn’t go for dark chocolate and milk-less coffee? I don’t even like chocolate brownies, until today. And I am pretty certain you are wondering ‘why is this writer who is a health professional continuing to eating brownies and drinking coffee’? Yes, you do have a point. But so do I.
Cravings are a marvellous indicator of what your body needs. So what can my craving tell me? Let’s have a look at it from two points of view: good and bad.
If I had eaten my lunch with full awareness – meaning slowly and with a peaceful state of mind, not combining too many ingredients together and not washing the food down with liquid – I probably would have nourished my brain for the afternoon hours. But having given a few treatments and digested my food, I felt I needed some more energy.
From the coffee shop I could find an appropriate seasonal afternoon treat – a macchiato with a dark chocolate brownie. The bitter taste found in both cacao and coffee is a great way to balance the typical tendency for mucous production in Spring.
Although the sugar and white flour in the snack are not the best thing to have, the snack did it for me for the rest of the day. I needed an injection of energy and even though it wasn’t the healthiest of choice, it served the purpose. I ate it only after having digested my previous meal and chose a sweet treat as close as possible to the seasonal requirements of nature.
Alternatively, imagine I shoved my lunch down in five minutes between seeing clients for massages and drank a glass of cold water afterwards. I felt the food stayed in my stomach and I didn’t get the right energy with the client. After a few hours I was craving madly for sugar and coffee. My brain was tired and I couldn’t concentrate on my work and just wanted to lie down.
On my break I rushed to the coffee shop, got the first thing that caught my attention and rushed back to eat it whilst having a chat with the receptionist. My energy levels got a bit higher but in the evening on my return to home I noticed I still hadn’t digested either lunch or the afternoon snack.
Even though not the healthiest of snacks, the first case illustrates that if we have healthy eating habits generally and make sure we eat with awareness, balance the meals correctly and ensure the previous meal has been digested, we can allow ourselves a treat every once in a while because our digestive systems are naturally strong. Nature gives us a good amount of leverage when our systems are healthy.
The second example is a very common scenario. Lunch should nourish the brain to carry out activities in the afternoon but if we feel like crashing and have uncontrollable cravings, it is a sign that the body has not received the nourishment and the energy it needed. This can easily happen when we eat too fast, too much, at the wrong time, in the wrong combination or with a negative state of mind.
The next time you get an afternoon craving, observe yourself carefully and try to understand if you have a healthy or an unhealthy craving. When you feel it, you can do something to understand what really is going on. Drink a half a cup of hot water and wait for a few minutes. If you burp soon after, you have not digested your previous meal and can conclude that your craving is not a good one. If instead nothing happens that might just mean that you need more nourishment. If your gut is in a healthy condition sometimes you can allow yourself something that isn’t ideal.
And what do you think my case was? I will leave it up to you to decide!
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If you are interested more in understanding more about your body, see Anu for a consultation at Jivita Ayurveda.