How Nutrition Can Help Curb Addiction Cravings
Addiction cravings can come in many forms – drugs, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, nicotine, the list goes on and on. These cravings encourage us to reach for our “go-to” fix, if even if that substance is not really helping. For example, if you are used to eating potato chips during a salt craving, you are likely to immediately reach for a bag. And you probably won’t feel much better after you eat them, either.
Also, many addicts by nature are very impulsive. That is, we are looking for instant gratification, or a quick way to make ourselves feel better. Unfortunately, this behavior perpetuates the cycle of addiction, as we have great difficulty abstaining or even waiting for access to the substance that we wish to consume. That is, addicts are not known for having a tremendous amount of patience.
Simply put, cravings do mean something, but we often misinterpret them. They are a signal our body is in need, but we often seek a unhealthy substance rather than digging deeper into why these cravings are really occurring.
However, you can change that pattern of behavior. For example, if you are a sugar addict, you might typically go for cookies or chocolate. But if you begin to consistently fulfill that cravings with fruit instead, your brain will instinctively consider these items as the adequate substitutes that they are.
Sometimes this change can be facilitated by using moderation or gradual substitutions. For example, instead of eating three cookies, eat one cookie and a banana. And then continue to work this line of thinking to your advantage.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally indulge. What it does mean is that the unhealthy snack should be methodically reduced from your diet, while a healthier one is being replaced. To help, here is a list of common addiction cravings, needs they actually indicate, and the alternative, healthier versions.
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Cravings
Outside of chemical addiction, alcohol and drug cravings may indicate a need for protein, calcium, glutamine, and potassium. You can find these nutrients in meat (including poultry), dairy, granola, nuts, oatmeal, mustard/turnip greens, broccoli, glutamine powder, potato peels.
Acidic Food Cravings
A table of acidic foods can be found here. Alcohol, including beer and wine, are considered acidic. Magnesium may help with these cravings, which can be found in raw nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and chards, avocados, and fruit such as bananas.
Bread cravings may indicate a need for nitrogen, which can be found in high protein foods such as meats, nuts, legumes, cereal, eggs and dairy.
Chocolate cravings may be satiated by magnesium, which can be found in raw nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, avocados, fruits such as bananas, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and chards.
Coffee or Tea Cravings
Coffee or tea cravings may be quelled by phosphorus, sulfur, salt, or iron. You can find these in meat (chicken, beef, liver, poultry, and fish), as well as egg yolks, red peppers, sea salt, and apple cider vinegar.
Fatty/oily Food Cravings
Cravings for oily or fatty foods may indicate a need for more calcium, which is found in mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale, seafood, legumes and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Salt cravings may be sated by chloride, which is found in raw goat milk, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, fish, olives, and unrefined sea salt.
Sugar cravings may indicate a need for chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur or tryptophan. You can find these nutrients in raw nuts and seed, legumes, fruit, cheese, broccoli, dried beans, meat (chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish) and horseradish.
Tobacco Addiction Cravings
Tobacco cravings, while most certainly spawned by the drug itself, may be mitigated by consuming tyrosine. This is found in cheese, raisins, sweet potatoes, spinach, vitamin C supplements, green and red fruits and vegetables, nuts (walnuts, almonds, and pecans), seeds, beans, meat (liver, lamb, tuna, beef, chicken, turkey, and pork), raw goat milk, and unrefined sea salt.
Bingeing and overeating may indicate a need for more tryptophan or tyrosine. These are found in raw goat milk, fish, unrefined sea salt, raw nuts and seeds, legumes, and fruit.
Please note that utilizing these alternatives does not guarantee that you won’t experience your original cravings from time to time. What this list does do, however, is offer healthy alternatives which may help reduce cravings for certain substances, while providing nutritional benefits.
Also, substance addictions to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are certainly more complicated, and involve other chemical brain processes in addition to nutritional needs. Moreover, this guide does not take the place of intensive therapy, counseling, medication-assisted detox, or other treatment approaches to addiction recovery.
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~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology