A food craving can be a mild distraction or an outright obsession. Most cereals are high in sugar and carbohydrates and may also be high in fat. Sugar, carbs and fats are the most commonly craved types of food. A craving for cereal can have several causes, ranging from chronic stress to hormonal fluctuations. If you find yourself craving cereal all of the time, consult your physician.
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Women often crave high-fat and high-sugar foods in the premenstrual phase of their cycles because of hormonal fluctuations, according to the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center. In fact, women are often less able than men to resist cravings because of their estrogen levels, according to Brookhaven National Laboratory. A high-sugar, high-carb cereal might be just the thing for a woman who's dealing with fluctuating hormones.
A craving for cereal may be an indication of chronic stress. Chronic stress creates an ongoing metabolic response that can lead to weight gain, depression and an elevated risk of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Chronic stress may trigger a hunger for high-energy foods like sugar, fats and carbohydrates, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Eating the craved high-energy food, such as chocolate or cereal, may resolve the chronic stress response temporarily, but unless the factors causing the stress are removed, continually consuming these foods can lead to obesity and more stress.
Craving cereal does not necessarily mean that you are deprived of carbohydrates. In a study at Flinders University in Australia, dieters who were limiting their carbohydrates reported that they didn't have any special carb cravings. The researchers concluded that a craving for carbs was more likely linked to pleasant mental associations with that food.
Considerations and Warnings
Your cravings might be a sign of something other than stress or hormonal fluctuations. You may be a binge eater or have another eating disorder that requires attention. Even if you don't have an eating disorder, severe cravings can undermine a diet plan that you're trying to follow. This is especially problematic if you're diabetic. If you're having intense cravings that you can't seem to control, see your doctor. You may need medical tests to determine an underlying cause for your cravings or a referral to a counselor. Your doctor may also refer you to a dietitian who can help you develop an eating plan that you can follow more easily than the one you're on now.
- United National University; Food Aversions and Cravings During Pregnancy: Prevalence and Significance for Maternal Nutrition in Ethiopia; Tsegaye Demissie et al.
- University of California San Francisco; Comfort Food Cravings May Be Body's Attempt to Put Brake on Chronic Stress; Jennifer O'Brien
- Joselin Diabetes Center: Food Cravings and Diabetes
- ScienceDaily.com; The Psychology of Food Craving
- Los Angeles Times; Trying to Stop Food Cravings? Not Eating the Foods You Crave May Help, Study Finds; Jeannine Stein
- Brookhaven National Laboratory News; Control Your Hunger? Study Shows Men Can, Women Can't