Why do our bodies crave junk food?

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New Delhi, Sep 13

There is no way to justify unhealthy junk food, then why do we still crave it? We keep reading about how harmful junk food can be for our health, it can lead to cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, obesity, high blood pressure, and a myriad of other health problems. But, most of us are unable to control these cravings.

A lot of research has been done in this arena and Kajal and Bushra, Dieticians, and CO-Founder of Healthy Steady Go have to say this about why you crave junk food:

. Beliefs around food: A lot of us believe that healthy and nutritious foods cannot be tasty and delicious! People don't like eating healthy food like fruit and veggies as they did not like it as kids. Good news! You aren't 5 anymore.

Don't let these old beliefs stop you from trying healthy food! Did you know you're your taste buds change every 5-6 years and that it takes up to 10-12 tries before you develop a taste for certain foods? We know junk food is tastier, but healthier versions can be made with it being tasty!

. Not sleeping enough: A lot of people view sleep as a sign of weakness. Research shows that sleeping less then required, leads to more cravings- and unhealthy foods. A recent study which analysed brain activity and compared those who sleep 9 hours v/s 4 hours, found those who slept less the areas associated with pleasure lit up more when subjects viewed pictures of ice cream, and pizza compared to veggies and yogurt. "Sleep deprivation adversely affects all systems in our body, leading to an increased craving for comfort, whether it's from a warm hug or junk food."

. Stress: In a stressful situation our body releases a stress hormone known as "Cortisol". Fats and sugars have been scientifically proven to make one feel better and give comfort. As a result, our body ends up craving more of such foods. A study backed this up by concluding: Sugar seems to lower cortisol and quiet stress signals in the brain.

. Eating too quickly: Ever wondered why everyone says to chew your food 32 times before you swallow? Well, 32 is a far-fetched number, cause nowadays people target to finish their entire meals within a span of 5-10 mins! (That's how busy our life and schedule have become) It's time we all reconsider this habit now. Eating too quickly can create miscommunication between the gut and the brain, whereby signals of satiety to the brain can be missed leading to over-eating.

. Hormonal imbalances: Be it your monthly menstrual periods or when a lady is pregnant, hormones in your body can create complete chaos. Namely, hormones like Leptin and Serotonin which are involved in the co-ordination between your gut and brain can lead to super strong cravings at weird hours.

. Insufficient water & protein intake: Many times thirst signals are misinterpreted as hunger signals by our minds. If we don't drink enough water or our meals lack protein, these hunger pangs will make us reach out for all the unhealthy junk food lying around the house.

. Nutrient deficiencies - An underlying nutrient deficiency can also lead to cravings for specific foods. Such as, magnesium deficiency causes you to crave chocolates, nuts, or beans. Sugar drops or deficiency of chromium or phosphorus can lead to sugar cravings. Similarly, a basic sodium deficiency will make you crave salty foods like chips.

. Friends/ family/ colleagues: It's pretty natural, when one person starts to crave some junk and he voices it out, the other person starts craving it too. Both of them then together enjoy their meal with good company. Did you know- "PICA" is a condition in which people crave nonfood items, such as chalk, dirt, coins, and ice chips?


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