What Do Your Food Cravings Really Mean?


Cravings for a particular food could be your body's signal that something is out of balance. Studies show different food cravings are associated with different metabolic signals.

By understanding the components of the food you want, we can learn what your body truly needs.

1. Chocolate

Chocolate block

What does your chocolate craving mean?

If you find yourself craving chocolate all of a sudden, you could be lacking magnesium or have an imbalance of neurotrasmitters (Bruinsma & Taren, 1999). It could also be a sign you are under high stress. The compound, theobromine, found in chocolate has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones. Also, chocolate cravings may indicate low blood sugar or energy - so your body is eager for a source of energy, namely the sugar and fat in chocolate. 

Chocolate cravings often fluctuate with hormonal changes, with your menstrual cycle, which suggests a link with hormones in women. In addition, some biologically active molecules in chocolate also produce sensations akin to other addictive substances. So may just be a little addictive.

How to conquer your chocolate craving?

Opt for magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, or choose dark chocolate which will provide additional nutrients and minerals. You can also regulate your menstrual symptoms through consuming phytoestrogens and exercising regularly. Also, try alternative ways to manage stress.

2. Sugar

Donuts

What does your sugar craving mean?

Sugar doesn't contain any essential nutrients, so your body is most likely lacking energy. Sugar provides one of the fastest mechanisms for your body to raise blood sugar levels. Studies indicate that coffee reduces your perception of sweetness, which may explain why you want a donut or a sugary dessert with your coffee.

How to conquer your sugar craving?

Try fruit which will provide sweetness along with fibre to reduce the spike in your blood sugar. Ensure that you choose low GI alternatives to prevent extreme highs and lows in your blood sugar. As for long-term solutions, increase the quantity and quality of your sleep.

3. Salty Food

Chips

What does your craving for salty foods mean?

Your craving for savoury food like chips is associated with dehydration and low levels of electrolytes. Table salt is a compound of sodium and chloride. Sodium plays an essential role in numerous bodily functions and metabolic pathways. A desire for savoury food is common, and may just be a flavour preference.

How to conquer your craving for salty foods?

Drink more water to quell your body's sense of dehydration. You can eat salted nuts to replace sodium, and you can also benefit from a satiating source of protein. 

4. Carbohydrates

Pasta

What does your carb craving mean?

If you are craving carbohydrates like potatoes, pasta or bread, you may have low blood sugar or lack energy. Wurtman showed that the overwhelming desire to consume carbohydrate-rich foods is linked to a disorder of disturbed appetite and mood (Corsica & Spring, 2009).

How to conquer your carb craving?

A hunger for carbs can be treated similar to that for sugar. Choose low GI foods with high fibre to provide a slow release of energy. Find out healthy ways you can fatigue, and complementary methods that do not involve food to improve mood, like exercise.

5. Fatty foods

Fried chicken

What does your craving for fatty food mean?

 A yearning for greasy deep-fried foods, you may need more essential fatty acids. As essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body, we must source them from what we eat. However, highly-processed fast food does not actually offer the right balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

How to conquer your craving for fatty foods?

 Choose healthy sources and well-balanced sources of essential fatty acids include fatty fish, like salmon, avocado, nuts and extra virgin olive oil. 

6. Cheese

Cheese

What does your craving for cheese mean?

Cheese contains the compound, l-tryptophan, that improves mood and promotes a sense of relaxation. Your urge to eat cheese may also be a sign of essential fatty acid or salt deficiency. Cheese also has a unique "mouth-feel", so maybe you just really appreciate cheese.

How to conquer your craving for cheese?

You can have a small portion of cheese. If you feel as though you have a low mood, you could incorporate meditation, move your body to increase uplifting neurotransmitters, or see a specialist for advice. In addition, try the above solutions for fat and savoury cravings.

7. Non-food items

Ice cubes in soft drink

What does your craving for non-food items mean?

The desire to consume non-food items like ice, dirt and soap is linked to low iron or mineral levels (Rabel et al., 2016). Whilst the minerals in ice are insignificant, researches hypothesised that chewing ice may increase blood flow to the brain temporarily. This would counteract the mental slowness produced by an iron deficiency. The urge to eat non-food items is more common in children and during pregnancy when nutritional requirements are higher.

How to conquer your craving for non-food items?

Add dark leafy greens like spinach, nuts and seeds, red meat or cereals fortified with iron to your diet (Zimmermann & Hurrell, 2007). See a doctor or dietician for personalised health recommendations and nutrition plan.

Have you tried these solutions to your food cravings? What were your results?

Join our Facebook group "Tasty, but healthy" for exclusive health tips and tricks. 

What do your food cravings really mean?

Learn More

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Healthy Ways to Manage Chronic Stress

Home Remedies for Constipation Relief

The Ultimate Guide to Rich Sources of Plant Protein

5 Ways to Reduce the Severity of Your PMS Symptoms

6 Steps to Stop Your Sugar Cravings

Top Tips for a Healthier Work Lunch

References

1. Bruinsma, K., & Taren, D. L. (1999). Chocolate: food or drug?. Journal of the American Dietetic Association99(10), 1249-1256.

2. Corsica, J. A., & Spring, B. J. (2008). Carbohydrate craving: a double-blind, placebo-controlled test of the self-medication hypothesis. Eating behaviors9(4), 447-454.

3. Rabel, A., Leitman, S. F., & Miller, J. L. (2016). Ask about ice, then consider iron. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners28(2), 116-120.

4. Zimmermann, M. B., & Hurrell, R. F. (2007). Nutritional iron deficiency. The lancet370(9586), 511-520.

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