From seeing photos of food all over your Instagram feed, to watching mouthwatering TV commercials for fast food chains, I understand why most people think they’re hungry or craving all the time. But sometimes, it’s not really hunger but your body’s way of telling you that it needs more calories

From seeing photos of food all over your Instagram feed, to watching mouthwatering TV commercials for fast food chains, I understand why most people think they’re hungry or craving all the time. But sometimes, it’s not really hunger but your body’s way of telling you that it needs more calories.

According to Maggie Moon, RD, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist and owner of Everyday Healthy Eating,”Hunger is the physiological need for calories, water and salt, and it’s driven by a mix of factors, including your diet, appetite hormones and emotional factors, such as stress.”

Here are a couple of reasons that’ll help explain your “hunger pangs” from our friends at the Huffington Post.

You’re dehydrated

“Mild dehydration is often masked as feelings of hunger, when really your body just needs fluids,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The confusion happens in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates both appetite and thirst. When dehydration sets in, wires get crossed in the hypothalamus, leading you to grab a bag of chips when you really need a bottle of water. “Prevent it by staying on top of your fluid intake, starting with a glass of water first thing in the morning,” advises Rumsey. “If you feel hungry, and you haven’t drank much that day, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 15 to 20 minutes to see if your hunger subsides.”

You’re a restless sleeper

By the time you wake after a night of poor sleep, two hormones linked to appetite have already begun conspiring against you. “Too little sleep can lead to surging levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, as well as decreased levels of leptin, a hormone that causes feelings of fullness,” says Rumsey. Lack of shuteye on a regular basis makes you ravenous for another reason. After poor sleep, you’re more likely to have serious fatigue and brain fog. Your system, desperate for a shot of energy, triggers cravings for sugar carbs, even if you’re not actually hungry. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and you’ll get your energy level and hunger hormones back on track.

You load up on starchy carbs

Ever notice how one doughnut or cookie leaves you unable to resist eating another… until the whole box is just crumbs? That’s your brain on starchy carbs. “Simple carbs, the kind found in sugary, white flour foods like pastries, crackers and cookies, spike your blood sugar levels quickly, then leave them plunging soon after,” says Moon. That blood sugar plunge causes intense hunger for more sugary carbs and the cycle continues.” Keep fluctuating blood sugar levels from sending you on a cravings roller coaster by avoiding simple-carb foods as much as possible. Get your carb fix with the complex, filling kind that contains lots of fiber. Almonds, apples, chia seeds and pistachios are healthy options that ward off hunger pangs, suggests Moon.

You need to eat more protein

It sounds counterintuitive, but piling your plate with more food — lean protein and healthy fat, specifically — keeps hunger pangs at bay. “Not only does protein stay in your stomach and promote feelings of fullness, it’s been shown to have an appetite-suppressing effect,” says Rumsey. Aim for at least 46 grams of protein per day (best sources: Greek yogurt, eggs, lean meat and whole grains), which is the RDA for women between 19 and 70. For men, it’s 56 grams per day.

You aren’t eating enough fat

Just like protein, unsaturated fat is also linked to feelings of satiety. “When you’re satisfied after a meal, you are more likely to listen to your hunger cues and not eat again until you are truly hungry,” says Rumsey. Add this heart-healthy, brain-boosting kind of fat to your meals in the form of oils, nuts and seeds and avocados. Experts recommend that adults limit their fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of their total daily calories.

You skip meals

Yet another reason why ghosting on breakfast or forgoing other meals throughout the day backfires on you. When you skip a meal and your stomach is empty for too long, it produces an uptick in the hunger hormone ghrelin, which ramps your appetite, says Rumsey. “Ghrelin also prompts the GI tract to expect food to come. Your ghrelin levels are in overdrive, and so is your lust for food.” When you finally give in, you’re prone to a binge. As a general rule, try not to let more than 4 to 5 hours go by between meals. And even if you hate breakfast, eat something in the a.m. within an hour of waking, like yogurt, peanut butter and apple slices, or a soymilk smoothie.

Read the rest of the article here for the 11 reasons why you’re always hungry

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