Bread often gets a bad rap because we all have heard that simple carbohydrates like white bread are ‘bad’ for our health.
When bread is seen as unhealthy and bad, then bread cravings can feel strange.
- Why am I craving bread if there’s little nutritional value?
- Does craving bread mean that I am missing some other vitamin or mineral?
- Why am I craving bread all of a sudden even when I’m not under any stress?
There was a time in my life when I would intensely crave and fantasize about bread.
In these times I would also dream about and crave carbohydrates similar to bread such as muffins, crackers and pizza. These were treats that I might allow myself at the end of the week to help with stress!
But something would always happen and I would find myself losing control and eating bread uncontrollably even during the week. This probably happened more times than I care to admit.
So for many years I lived in fear of bread and carbs. I thought carbs and that bread in particular were bad.
I tried to avoid bread. I tried to minimize my food intake of carbohydrates. But nothing really worked.
Eventually however, my perception about bread changed. That’s what this article is about.
It’s about why you crave bread and what you can do about it.
Why Am I Craving Bread So Much?
There are two main reasons why you may crave bread so much:
- You are not eating enough food and your body needs quick calories for energy
- You are restricting bread and therefore crave bread because it is forbidden
1 – Your Body Needs Quick Fuel From Bread
Generally speaking, the most common reason for bread cravings is that you are primarily eating carbs throughout the day but now your stomach is running empty.
Said in other words, you haven’t eaten enough wholesome foods and now your body is without a sufficient backup supply of calories.
By ‘wholesome foods’ I mean:
- Complex carbs like wheat bread, beans or brown rice
- Proteins like yogurt or lean meats
- Fats like olive oil or nuts
Here’s an example of what typically happens before someone starts to crave bread. A person has:
- A quick bowl of cereal for breakfast (or skip breakfast entirely),
- A large muffin, skimpy salad for late snack or lunch, and
- A bar, crackers or chips for afternoon snack
In this scenario it’s now late afternoon and this person has had very little food with any intake of protein or fat. They just ate processed carbs like crackers and cereal all day long!
There’s nothing wrong for your health if you eat processed carbs, contrary to my previous (years ago) thoughts on the matter.
However, processed carbs get used up by your body very quickly.
Carbs are able to be turned into blood sugar very quickly by your body’s digestive system.
Blood sugar, of course, leads to rapid energy but then oftentimes a sugar crash occurs once the energy wears off.
So when one eats only processed carbs, then they run out of fuel and start to crave more carbs.
What’s happening here is that your body has just rapidly converted carbs into fuel, and now your body has used up all those carbs and needs more energy.
Since your body needs more energy, it is looking for quick sources of energy. And guess what – bread happens to be a great source of quick energy.
This is a major reason why you get carb cravings in general too, it’s not just limited to bread.
2 – You Think Bread Is ‘Bad’ and Don’t Eat It, But Now Crave Bread
Most people will attempt the Keto diet at some point. And most people will not stick to the Keto diet.
Why is this? The reason most people report is being unable to limit their carb consumption.
(If you don’t know, in the Keto diet, you drastically limit carbs and try eating more vegetables, meats, fats and proteins.)
Keto is not the only diet on the market that recommends avoiding carbs. Many other diets advocate limiting of carbs including bread, such as:
- Gluten free diet
- Atkins diet
But all too often, a person wildly fluctuates:
- In the beginning a person may have some carbs now and then …
- But then they hear about one of these diets and restrict carbs
- Then carb cravings for bread and other similar foods go through the roof!
I’m here to report that restricting carbs and bread can directly cause food cravings for carbs and bread!
Like we talked about earlier, just eating carbs all day long isn’t good, the opposite of entirely avoiding carbs is also a bad long term strategy too.
See, this attempt to avoid carbs and sweets is what I did back in the day.
Every day I would try to avoid bread, whole grains and other carbs because I thought they were ‘bad’. But unknowingly, I was setting myself up to get a carb craving frenzy for the very things I was trying to avoid!
I later learned that carbs such as bread actually do play an especially important role in giving your brain adequate energy to make wise decisions and stay in a healthy mood.
If you limit carbs, you actually starve your brain of the very energy source needed to help reduce stress and, overall, just live a life as a normal human being.
For example, have you ever limited your food intake of carbs but then found yourself in an especially bad mood?
Or you might restrict another type of food source like chocolate, salty foods or cheese …
But still you end up feeling un-well?
That’s a restriction for you right there! Restriction is something that will make you feel bad in a confusing way because you think you are being ‘good’ by avoiding carbs – but then this restriction will just make you feel salty and sad.
