We have all experienced food cravings at one point or another but why do we have them? Did you know food cravings usually mean our body is trying to tell us something?
There are several reasons the body craves certain foods. It may be that you are in need of more energy, there could be an imbalance of hormones or you could have a nutrient deficiency that is looking to be replenished. Often finding the problem can help curb the craving and you can return to a healthier you.
These cravings are triggered by the same part of the brain that we use for memory and pleasure and are connected to how we form habits. This means that sometimes they are hard to break. So you could start with a small craving and then it becomes a vicious cycle. Putting an end to them sooner rather than later is best.
So what are common cravings that we deal with every day and what do they mean?
Let’s start off by looking at sugar cravings. It’s probably the biggest craving trigger of them all and it’s no wonder! Craving sugar means you need an energy injection and your body is calling out for some help in getting through the day. Stress, long work hours, too much social media screen time and lack of sleep will cause this. Doesn’t that sound familiar to us all?
Ways to reduce this craving is to make sure you are getting time out and sleeping more. This will help regenerate your body’s natural energy flow and reduce the need for instant gratification. This means opting for a 15 min power nap on the couch instead of a tub of salted caramel ice cream, both will give a similar outcome but the rest will make you feel better longer.
Sugar cravings could also have a deeper meaning and it may be that you have candida, other gut related issues or low iron. If you are constantly craving sugar and feeling very low in energy, it’s also worth telling your doctor.
What about salt cravings? What are they trying to tell us? The type of craving that has you yearning for salted potato crisps and salty olives is usually due to dehydration. Low levels of electrolytes will trigger a craving for salt to bring back the balance. Are you drinking enough water? Maybe you need to increase your intake or drinking coconut water with some nature electrolytes. It also helps to eat more Vitamin B foods like green leafy vegetables, fruit, grains, seeds and nuts
If you are finding you’re regularly having fatty food cravings like wanting fried chips, butter and cheese, it could mean that you are not giving your body the right fats. Healthier fats like the ones found in avocado, olive oil and the omega 3s found in nuts and seeds can help to reduce the need you feel for the ones that are not so good for you.
When you are constantly carb craving, for example thinking about potatoes and white bread and pasta, it is again likely that you are looking for energy. The simple carbs found in these foods breakdown quickly after you eat them and therefore provide a quick lift, but it doesn’t last. Often we eat too much in one sitting so then it doesn’t get used up and instead is stored in the body as fat. The best way to reduce this craving is again to get plenty of rest and opt for a more dense carb version like a multigrain sourdough for example and keeping your portions small.
If you get those chocolate cravings all the time, it’s likely that its a combination of sugar and carb cravings. Your body could also be looking for the hormone serotonin known as the “happy hormone”. This could explain indulging after a stressful event like exams or a crazy work day. The good news is there are nutrients in chocolate which are good for us, for example minerals like magnesium, chromium, potassium, zinc and iron. This may be why some women say they have cravings around their menstrual cycle. So it’s not all bad. Studies show that dark chocolate is nutritious and a great antioxidant. But remember, if you are going to grab some chocolate, choose a small bar of the darkest variety for the benefits.
There are many other cravings that can pop up over time like vinegary food cravings where foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and salt and vinegar chips are on the agenda. Ths is most common with pregnant women and could indicate that something is going on with stomach acid or could be related to salt cravings where more hydration is needed.
Whatever craving you may be experiencing, it is important to keep an eye out on its progress. If you are finding that you are having regular cravings that don’t feel right then definitely tell your doctor or health professional.
Yours in health,
(BHSc Nutritional Medicine)
This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials.