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Carb Cravings During the Pandemic: Why Does This Happen?

Carb Cravings During the Pandemic: Why Does This Happen?

A lot of our behaviors have changed because of the pandemic. People are now extra careful about going outside, and wearing masks has become second nature. Surprisingly, our eating habits have also changed. According to Grab Philippines, more and more people are ordering coffee, cakes, and other carbohydrate rich foods. But why has our carb cravings increased?

Carb Cravings During the Pandemic: Why Does This Happen?

Grab Philippines recently shared a food trend report based on the foods that people order using their app. What they found is that food and beverage sales had an increase of about 60% compared to 2019.

The top foods included coffee, cakes, breakfast foods, fried foods, and carbohydrate-rich foods such as spaghetti and fried rice. Additionally, the most searched-for foods included the following: fast food, pizza, cake, bakery, Chinese, doughnuts, milk tea, burgers, coffee, and chicken1.

According to Grab, they are still unsure as to why these carb-rich foods top the list during the pandemic. However, they will be conducting future research about the reasons why.

Why do we crave carbohydrates during the pandemic?

The pandemic has been very stressful for all of us. This collective stress not only affects us mentally, but also physically. In particular, stress tends to cause people to have carb cravings.

The reason behind this is that when we’re stressed out, our brain tends to require more energy to function. And in order to provide this energy, we usually look for carb-rich foods. This is because carbohydrates are an effective source of quick energy2. Because of prolonged stress, we tend to crave even more carbohydrates, which usually means eating sweet foods.

Another factor behind our carb cravings is that under stress, our appetite starts to change.

When we’re stressed out, we initially start to lose our appetite. However, if the stress is prolonged, our adrenal glands start releasing cortisol. Cortisol helps increase our appetite and can cause us to start eating more. Once the stressful event is over, then the production of cortisol stops.

But due to the pandemic, a lot of people still remain stressed out. This causes their cortisol levels to remain elevated, which triggers stress eating3. When combined with our brain’s predisposition to carbohydrate-rich foods, this can cause us to have carb cravings.

Aside from this, we also look to food for comfort. If we’re constantly stressed out, then it’s possible that eating carb-rich foods helps us cope with stress. Though, it can have a detrimental impact on our health.

What happens when you eat too many carbs?

It’s generally fine to have sweet foods every so often. Having a snack to reward yourself, or eating your favorite foods is a very enjoyable experience. However, it starts to become a problem when you start eating these foods regularly.

Giving in to your carb cravings all the time can cause you to gain excess weight. If this remains uncontrolled, a person can develop obesity. Obesity is a known risk factor for other diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other cardiovascular problems4.

This is why it’s important to deal with carb cravings before it starts to become a more serious concern.

What can you do about it?

Here are some tips to help you better deal with carb cravings:

  • Set a meal schedule for when you eat and try to stick to that schedule. Try to avoid having snacks in between.
  • Try to eat slowly. If you eat slowly, the fuller you’ll feel afterward. Eating too fast causes you to eat more food since you don’t feel full immediately.
  • Engage in other relaxing activities to relieve stress, such as exercise.
  • Be mindful of the food that you eat. Try to choose healthier options, and avoid stocking your house with junk foods or unhealthy snacks.
  • Keep your portions under control. Eating the right portion sizes prevents you from overeating.

By following these tips, you can help yourself better handle any carb cravings.

Learn more about healthy eating, here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  1. Filipinos are craving cake, coffee, and carbs — Grab  – BusinessWorld, https://www.bworldonline.com/filipinos-are-craving-cake-coffee-and-carbs-grab/, Accessed September 1, 2021
  2. Why Do We Crave Sweets When We’re Stressed? – Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-we-crave-sweets-when-were-stressed/, Accessed September 1, 2021
  3. Why stress causes people to overeat – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat, Accessed September 1, 2021
  4. Stress and Eating Behaviors, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/, Accessed September 1, 2021
  5. Healthy Eating During the Coronavirus | University of Maryland Medical System, https://www.umms.org/coronavirus/what-to-know/managing-medical-conditions/healthy-habits/healthy-eating?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=pmd_KC5myUokLc14dlmvBeckWzUhYZbsAkQm59DU1gQeZ1o-1630485578-0-gqNtZGzNAnujcnBszQel, Accessed September 1, 2021
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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated 4 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.