Ah, food cravings. We all get them, we all try to ignore them, and we’ve all given in a time or two. Did you know that food cravings originate in the parts of the brain that manage feelings of pleasure and reward?
There are a few different potential causes for a food craving to be triggered. The first is an imbalance of hormones, like serotonin or leptin, which can cause a craving. The absence of essential nutrients can also prompt the brain to crave certain foods.
Endorphins can trigger those cravings, too! Sometimes, you want to eat something because you know it tastes good, and you know it will make you happy. We literally feel good after eating certain foods. Cravings can then become emotionally driven, especially if you are eating for comfort.
There is a tasty strategy to overcoming those cravings, however. Spice things up! Not only do spicy ingredients add flavor, they can help you conquer your cravings! New research has found that individuals who eat foods with more spice and flavor consume less salt and sugar!
Think about it, if a food is spicy, your taste buds are fully occupied and you tend to eat it more slowly, giving yourself time to cool down in between bites. This allows you to feel full faster. The capsaicin in hot peppers also boosts metabolism and improves insulin sensitivity, helping to keep weight and blood sugar under control.
If you aren’t used to eating spicy foods, start mild and start slowly. Jalapeno and serrano peppers are milder than say, a habanero. That’s because they are lower on the Scoville scale (a measure of how much capsaicin is in a pepper.)
Aside from being craving-conquers, spices offer an incredible variety of health benefits, as well!
The capsaicin in chili peppers is responsible for their heat… and their health benefits. It helps to protect your blood vessels (assisting with cholesterol and blood pressure management) and can kick-start weight loss by boosting metabolism. Enjoy them fresh or dried.
This spicy pepper may provide more benefits to your overall health than you may think. Apart from adding flavor to your meals, cayenne pepper “may improve the sensitivity of your tissues to insulin, and less insulin will be required to efficiently cause the movement of glucose from your blood into your tissues,” according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It’s spicy, it’s sweet… it’s a super-food! While not precisely a pepper, cinnamon is one of several spices that can help ward off cravings, and do wonders for your health. Firstly, cinnamon is packed with antioxidants (forty one to be precise.) Cinnamon comes in at number 7 in a list of the world’s most antioxidant-rich foods.
Diabetics in particular can benefit from cinnamon. It helps to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon helps to slow the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. This contributes not only to lower blood sugar, but also helps to keep sugar levels steady over longer periods of time.
True cinnamon is more expensive. Due to this price difference, the most readily available variety of cinnamon is cassia. (True cinnamon and cassia cinnamon both contain the cinnamaldehyde and antioxidants responsible for health benefits.)
Cumin lends a smokier heat to dishes and is most often found in curries. Many people enjoy eating these delicious ethnic foods, but there may be an even better reason to eat cumin. According to one study, the ingestion of cumin prompted blood sugar reductions similar to those of prescription medication!
Garlic is pungent, and can be spicy depending on how much of it you use. It has been extensively studied for its many health benefits. Research is starting to suggest that it may even show promise for lowering blood sugar.
A 2005 study which administered garlic orally to diabetic rats recorded significant decreases in blood glucose. Researchers also found that garlic can lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increase insulin production.
Well there you have it! If you want to help ward off cravings, and improve your overall health, put a little spice in your life (and in your mouth!)