A better idea is to find the path of moderation.
Moderation means allowing yourself to have some “bad”foods that make you feel good, but also eating healthier foods too.
Following a path of moderation can be difficult when there is this popular message out there that bread and carbohydrates is bad.
Where did we get this notion that bread and carbohydrates are bad?
There have been many research papers and popular health books written about how carbohydrates are related to obesity, negative mood, and other not so healthy outcomes.
For example, Eric Slosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” correctly notes that the rise of the fast food industry is correlated with rising obesity rates.
Eric Slosser also goes on in the book to note that carbohydrates are what fast food restaurants primarily serve.
Therefore, Eric implies, carbohydrates including bread are mostly bad. And this book has since become a movie and has a wikipedia page too, so this message goes beyond just being limited to a book – it really is a cultural message that impacts us all on some level.
But you have to be careful about your attitudes towards bread and carbohydrates in general.
I believe at this point it is helpful to talk about cravings themselves and what cravings mean.
What Does It Mean When Your Body Craves Any Type Of Food?
Generally speaking, people fear their cravings.
Cravings are seen:
- As a sign of weakness
- An indication of failure or laziness
- As fearful because a binge will soon come
If you see cravings in this way, then please realize the following points:
- If you are just eating crap all day long, pardon my language, then yes you will have intense cravings for bread because your body is all out of energy.
- Just eating carbs all day long is like a fire burning on gasoline. You need to keep adding gasoline to the fire to stay warm instead of using charcoal which burns more slowly.
- In this example protein and fats are like charcoal, which burn more slowly and keep your body warm for longer. In human terms, protein and fat give you more energy over time and take longer to digest.
- If you have strict rules to not eat bread or carbs then you will crave bread and carbs. It’s really that simple. Humans want what we can’t have.
- If you are not eating enough food in general, then you will crave food.
- For example, you may think you are eating healthy because you eat vegetables and salads all day long.
- However, vegetables and salads won’t fill you up and your body will need energy from other sources.
- If you ignore your body’s need for fuel the cravings will increase.
Here’s what you can do if you relate to the above information. You can do an experiment:
- Eat more wholesome foods (see section below for ideas)
- If eating more wholesome foods doesn’t remove your cravings … then
Explore your attitudes about bread and let yourself eat bread in moderation!
What Should You Eat When You’re Craving Bread, Sweets And Other Carbs?
Here are some quick ideas on what you may want to try to eat when you are craving carbs:
(Notice how this still allows you to eat the carb you are getting food cravings for, but we also pair that carb with a healthy fat or protein source)
- Instead of just plain bread, try whole wheat bread with avocado
- Try hummus with whole grain crackers instead instead of just plain crackers
- If you are craving something sweet, try sweet fruit like strawberries or another type of berry
- If you are craving pasta, try a whole wheat or bean pasta option for slower burning carbs and new flavors
- A medium sized sweet potato offers a rich source of slow burning carbs too
- For snacks try cheese and a little meat, or nuts
- Try brown rice instead of just plain white rice (nothing wrong with plain rice too, but brown rice digests more slowly… just try to switch things up!)
Overall, I want to emphasize that for better health you ideally want to eat a diet that has a variety of foods. This may mean a little bit of everything, including those sugar things like chocolate and ice cream too!
When I was craving carbs all the time, I really made an intentional effort to eat 3-5x per day. This means a solid and hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner along with 1-2 snacks.
When I ate, I would strive to eat more protein and fat than I was used to so that my hunger would be gone for hours. For example, I would have a whole grain piece of toast along with 2 eggs and a glass of milk for breakfast.
This gave me a good contented feeling in my stomach that would last for hours. My hunger would be gone because I wasn’t just eating carbs all day long!
Previously I would have just had toasted white bread with maybe a tiny bit of butter and coffee. But then a few hours later I would be feeling hungry again!
But after learning about the importance of slow burning foods to fuel my body, I really made it a priority to eat more proteins and fats than I was used to.
I also started giving myself permission to eat those slices of bread that I wanted, but I made sure to eat the pieces of bread in delicious ways.
For example, pairing bread with peanut butter and honey or with salsa and avocado.
This helped me to fill up with a variety of foods and still not restrict or avoid bread either.
I can say that these days my relationship with bread has changed a lot and if you follow the above tips it can for you as well.
However, this food stuff can be confusing, so be sure to chat with a qualified eating counselor who can help you through if you feel confused.
Leave me a comment down below with your thoughts!