There’s no doubt we’ve all experienced the diabolical pull of food cravings, like the unrelenting desire for a bar of chocolate when we’re trying to lose weight or an ice cream cone in the middle of winter. Although these cravings can mean different things for different people and there are times of greater nutritional need such as during pregnancy, these cravings are indicative of an underlying nutritional deficit of some sort. Paying attention to them and knowing what they mean may help us reduce unhealthy habits and create healthy new ones. Because of the increasing amount of processed unnatural foods that create many of these cravings, some days we may feel as if we’re fighting a losing battle. But stick with it, regardless. You’ll be happy you did.

Sugar

Sugar is the greatest nutritional offender of all time. In fact, there are many studies that confirm sugar effects the same regions of the brain as drugs and alcohol. It’s that addictive. Eating anything sugary will momentarily elevate one’s mood, only to have the mood drop again almost as quickly, causing you to reach for another sugary snack. The cycle continues this way until you break it by eating healthy, whole carbohydrates like salad. Craving chocolate may indicate a need for B-vitamins and/or essential fatty acids, and magnesium. Since chocolate is also metabolized into serotonin, this craving could be related to emotional need. There are natural sugars like agave and stevia we can use to replace processed sugars. Or eat a piece of fruit. If we’re dehydrated, we may begin to feel some sugar cravings as well. Stay hydrated, supplement your body with B-vitamins and magnesium, drink water, and use natural sugars. You’ll see your sugar cravings retreat.

Salt

Like sugar cravings, salt cravings can result from dehydration. If you find yourself reaching for a bag of chips too often, you may have too much stress in your life causing hormone fluctuations and low levels of electrolytes. Again, supplementation with B-vitamins is important during times of stress or eating foods like seeds, nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes will keep those cravings to a minimum. Salt will also temporarily increase calcium levels in the blood, tricking the body into thinking it’s getting calcium when it’s not.

Fat

Cravings for fried foods and cheese can indicate a simple essential fatty acid deficiency. Two essential fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-linolenic, which build the specialized fats Omega-3 and Omega-6, cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from food. When we’re not eating the right foods, expect cravings. Food rich in essential fatty acids like hemp, flax, walnuts, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, olive oil, whole grain foods and eggs will satisfy those fat cravings well. And introduce Omega-3 and Omega-6 supplementation into your diet.

What you eat regularly will be what your body tends to crave because it gets used to an unhealthy diet and wants more of it. This can set the body up for binge eating and obesity. The only solution is to listen to the body wisdom of these cravings and eat healthy. Are you ready?

Research

1. What Do Your Food Cravings Really Mean? Nutritious Life.
https://nutritiouslife.com/eat-empowered/food-cravings-really-mean/

2. What Your Food Cravings Mean. Lifehack.org.
https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/what-your-food-cravings-really-mean.html