Can Essential Oils Impact Food Cravings?

Woman-Craving-Food

Ah, food cravings. Those taste-worshipping fiends that far too easily punch a hole in our carefully crafted healthy-eating plans. 

Iceberg. Titanic. You get the picture.

We all know (or hopefully know) how absolutely essential it is to our overall wellness that we are eating healthily! But all too often those cravings creep up and have us throwing out the healthy meal plan before you can say “macronutrients”. 

Is there any hope? Yes! 

As ever, the better you know your enemy and yourself, the better chance you have of winning! So let’s look at some of the top food cravings and see what we (and our essential oils, of course) can do about them!

The #1 Craving: Simple Carbs—Including Sweets, Refined Breads, and Potatoes

Simple carbs come in many forms. They can be sweet, they can be salty, and they are usually delicious. 

But what all these carbs have in common is energy! Simple carbs are literally the fastest way for your body to get calories to burn because your digestive system can break them down faster than other foods. 

Your body says “give me energy!” and your brain says “Oh! I know! The fastest way to get energy is with simple carbs some ice cream, some fries, or that tasty pizza crust!” 

Unfortunately, this often backfires as the quickly-absorbed carbs cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop. 

(On top of that, these energy rushes from highly-palatable simple-carb foods can mess with your body’s naturally satiety cues, making it even harder for you to keep a healthy diet.)

So, the first defense against simple-carb cravings is to make sure your body doesn’t go into a state where it is desperate for energy! This means:

  1. Get slower-burning carbs into your stomach first! Whenever you crave simple carbs, ask yourself: “How long has it been since I consumed any slower-burning calorie sources like vegetables, healthy protein, or healthy fat?” If it’s been a while, go for those first and wait 20 minutes. Your cravings will likely subside. 
  2. Get the right quantity and quality of sleep. A tired person is a less energetic person, and therefore more vulnerable to simple carb cravings. Lavender, Chamomile, and Bergamot are top choices for a solid EO-assisted bedtime routine. 
  3. Manage your stress levels. Stress saps your energy. So it’s best to get to know your body well enough to know when it needs a break and what truly refuels it (hey, we know a scanner that can help with that!). And remember, essential oils blend well with many de-stressing practices, so use them together!
  4. Take care of your heart and lungs! Your heart and lungs are what deliver energy and nutrients to the rest of your body. So take care of your lungs with Eucalyptus oil and your heart with Ylang Ylang oil so you can keep that energy flowing!
  5. Choose your sweets carefully. When you must have sweets, go for natural, non-processed sweets that have some fiber and/or nutrients to them like; plain whole fruit, sweet potato (lots of vitamin A!), or dark chocolate. 
  6. Trick your brain. Peppermint and cinnamon oil are popular oils for fighting sugar cravings. Your brain gets the stimulation of the sweet smell while your body’s blood sugar doesn’t yo-yoed!

Pass the Salt or Pass On the Salt?

Oh yes, we all crave salt sometimes—partly because it helps bring out the flavor of practically everything! The creaminess of the avocado, the savoriness of steak or soup, and even the sweetness of many desserts are strengthened by the presence of just a liiiittle salt. 

But beyond our enjoyment of flavors, salt has the very important job in the body of maintaining the correct balance of water and minerals in the body, especially in the blood. 

Turns out, a salt craving is often your body signaling: 

1) Dehydration—Theoretically, increased salt levels in your body would help you absorb more water, but the best solution is actually just to drink more water! (After a certain point, consuming salt will just make you thirstier and thirstier.) 

or 

2) A need for electrolytes—Salt provides electrolytes for your body, but so does potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other micronutrients. So basically, having a balanced diet of essential micronutrients will help you lower your salt cravings. 

Your Daily Relationship with Salt
Nutritionally, we all need a little less than ¼ teaspoon (500mg) of salt per day to help us maintain our nervous systems, muscle control, and more. 

But too much salt (Dietary Guidelines for Americans says we shouldn’t exceed 2300 mg, roughly 1 teaspoon—as you can see, concentrated table salt can add up fast!), can cause heart problems and strokes later down the road. 

