Craving food is a somewhat different feeling than hunger. Maybe it’s sparked by being hungry, but instead of consuming anything, you only really desire one thing. You don’t have the ingredients to make a pizza and you should be cutting down on takeout for your body and bank, still, you order one anyway. It’s the only thing you want to eat. Nothing else sounds appetizing despite your full cupboards and fridge.
People can crave food for an array of reasons and not all of them have been properly researched. Nutritionists and non-nutritionists alike know that sometimes it’s emotional. Feel homesick? So you make your mom’s warming soup. Feel hungover? You might order Chinese because you know how it can instantly cure your headaches and nausea.
There could be other reasons as to why your body is yearning for something in particular, though. Studies show that certain cravings can be linked to nutrient deficiency, lack of sleep, migraines, dehydration and, in more severe cases, pre-diabetes. And that’s not all. A few studies even suggest that food cravings are linked to hormonal imbalances.
Whatever you’re craving, it’s important to take note. Even if it’s a common food craving, such as pizza.
Registered dietician and eating disorder specialist from Cambridge, MA, told Health, “We live in a culture that vilifies cravings.” She explains that it isn’t always as simple as wanting something greasy and quick because it’s cold, you’re sad and too lazy to cook something yourself. Rather it’s a message from us to us. “[T]hey’re a communication from our body.”
So what to different food cravings mean? NYGal breaks down cravings below.
What You’re Craving: Chocolate
What your body needs: Magnesium, sleep, and laughs.
A chocolate craving is synonymous with that time of the month for women. And it isn’t solely because it increases your serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin levels. All of which are responsible for making you “feel good” and happy.
You could be stressed and tired, and most likely irritable if you’re feeling both of those. Your body may be looking for a way to de-stress. Also, during menstruation, which varies between women, expect your magnesium levels to drop as well as your overall mood. We lose a lot of this mineral through loss of blood, so knowing beforehand and making sure you stock up on magnesium will help avoid these cravings.
Instead of a high-calorific milk chocolate bar, try eating dark chocolate, with a higher level of cacao. Or simply mix the powdered kind into your smoothie for breakfast.
What You’re Craving: Sweets
What your body needs: Blood sugar balance, sleep, de-stress, chromium, water.
Again, craving sugary foods could indicate that you’re dehydrated, stressed and/or tired, which is why your body seeks that initial high after eating something that boosts your serotonin and energy levels. However, eating a donut or a whole tub of ice-cream will have the opposite desired effect once the sugar spike plummets. It will leave you feeling more down and even more exhausted than you were at first.
Drink water, go for a walk, go to bed earlier and snack on some sweet fruits and vegetables like strawberries and carrots. Have some overnight oats for breakfast with honey, that will both suppress your sweet cravings and act as a slow releasing energy.
If you haven’t tried sweet potatoes yet, first of all, are you okay? Secondly, if you love all things sweet try incorporating them into your diet to hit that spot. They are worth the hype and we recently wrote about a perfect fall recipe that includes them, see it here.
What You’re Craving: Salty Foods
What your body needs: Water. Lots of it.
Chips, glorious chips. I have yet to meet a person that dislikes them. Pining for these junk food, salt covered delights may mean that you’re in dire need of water. Strangely enough, these can make you feel dehydrated after eating them, but craving them in the first place can mean that you are. Remember to drink at least 8-10 glasses a day.
“If you exercise a lot, you’re sweating and losing salt, which means you end up craving [it] more to replenish those stores,” Says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition at NYU in an interview for Fitness Magazine.
If you still can’t get your mind off of eating something crunchy and salty, try celery sticks (with hummus) or pumpkin seeds.
What You’re Craving: Rich Foods
What your body needs: B12, Fatty Acids, iron, and calcium.
Red meat, junk foods, fried food. Pretty much any type of food that is fast, easy and already known to be bad for you. But you want a filling meal, you want something heavy and satisfying. Like a juicy cheeseburger, a side of fries and a soda the size of your head.
Wanting rich foods could be a sign that you aren’t eating enough or providing your body with enough fat. It’s vital to know that not all fats are bad and we need them in order for our body to function properly. Healthy fats are found in avocados, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fish, which is also high in omega 3 and brings us to our next point: Meat and Fish.
For vegans and vegetarians, the question, “but where do you get your protein from?” can be infuriating. Getting protein is the least of many of their worries, instead, B12, omega 3 and iron are all things that should be considered if you are or are thinking about becoming a vegetarian/vegan.
Interestingly, women suffer from food cravings the most. Women are also more likely to suffer from lack of iron: The World Health Organisation (WHO), estimates that around 30.2% of (non-pregnant) women globally are anemic or bordering on it. But, vegetarian or not, there are ways of getting enough of what you need.
Aside from fish, flax, chia and walnuts are all high in omega 3. Leafy greens, broccoli (both high in calcium), tofu and, of course, red meat are all high in iron. B12, which is only found in animal products, like eggs, meat and dairy can be taken in a pill form by those that need it.
What You’re Craving: Refined Carbohydrates
What your body needs: Sleep, TLC (the group and self-care form) and nitrogen, insulin, hypoglycemia.
Pasta is a universally adored dish. It’s versatile. It can be low-key or fancy. There are vegetarian, meat, gluten-free, healthy, hearty and any other option you can dream of. But eating too much of it can leave you lethargic, similarly so does bread and rice.
Thankfully, these aren’t the only carbs around. Refined carbohydrates are known to be “less healthy” compared to their “whole” counterparts which can be found in vegetables, quinoa and so on. An easy rule of thumb to use is: The more it’s processed and molded out of its original form, the more unhealthy.
Eat beans, nuts and brown rice to ensure you’re filling your stomach up and also benefiting from the nutrients and energy from these options. Oh, and exercise plenty to our aforementioned and much needed TLC. In addition to sleeping and having an hour or two for yourself a day.#
In conclusion, the main reason why may crave foods is a lack of balance in our diet. Getting enough rest, water and vitamins will help keep cravings at bay. Not to mention cooking a variety of foods of different types of texture and flavor to avoid skipping on something you need. Our mental health and hormones may be what is making us crave certain foods. Go to a doctor for further help if certain cravings persist and become uncontrollable.