Decoding Carb Cravings

May 31, 2023 | Nutrition, Wellness

Why Women Experience Carb Cravings and How to Navigate⁠

Carbohydrate (carb) cravings can be a perplexing aspect of our dietary habits, particularly for women who may feel the effects more acutely than men due to our unique physiology. Research has shown that women produce less serotonin, a feel-good hormone, compared to men (Nishiazawa S, et al., 1997). This difference in serotonin levels could be linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression among women (Songtachalert T, et al., 2018).

When our serotonin levels are low, our bodies may crave carbs as a way to boost serotonin production. This can explain why we experience sugar cravings during certain phases of our lives or menstrual cycles — our bodies instinctively seek to elevate serotonin levels for improved mood.

However, indulging in the wrong types of carbs, such as simple sugars and refined flours, can lead to long-term health issues like weight gain, hormonal imbalances, and poor gut health.

To navigate carb cravings without compromising our health, it’s essential to choose the right kind of carbs. Here’s a Healthy Carbs Cheat Sheet to guide your choices:

Healthy Sources Of Carbs:

  • Vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, cauliflower)
  • Whole grains (e.g., rolled oats/steel cut oats, basmati rice, barley, buckwheat) 
  • Legumes/beans 
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds

*NOTE: Ensure whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are properly prepared using traditional methods like soaking, sprouting, or fermenting (e.g., sourdough bread) to preserve gut health. Explore The Plant Protein Solution for insights into ancient food preparation methods.

Healthy-ish Sources of Carbs (in moderation): 

  • Fruits (dates, figs, prunes, apples, bananas, oranges, etc.)
  • Raw, unpasteurized honey
  • Real maple syrup
  • Raw green stevia (not the processed white powder or liquid forms)

Choosing healthy carbs promotes balanced hormones, a healthy gut, and overall well-being. Remember, the quality of your carbs can significantly impact your whole-body health!


>>Nishizawa S, et al. Differences between males and females in rates of serotonin synthesis in the human brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 May 13;94(10):5308-13. 

>>Songtachalert T, et al. Anxiety Disorders: Sex Differences in Serotonin and Tryptophan Metabolism. Curr Top Med Chem. 2018;18(19):1704-1715. 

>>Wurtman RJ, Wurtman JJ. Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity and depression. Obes Res. 1995 Nov;3 Suppl 4:477S-480S. 

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