Cravings can hit at the worst times (usually when you’re trying so hard to follow a healthy eating plan)! But did you know that sometimes cravings are actually your body telling you something isn’t quite right with it?
There are actually two types of food cravings: physiologically (i.e. a nutrient deficiency) and emotional (like when you’re sad). The first type, if not addressed, can actually lead to major illnesses so it’s best not to ignore or avoid a food craving. You can start to be conscious of cravings and how you’re feeling to figure out which type of craving you have.
Once you’re aware of the difference between a nutritional deficiency craving and an emotional craving, you can start to tweak your diet so that you’re giving your body what it needs to stop unwanted cravings.
There are 6 major food cravings the people experience. See which ones may be telling you something you didn’t know about yourself.
Sugar and Sweets:
Have you ever had a super strong craving for ice cream after a healthy steak and veggie meal? This is actually your body telling you it’s out of balance. Protein is a contractive food while sugar is expansive; veggies, especially salad greens, are highly alkalizing while sugar is acid-forming. Cravings for sugar could also mean you’re deficient in chromium or magnesium. Combat this craving with sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, dates and whole grains.
Emotionally, sugar can mean you are overworked, stressed out, or just not getting enough fun and enjoyment out of life. If you think your craving is emotional, trying doing something really fun and distracting for 20-30 minutes and see if the craving goes away.
If you’re stressed, you’ll likely crave salty foods. That’s because cortisol reduces sodium in the body by preventing production of aldosterone. You may also be irritated or angry and just want to chew on something, like chips, pretzels or roasted nuts.
Deficiencies in potassium, calcium and iron can also lead to salt cravings. Try adding seaweed, black beans and vegetables to your diet to thwart salt cravings. Salt cravings are also an indication that you’ve overdone it on the sweets or alcohol too.
Typically, chocolate cravings are emotional but sometimes they can mean nutritional deficiencies. Chocolate is associated with love so if you crave it a lot, you may feel like you’re not getting enough love and acceptance from the people you care about. Or, you could just be having a bad day!
Chocolate cravings also happen when you’re on a highly restrictive diet. A healthy diet is one that incorporates all types of food, so make sure you’re getting a variety of foods from all 3 macronutrients daily! You may also have a magnesium, chromium, B vitamin or essential fatty acid deficiency.
To get the best of both worlds, give into your craving with some antioxidant-rich dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)! Or, try adding 1 tablespoon of raw cocoa powder to a smoothie for an excellent source of magnesium.
Carbohydrates are notoriously associated with comfort and enjoyment, as well as preparing for starvation (this is why dieters often cave to strong refined carb cravings – the body needs energy and it needs it fast). If you crave carbs, you may just need a hug or you could be in need of some emotional support. Carb cravings are especially hard to ignore when you’re stressed out or tired, too.
Craving carbs often could also mean you are hypoglycemic or have insulin resistance, so it’s important to balance your blood sugar with whole grains, cinnamon and fibre.
Strong meat cravings can mean a deficiency in iron, B vitamins and protein. If you crave meat, it’s very important to find sources of these vitamins and nutrients. Choose foods like meat, poultry, whole grains, nuts, tofu and salads with lots of green leafy veggies!
A few years ago, I craved nuts every day and couldn’t seem to get enough! Then, I went to Belize and ate fresh fish for almost every meal and the nut cravings disappeared.
Cravings for nuts usually means your body is in need of some essential fatty acids stat! The best sources for EFAs are extra virgin olive oil, raw walnuts, raw almonds, raw cashews, cold-pressed flaxseed oil and wild caught cold-water fish (like salmon).
Want to have some fun?
Try keeping track of your cravings, your emotional state and your meals and see if you can figure out more fascinating connections between nutrition and how your body reacts!