What It Means If You're Craving Bread

Walk past the bakery section of your favorite grocery store in the morning, and you'll probably notice that decadent smell of freshly baked bread. Even if you've given up all carbs in favor of a keto diet, it can be tempting to pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough as a side for your favorite soup.

Sometimes a craving for bread can come out of nowhere. You might be sitting at your desk late in the day and suddenly dream of the texture of a warm piece of potato bread. Or you wake up in the middle of the night craving the dinner rolls from hours earlier. Craving certain foods like meat, sweets, chocolate, or bread could signal that you're missing some important nutrients in your diet. If you find yourself craving bread, it might mean that your body is low in serotonin. As a result, your body might be lacking tryptophan, which is an amino acid that's needed to make serotonin (via Runtastic).

How carbs help release tryptophan

Depending on what you eat, your body releases insulin to help respond to the increase in glucose in your bloodstream. This also affects what amino acids are sent to the brain. If your meal is high in protein, your body sends more of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine to your brain, which can limit the tryptophan sent to the brain. Eating more carbs allows more tryptophan to enter the brain (via a 1986 article in Appetite).

Tryptophan is one of those essential amino acids you need from your diet so your body can make serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood, sleep, digestion, learning, and memory. People with low serotonin levels could experience anxiety or depression. 

Despite the fact that serotonin communicates messages from your brain to the rest of your body, your gut hosts most of your body's serotonin (via the Cleveland Clinic). Moreover, even if you're craving bread, any sugar found in foods will boost your serotonin levels.

Other ways to boost serotonin

Rather than reach for another bun in the bread basket, there are other ways to boost your serotonin levels. First of all, you can increase the amount of tryptophan in your diet. Foods that have tryptophan are milk, eggs, turkey, and cottage cheese (via Southwest Family Medicine). Incorporating more carbs into your diet could mean reaching for vegetables, fruit, and whole grains rather than processed foods. You can control your cravings for bread and carbs altogether by adding a little more protein and healthy fat from nuts (via MedicineNet).

You can also find ways to boost your serotonin levels without food. Getting about 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day will help increase your serotonin levels. Because stress can reduce your serotonin levels, find ways to manage your stress, such as through meditation, yoga, or breathwork. Aromatherapy can also increase your serotonin levels, so try essential oils such as lemon or bitter orange in an oil diffuser (via Southwest Family Medicine).