By: Molly Helfend
Have you ever woken up after a night of restless sleep and lusted for nothing more than a breakfast drizzled with maple syrup or powdered sugar? We have all had those days where we crave unhealthy foods. Those days when we turn into Augustus Glump and guzzle down chocolate bars whole or those days when we lick the entire inside of a potato chips bag clean of salt until it's gleaming like a shining penny. We all want to eat healthy, but what if I told you that it is not your lack of willpower or tenacity that is making you reach for these foods. Many times, it actually means you have a vitamin deficiency.
In this day and age of artificially processed foods, sugar-loaded beverages and genetically engineered produce and meats, most of us are lacking some of the most vital nutrients that keep our bodies nourished and strong. These genetically modified ingredients have not only a hazardous impact on human and animal health, but also have “unintended impacts on ecosystem health, such as unnatural gene flow, diminished genetic diversity, effects on non-target species, weediness, reduced pesticide and herbicide efficiency, herbicide and insecticide toxicity, and modification of soil and water chemistry and quality” (Tsatsakis, 2017). We live in a world where transnational corporate greed dictates how and what we consume, putting up a glass wall between consumer and producer. If you walk into your local market, it is almost impossible to find sustenance without pesticides, hydrogenated oils, antibiotics and refined sugars. “The food system—encompassing the production, processing, marketing, and purchase of food and the related consumer behaviors, resources and institutions—appears to be struggling to deliver nutritious and healthy diets in an equitable manner. And the world is changing: the global population is increasing, migration to cities is accelerating, and transitions in dietary habits towards more processed and animal-source based foods are becoming commonplace, putting the food system under ever-increasing pressure” (Dangour, Mace, Shankar, 2017).
And as we push further into a globalized society, we lose the connection and ability to control what is actually put on our shelves. This in turn is extremely harmful to our health and is seen in those ever expanding waste lines and health bills. This is when vitamin deficiencies can really take form. However, by cultivating connections and supporting our local farmers, growing your own garden or choosing real whole foods, you will see not only an improvement in your own health, but in your community’s as well. Taking the strain off of our industrialized food systems will honor the earth and continue our symbiotic relationship with the sacred lands that keep us alive.
Although what we ingest contributes to deficiencies, so does our lifestyle habits. This includes psychological, physical, social, environmental and even spiritual motives that inhibit our ability to take control of our nutritional health. According to Authority Nutrition, some cues and habits include:
Suppressed thoughts: Viewing certain foods as “forbidden” or actively trying to suppress your desire to eat them often intensifies cravings for them.
Context associations: In some cases, the brain associates eating a food with a certain context, such as eating popcorn during a movie. This can create a craving for that specific food the next time the same context appears.
Specific mood: Food cravings may be triggered by specific moods. One example is “comfort foods,” which are often craved when wanting to get over a negative mood.
High stress levels: Stressed individuals often report experiencing more cravings than non-stressed individuals.
Insufficient sleep: Getting too little sleep may disrupt hormone levels, which may increase the likelihood of cravings.
Poor hydration: Drinking too little water or other liquids can promote hunger and cravings in some people.
Insufficient protein or fiber: Protein and fiber help you feel full. Eating too little of either may increase hunger and cravings.
Molly Helfend is part of the HOC team and is an herbalist and environmental activist. She graduated from University of Vermont in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Holistic Health. She will be attending University of Kent in Canterbury, England to receive her Masters Degree in Ethnobotany in 2017. She has worked for Urban Moonshine, Greenpeace and received her training with Spoonful Herbals. Her goal is to receive her PHD and become a professor at University of California Santa Cruz. Molly resides in Monte Nido, California.