There’s a lot to be said for the wisdom that’s been built into our bodies.
When we’re cold we shiver so that the motion makes us warm.
The hairs on the back of our necks go up when we’re in danger.
We feel twinges of pain when we push ourselves too soon after an injury.
The same can be said of our food cravings.
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.
Some people think that cravings are a sign of a nutritional deficiency, and that’s definitely true.Tweet
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. 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.
Here is a handy key to help you translate your cravings:
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 cheese, 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.
But What About those Once A Month Cravings?
Most women have experienced nearly uncontrollable cravings at “that time of the month”.
Expecting your period and find yourself scouring the pantry and standing in front of the fridge? You may be low in zinc.
Instead of turning to cookies and chips, try to quell your food drive with healthier choices.
You’ll probably find that zinc-rich foods like root vegetables, leafy green vegetables, and seafood work well.
But 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 you are feeling nervous or going through a lot of intense emotions, you are more likely to have cravings
- Sleep Deprivation – Lack of sleep creates an actual change in the level of the hormones that make you crave foods. It also shuts down the hormone that tells you when you’re full.
- Dehydration – When you haven’t had enough water, you are much more likely to think that you’re hungry and look for food that your body doesn’t need.
- Bad Mood or Depression – One of the biggest reasons for craving comfort foods is to help you get through a rough emotional patch. People 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 such as spaghetti, soups, or stews.
- Context – There are many cravings that are created by your surroundings. When you go to the beach you crave salt water taffy. Go to an amusement park you’ll crave cotton candy, while at a movie you only want popcorn.
How to Handle Cravings
If you’re flat out hungry, that’s not a craving – it’s your body telling you that you need more food!
When that happens it’s a good idea to let yourself have a high protein snack like almonds or Greek yogurt 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,
P.S. Please share this with your friends who think it's chocolate they are craving and I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. What food do you crave most often?