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Curb Your Cravings

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Learn how to control that sudden and insatiable desire for chocolate.

woman eating sundae

JJ Virgin: OK, you're hungry and you have visions of chocolate molten lava cake with hot fudge sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream dancing in your head. Or maybe it's the salty chips and crackers that are seducing you from the pantry. Just what's behind this sneaky carb devil that shows up in your day, sticking his pointy fork in your belly?

Physiologically speaking, the desire or craving for sweet and salty foods is hard-wired in your brain. Consuming these foods stimulates a chemical chain reaction that leads to a temporary increase in serotonin levels. Serotonin is that "feel good" hormone that helps you feel relaxed and improves your mood. So, your cravings for carbs really may be a reaction to low levels of serotonin in your brain.

So you reach for the carbs to feel good -- what's the big deal? Eating foods high in sugar and other carbs increases blood sugar and insulin levels, along with serotonin. The serotonin "high" is temporary, causing your blood sugar to peak, then plummet, compounding the craving problem, making you want more and more carbs to fix it. As blood sugar levels rise, so do insulin levels, leading to even more cravings, and increased fat storage to boot! The WORST way to raise serotonin is to reach for sugar and carbs (think chocolate-covered pretzels).

STOP THE MADNESS!!

Here are six ways to naturally raise serotonin levels, which will not only enhance your mood but also lower your appetite, especially for your "trigger" foods:

Exercise -- especially outdoors in the bright light! The movement, sunlight, and increased oxygen consumption raise serotonin levels.

Some cravings are thirst in disguise. Try drinking a large glass of water (preferably with a squeeze of lemon) and wait a few minutes to see if you're still hungry.

Consume optimal amounts of protein at your three meals, especially wild game, turkey, whey protein, nuts, and seeds.

Avoid stimulants like coffee and caffeinated beverages, as well as alcohol and the artificial sweetener aspartame, all of which can lower serotonin levels over time.

Use xylitol as a sweetener, a naturally produced sugar alcohol that will not sabotage your mood or energy levels the way sugar can. It is almost as sweet as sucrose, which will give you the sweet taste you want and the craving control you need.

Manage your stress! Stress raises cortisol, which can exacerbate sugar cravings and make you store more fat around your waistline.



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