While cravings can mean a number of things including psychological reasons, a strong craving usually indicates your body is low in a specific nutrient, vitamin or mineral. The craving is an indication that it wants to make sure it gets what it needs. The difficult part these days is we have so much processed, unnatural food at our disposal that we often get confused about what our bodies are actually asking for. The foods you crave may NOT contain that nutrient and often the person eats unhealthy empty calories in place of nutrient-dense wholefoods.
What’s the Deal with Cravings?
There have been a number of studies that have shown sugar can affect the same brain regions as drugs and alcohol. People can experience a momentary mood improvement from sugar that will then be followed by a serious drop in mood and well-being; this is where people tend to reach for that sugary snack again. This pattern will set them up for an addictive cycle. Here is more information on added sugar versus natural sugars.
Food or sugar addiction often goes unnoticed because the food choices change although the essential components are the same. Let’s take for example, a person rises in the morning, drinks a glass of bottled juice (high in sugar and low in nutrients), has a processed white flour and sugar-based cereal for breakfast, mid-morning they eat a few biscuits or a muffin, then for lunch it’s a sandwich, pasta or noodles, then afternoon tea they crave a sweet for a quick afternoon pick-me-up, then it’s time for dinner and it’s off to grab something quick such as a hamburger or slice of pizza.
What your food cravings mean:
Reaching for the chocolate bar may indicate the need for magnesium, chromium, B-vitamins and/or essential fatty acids. Chocolate is high in magnesium so it is best to reach for the 100% cocoa in smoothies or snack on nibs or eat the darkest chocolate you can find. Here is a post about beating those chocolate cravings. Chocolate is also metabolized to serotonin, a mood boosting hormone so cravings can also be related to an emotional need. Besides healthy cocoa or dark chocolate, reach for a loved one, friend, pet or any activity that makes you feel good.
Craving processed flours may indicate insulin resistance, hypoglycemia (blood sugar fluctuations), chromium deficiency or fatigue. This is separate to sweet cravings, often it can go unnoticed, people often crave crackers, savoury biscuits, noodles, white breads, chips, etc. Including more fiber in your diet for better blood sugar control and eating more chromium and magnesium rich fruits and vegetables such as bananas, apples, apricots, capsicum, spinach, beetroot, avocado, broccoli, celery, chard (silverbeet), carrot and parsnip will help overcome this craving.
Oh, sugar. When you want it, this may indicate blood sugar imbalances and mineral deficiencies such as chromium and magnesium. Giving into biscuits, cakes, lollies, soft drinks or other refined sweets will only make the problem worse and cause a blood sugar roller coaster that leads to more cravings. Instead, choose a piece of fruit when you’re craving sweets. Here is more information on how to manage your sugar intake while rebooting. Sugar cravings are also more common when you are dehydrated and may signal a need for more water.
Need that bag of chips? This can be aggravated from stress hormone fluctuations and low levels of electrolytes. Here is more information on how to increase electrolytes in your diet and during a reboot. B-vitamin rich foods are important during periods of stress. Consume foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Similar to sugar cravings, salt cravings can result from under hydration.
Craving fried foods and other oily foods can indicated a simple essential fatty acid deficiency, simply eating more good quality fats will solve this in a flash. Here is more information on what fats and oils to consume for a healthy diet.
This can also indicate an essential fatty acid deficiency as above.
Cravings for non-food items such as ice, clay, dirt and chalk can often mean an iron deficiency or mineral deficiency in general. Consume plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds for the prevention of pica. This is more frequently seen in children and during periods of greater nutritional need such as pregnancy.
Written by: Claire Georgiou