Anyone who has ever tried to quit alcohol, take a break or decrease the amount they drink will have experienced alcohol cravings. Getting home from work on a Friday evenings after a stressful week, having a nice meal at a restaurant with good friends, or travelling through beautiful wine regions are all triggers for that hard-to-resist feeling when you just crave alcohol. Of course, for most people drinking alcohol is a habit, and breaking that habit takes willpower to get started, and a great deal of conscious thought to keep going. So when the alcohol craving strikes, sometimes it can be hard to resist.
However, there are a number of ways to reduce alcohol cravings that may help you break your habit, and create newer, healthier replacement habits. While I haven’t tried any of these myself, I have found a number of suggestions from various websites for you to experiment with. I’ve provided links through to their sites for you to find out more, and if you do try any, I’d be keen to hear how they worked for you in the comments section below.
Complex carbohydrates such as breads, pastas and rice
If alcohol has played a big part in your daily calorie intake, your body has been conditioned to use simple carbohydrates as your major energy source. As soon as you remove or considerably reduce the amount of alcohol you consume, your body is going to crave carbohydrates, or more accurately, sugar. Instead of refuelling with sugar from chocolate bars, potato chips, cakes or the white stuff you put in your coffee and tea, try eating fibre-rich complex carbohydrates found in wholemeal pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, vegetables, legumes and wholegrain breads. Because these carbs release slowly into your blood stream (i.e. they’re low GI), blood sugar levels will remain steady and the cravings will stay away for longer.
Bananas and sunflower seeds
After initially causing dopamine levels to rise, prolonged alcohol use deteriorates this ‘happy’ chemical in the brain. Slowly, users require more alcohol to get the same happy feeling, and feel anxious when craving alcohol. Eating bananas and sunflower seeds naturally increases dopamine levels, while bananas offer the added advantage of increasing serotonin in the brain, thus reducing depression and anxiety. It’s at our lowest moments that we often turn to alcohol, so any foods that help control our moods and decrease depression and anxiety will reduce our craving for alcohol.
Green vegetables, fruits and leafy greens
Broccoli, spinach, lettuce, peas, bananas (again), oranges and melons are brilliant sources of vitamin B, a vital ally in the fight against alcohol cravings and addiction. Vitamin B battles fatigue, aids with red blood cell production for brain and heart function, and is a key ingredient in digestion as it helps to metabolise nutrients. And because bananas increase serotonin in the brain, you’ll feel less anxiety and depression during the initial withdrawal period.
Good quality proteins
Protein is important for so many bodily functions such as muscle and tissue growth and restoration, and plays an active part in your mood, quality of sleep and digestion. Chicken is a well known source of lean protein, while fish including salmon, tuna and mackerel are loaded with protein. As an added bonus, fish are packed with vitamin D, polyunsaturated fats (the good fat), and omega-3 fatty acids (more essential fat) which are great for mood control and brain power! For vegetarians, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and peanut butter are great substitutes.
Fresh spinach and parsley
L-Glutamine is a fantastic amino-acid and an excellent source of energy for your brain. It’s also great for getting quality sleep, decreasing anxiety, and reducing your alcohol cravings by reducing your yearning for sugar, which is what it’s all about, right? L-Glutamine can be found naturally in uncooked, fresh spinach and parsley (it is non-existent once cooked), which are also excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and fibres that help control your metabolism. L-Glutamine is also available as a supplement, but make sure you see your GP before going down this path.
A nutrient rich diet is the way to go
While these foods are excellent for reducing alcohol cravings, eating any good quality whole foods when you feel like a drink will fill your stomach and potentially knock that craving on the head. A lot of heavy drinkers replace meals with alcohol, so the first step in kicking your drinking habit and leading a healthier life is to eat nutrient rich foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and any snacks in between.
Try these suggestions and let us know if they help with your alcohol craving. If you eat other foods that alleviate the desire to drink, tell us about those in the comments section below as well.