Your taste buds may steer you toward your fridge in the middle of the night to satisfy your late-night hunger cravings. As you lean on the open refrigerator door, your hunger levels spike while you reach for the most convenient and mouthwatering food for your palette. The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says that people who eat late at night tend to choose high-calorie foods that their bodies can do without, ultimately leading to weight gain. But hunger cravings can occur at different times of the day; you may find yourself craving a salty snack at 10 a.m. and then something sweet at 3 p.m., but these unhealthy spikes in cravings can actually lead you to eat more instead of eating less.
Beat your hunger cravings by eating the right foods while boosting weight loss by regulating your levels of dopamine — a neurotransmitter released when the body is experiencing pleasurable sensations like food consumption.
Dopamine And Hunger Cravings
Many of us are eager to have that cup of coffee every morning to jump-start our days. While caffeine boosts energy levels, having coffee is also a pleasurable experience that releases high levels of dopamine. When there is a greater gap between your meals throughout the day, your body will have lower dopamine levels, leading you to overindulge in hunger cravings. If you feel good after giving into your food cravings, your mind will be programmed to seek what gives you pleasure and send impulses to do it again. Unfortunately, most of the foods we crave are refined carbohydrates that can lead to unhealthy eating habits and obesity, said Dr. Mehmet Oz on the Dr. Oz Show. When your dopamine levels immediately fall, the body sends signals to the brain that make you look for food and eat it immediately.
Low levels of dopamine dampen your dopamine receptors and lead you to lose control of your diet and what you eat. As your dopamine levels deplete, your food cravings will return because the body needs to have stabilized levels of the chemical in order to proactively prevent food binging. The feel-good mood you associate with sweets, sugars, and carbohydrates triggers “reward” networks in the brain that can be difficult to reverse, says Nutrutionwonderland.com.
Findings published in Nutrition & Metabolism support the idea that dopamine plays a significant role in hunger cravings and directly affects weight gain and loss. Dopamine-induced eating behavior is linked to compensating for low dopamine levels, which leads to the possibility of overeating after long periods of food withdrawal.
The Dopamine Diet: Curb Your Cravings And Lose Weight
To stop those late-night trips to the fridge during the week, Bryce Wylde, author of Wylde On Health, shared with Dr. Oz the "dopamine diet" that can curb cravings and even help you lose weight. The higher your dopamine levels are, the more you can boost weight loss by eating the right foods. The first thing you should do to stop cravings is to eat. Although this may sound counterintuitive, regularly eating healthy foods will ensure stabilized dopamine levels in the body.
To effectively stabilize your dopamine levels, Wylde suggests eating foods that contain the ingredient tyrosine. This chemical is the precursor to dopamine in your body that will prevent peaks and crashes that can cause you to feel tired and even irritated when you don’t satisfy your impulsive hunger cravings. Foods that can naturally suppress your hunger include:
- Fava beans
- Wheat germ
- Mustard greens
- Ricotta cheese
According to Dr. Oz, fava beans contain a high concentration of tyrosine that can significantly aid you in controlling hunger cravings.
Dopamine Diet Meals
To help you jump-start your dopamine diet, Dr. Oz has suggested the following foods to incorporate into your three daily meals (and even dessert)
- Breakfast – Oatmeal with wheat germ & raspberries
- Lunch – Mustard greens salad with turkey
- Dinner – Duck with fava puree
- Dessert – Toast with ricotta cheese & blackberry
Dopamine Cravings Quiz
If you are unsure whether your hunger cravings are affecting your dopamine levels, Dr. Oz has designed a self-evaluation to help you:
- Do you have a late-night snack at least two nights a week?
- Do you keep eating even after you know you are full?
- Are you irritable or tired when you cut down on favorite foods?
According to Dr. Oz, if you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you have low dopamine levels.
To regulate your dopamine levels in supplement form, you can take L-Tyrosine, a neurotransmitter support.