Quarantine Cravings: Part 2

Eat to beat cravings.

Can we talk about all those pictures of homemade bread popping up all over social media? Everyday I’m seeing posts of crisp crusted sourdough bread, golden loaves of banana bread and mouth-watering homemade biscuits. And in Quarantine Cravings: Part 1, I shared my recent craving for chocolate chip cookies. What’s driving all of these cravings?

Three words: Stress, serotonin, dopamine. Stress depletes serotonin and dopamine, our mood-regulating hormones. And this in turn spurs cravings for sugar, carbs and chocolate. Or sometimes salt and fat. Stress, and its corresponding elevated cortisol, causes other nutrient depletions as well. High cortisol burns through B vitamins, of which B6 is critical in synthesizing serotonin and dopamine.

Your best defense against these cravings – and they are real – is to lower stress. I know how difficult that can be given these uncertain times we are living in. But there are things you can do to reduce stress and they are likely things that are within your control. 

  • Eat something healthy. Grab a piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts instead of that cookie. And make sure you’re eating adequate, quality protein at each meal. Protein helps you feel satisfied longer.
  • Munch on some Mood Boosting Granola. Find the recipe below.
  • Take a walk. Preferably where there are trees and you can still maintain the recommended six-foot distance from others.
  • Take a yoga class. Google “Free Yoga Classes Online” and take your pick. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress.
  • Drink water. Finally, I can’t overstress the importance of hydration. And as mentioned in Quarantine Cravings Part 1, dehydration can mask itself as hunger, especially for sugar, as well as fatigue, irritability and headache. Aim for a minimum of 64 ounces of plain, clean water daily or half your body weight in ounces per day. Unfortunately, coffee doesn’t count here.

Mood-Boosting Granola

This recipe supplies a healthy dose of tryptophan and tyrosine – precursors to serotonin and dopamine, respectively – as well as vitamin B6. Pecans, which are naturally sweet and a small amount of real maple syrup satisfy the sweet craving.

3 cups rolled oats (Gluten-free oats work great, but avoid quick-cooking oats for this recipe)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raw cacao nibs
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted               
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Combine the oats, coconut, pecans and raw cacao.
  3. Melt the coconut oil in a large glass bowl. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and mix well. Stir in the dry ingredients, coating them well.
  4. Spread in a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet and cook 30-35 minutes and sprinkle with cinnamon and salt. Stir once about half way through the cooking time.
  5. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Perhaps you noticed that I’m pretty specific on a couple of the ingredients in this granola recipe. Here’s why. Pure maple syrup has just as much sugar as its commercial pancake syrup counterpart. And sugar is sugar. However, the pure product delivers a number of minerals, especially manganese, an important immune-supporting mineral. And the raw cacao provides key antioxidants and magnesium, another mineral that’s a critical mood stabilizer and immune system enhancer. Sorry, but your common variety of chocolate chips only brings more inflammation-promoting sugar to the table (pun intended). So, give this immune-supportive and mood-boosting granola a try.

And while it looks like some areas may soon see a reduction in the social distancing requirements, maintaining a robust immune system will be critical to staying healthy in the months and years ahead. A healthy diet, rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, adequate protein and healthy fats, is a good foundation but sometimes we need extra support. Next week in Quarantine Cravings: Part 3, I’ll discuss some key vitamins, minerals and herbs that you may want to consider boosting via supplementation.

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