Common Cravings & What Your Body Really Wants
The human body is miraculous in it’s innate ability to protect us from harm.
Like when the hairs on the back of our necks go up when we’re in danger.
Our stomachs, and a few of our other organs, contain acid in order to kill any germs that enter our bodies either through our food or through other sources.
You might think that a craving for something filled with fat or salt or sugar is your body working against you and your healthy eating habits.
But there’s a lot to be said for stopping to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. At some point we have to pay attention!
Some people think that cravings are a sign of a nutritional deficiency, and that’s definitely true.
Even when you think you’ve eaten well or enough, you may not be satisfied.
Sometimes not eating enough protein or fiber can leave you feeling hungry. And there are a lot of food cravings that are tied directly to specific bodily needs.
Some experts believe that when we crave certain foods, it is because we have a mild form of malnutrition. Even though this isn’t enough to make us sick, it is still our body telling us that we are eating too many processed foods and not enough whole foods.
When your body is missing the vitamins and minerals it needs, it sends you that message through cravings for certain foods.
We need to interpret those messages so that we can address the problem and get the nourishment we need.
6 Foods You Crave & What Your Body REALLY Wants
Sure, you may love chocolate for its taste and you may eat it for its other health benefits. But when you crave it, you could be low on one of the most important minerals in your body, magnesium.
Try adding more raw nuts and seeds to your diet.
2. Sugary treats
There’s a difference between having a sweet tooth and having a craving. When you crave sweets, you may be missing out on nutrients like chromium, carbon, tryptophan or phosphorus.
For chromium, add more broccoli, cheese or beans.
There’s plenty of phosphorus in poultry, fish and dairy.
For sulfur look to kale or cranberries
For tryptophan, you can’t go wrong with raisins, sweet potatoes or spinach.
When you dream of a hunk of bread or a slice of toast, you may be low on nitrogen.
You can increase your levels of this important nutrient by eating high protein foods such as fish, nuts, beans or meat.
4. Fatty foods
Feel the need for some fries or other greasy foods? You may be low on calcium.
Turn to broccoli, mustard greens, kale and cheese.
Sesame is also a great source of calcium!
It may not mess with your diet, but if you chew ice it’s a sure sign that you’re low on iron.
Try to eat more lean meat and fish.
Greens and seaweed are high in iron too and can give you an energy boost.
6. Burned or charred foods
By now we all know that foods that are burned are bad for us. Even though we love to grill, the carbons that form when food is charred have been linked to cancer.
If you find yourself craving that burnt taste, you may be low on carbon.
Try turning to fresh fruits instead.
What About those Once A Month Cravings?
Most of us have experienced nearly uncontrollable cravings at “that time of the month”.
PMSing and find yourself scouring the pantry and standing in front of the fridge? You may be low in zinc.
Instead of digging in to cookies and chips, try to satisfy your food drive with healthier choices.
You’ll probably find that zinc-rich foods like root vegetables, leafy green vegetables, and seafood work well.
There's Even More to Your Nagging Food Cravings
There are other very good reasons why you may find yourself craving certain foods. These include:
Stress – When nervous or going through lots of intense emotions, you are more likely to have cravings.
Sleep Deprivation – Lack of sleep creates an actual change in the level of the hunger hormones that make you crave foods. It also shuts down the hormone that tells you when you’re full.
Dehydration – Often lack of water or hydration feels like hunger - try gulping down a glass of water before indulging in the not-so-great-choice you think you want.
Depression or Moodiness– One of the biggest reasons for craving comfort foods is to help you get through an emotional day or even season of life. Many of us tend to turn to whatever types of food represents nurturing in their memories: for some, it's sweets or ice cream, while for others it may be meals they associate with family dinners like pasta or cooking out.
Habits – We’re human and all have them, but if each night you sit down to watch tv and instantly 'crave’ a glass of wine or pint of ice cream, try something new to change that habit. I love a mug of tea, but if you need something else to do with your hands, consider journaling or getting on the floor and stretch.
How to Handle Cravings
If you’re flat out hungry, real stomach hunger, that’s not a craving – it’s your body telling you that you need more food! When this happens, let yourself have a high protein snack like nuts or seeds to stop the rumblings in your stomach.
If what you’re facing is cravings, the first step is to recognize them for what they are.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Have you had enough to drink?
Are you feeling sad, or bored?
By identifying what is causing the craving you have the answer to how to deal with it.
Maybe you need to drink a glass of water or a mug of hot tea.
Maybe you need to go out and get some exercise or go take a nap.
Worst case scenario, give yourself permission to indulge your craving but control your portion.
Then you can go right back to your healthy food habits without feeling like you’ve done any real damage.
Yours in health and happiness,