So if getting enough water and electrolytes is the strategy, here are some tactics you can use (and some of them include essential oils!):

  1. Measure your water intake. Use a measured water bottle, a water-tracking app,  a smart water bottle, or just the good old-fashioned “a glass before and after each meal” routine to make sure you get enough water. 
  2. Flavor your water to help you drink more. There are all kinds of fruits and veggies you can use to add a refreshing, flavorful edge to your water. You can use essential oils too, but be sure to only use high-quality, safe-for-consumption essential oils make sure you know how to consume them in safe amounts.
  3. Eat high water-content foods. Foods like lettuce, celery, zucchini, cabbage, and various types of melons are 90% water! 
  4. Eat high electrolyte foods. 
    1. Calcium can be found in milk products, seeds, beans, edamame, salmon, and other foods
    2. Magnesium can be found in pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, black beans, shredded wheat, dark chocolate, edamame, and other foods.
    3. Potassium can be found in bananas, cooked spinach and broccoli, squash vegetables, and other foods. 

Dare to Crave Dairy?

It would be a mistake to villainize dairy completely. After all, dairy products are, for the most part, highly nutritious, with milk alone packing in 18 out of 22 of your body’s most-needed nutrients!

But of course, dairy, like anything, can be overdone.  

What’s more, (apart from the body wanting some of the good nutrients from dairy), you may also crave dairy due to hormone-related depression or stress. We may seek a tasty, sensory escape from our feelings or even seek a chemical solution to our feelings through the Vitamin D or the serotonin-boosting chemicals (like tyramine or trytophan) found in dairy.

So, when your dairy cravings begin to push you too far, we recommend: 

  1. Destress. There are a lot of ways to combat stress, many of them more healthy than overdoing it with dairy. Combine your best aromatherapy oils with other stress-relieving practices to take the edge off of a dairy craving!
  2. Try Turkey. Turkey meat carries the same serotonin-boosting chemicals (tyramine or trytophan) as dairy with hardly any of the fat. And it’s a great source of lean protein!
  3. Get some sun! Twenty minutes of sunshine a day will boost your mood and get you your Vitamin D without the help of dairy.
  4. Eat a well-balanced diet with a daily multivitamin. If your body already has all the nutrients it needs, it will feel less hungry, less stressed, and you will likely experience fewer and weaker cravings!

Other Top Tips for Fighting Cravings

  1. Mind your environment. Sometimes where we are, who we’re with, and the time of day (mid-afternoon is proven to be the worst time for cravings), can play a huge role in the appearance and strength of our cravings. 

Learn what your environmental triggers are. Learn to avoid them or shore up your defenses before and during such occasions. 

For example: I always end up eating sweets on weekends out with my friends. I’ll make sure to eat beforehand or bring some dark chocolate along as a substitute.

“If you resist, you weaken the link between [environmental] cues and mindless eating,” – Marcia Pelchat, PhD

  1. Have a little. Not a lot. There is a big difference between just one bite of something and over-doing it, between one little fun-sized candy bar and a 10 oz bag of candy. 

If you’re up for it, satisfy your cravings with the 3-bite rule and ask your friends, family, and roommates to help you keep it. 

Cravings & Emotions: How to Understand Your Feelings Before You Eat Them

Why Eating and Emotions Are Connected

To start understanding how closely emotions and eating are connected—just think of the wailing of a hungry baby or the joy that lights up a child’s face at the mention or taste of ice cream. 

Our emotions are meant to help us survive and thrive—and few things are more essential to our survival than food! Food is survival. Food is the most basic and necessary comfort. And, as such, it provides a foundation for all our higher emotions, like courage, joy, peace, and more. 

What’s more, adequate nutrition sets the stage for physical, emotional, and even social growth! (Seriously, the kind of food you eat affects your gut microflora and thus the hormones involved in social interaction and bonding. No wonder we humans like to eat together!) You simply cannot have your best physical or emotional wellness without good nutrition. 

That said, even food is one of the first comforts we know in life (and often one of the quickest-acting), it is not an effective cure for all of our emotional low-points! 

And if we let emotional eating get out of hand, we can sicken our own bodies and emotional wellness even further!

We need to eat wisely. We need to eat to effectively take care of our bodies and emotional foundations, not simply for pleasure or for emotional escape. 

The first step is to know our own nutritional needs, eat healthy, and know when we’ve eaten enough (nutrition-tracking apps and food diaries can help with this). This way, when negative emotions arise, we’ll know whether or not our stomachs are really to blame (and if eating something right now really is likely to help). 

Once we’ve crossed “hangriness” off the list, we can begin to bravely begin the work of tracking, identifying, understanding, and dealing with our emotions in better ways. 

Conclusion

Cravings are the devil. 

But with just a little self-awareness and the right tools, we can all overcome our cravings and enjoy the wellness benefits of a healthy, balanced diet. 

It takes practice. But as we master our cravings, we can enjoy the occasional sweet treat, salty snack, or dairy delight feeling guilt free!

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