What Your Cravings Are Really Telling You
We've all been there: That moment when you just need to have a burger (or a milkshake, or a bag of potato chips) and nothing else on earth will do.
But why exactly do we have food cravings? And what do they mean?
First, let's clear up a big myth. It's a popular belief that cravings are the result of nutritional shortfalls. Chocolate cravings are often blamed on low levels of magnesium, for example. But most experts say there's just not enough research to support this idea.
"There is very little science-based evidence on food cravings linked to nutritional deficiencies," says Preeti Rao , CEO & Founder, Total Wellness Management. "And if food cravings were related to something you need, then wouldn't you be craving kale or apples, not ice cream and French fries? Instead, people tend to crave foods that are rich in fats, carbs, and sugar." Even the popular chocolate theory falls pretty flat when you find out that an ounce of dried pumpkin seeds has more than twice the magnesium of an ounce of chocolate. But you don't see anyone hankering for pumpkin seeds. Plus, one study found that, even on a nutritionally complete diet, people still get cravings.
This doesn't mean that food cravings aren't real. It's just that your hankering for pizza is probably linked to emotional needs—seeking a comfort food that releases feel-good chemicals in the brain during a time of stress, for example—not nutritional ones. Other studies show that cravings can crop up simply because you're on a restrictive or monotonous diet and want what you can't have.
That said, there are some cravings that really do signal health problems. Here are following to look out for:
If you’re craving sweets…
It means your body really needs chromium, carbon phosphorous, sulfur, and tryptophan. Get these by filling up on, fresh fruit, cheese and sweet potatoes when you have a sweet tooth. This craving may also mean you’re tired. Evaluate how much you’re sleeping lately if you find yourself wanting sweets. Instead of heading for the chocolate cake, take a nap if you can. Or, go for a walk to boost your energy levels.
If you’re craving carbs…
It means your body needs nitrogen, which is found in high-protein foods like fish, meat, nuts, and beans. Eat a handful of almonds, or a Red kidney beans or Rajma with little brown rice . You might also be craving carbs because you’re trying to cut them out of you diet completely. If this is the reason, make sure you’re eating every food group in moderation to prevent a big, unplanned carb-fest that will leave you feeling way worse than, say, an open-faced sandwich.
If you’re craving French fries, soda, and pizza…
And other junk food, it means your body needs calcium. Instead, fix a salad with steamed broccoli, chicken, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese (um, yum.). It might not sound quite as good as those French fries at first, but it will leave you feeling way better, not to mention guilt-free.
If you’re craving caffeine…
It means your body needs salt and iron. To get these nutrients the healthy way, eat lean meats like chicken or turkey, eggs, or black cherries, surprisingly. If you can, a great option here would be to make an omelet with veggies, with a handful of berries any available on the side. Craving caffeine can also mean you’re actually just really thirsty or dehydrated, according to Preeti Rao. Drink an entire glass of water before you reach for that second (or third) cup of coffee—you might realize you don’t even need it.
If you’re craving salty foods…
It means your body needs chloride, which is essential in order for your body to maintain healthy digestion and keep your electrolyte levels in check. Avoid super salty junk food like potato chips and eat goat’s milk yogurt or fish instead. I would recommend making a tuna fish sandwich or salmon salad for lunch with goat’s yogurt as a snack the next time you have a salt craving.
I hope you all learn something new and interesting from these foodie facts. I sure did. I’m definitely going to keep some almonds on hand for those pesky carb cravings…
About Preeti Rao :
Preeti’s career path spanning a decade in executive management roles across several countries has provided her an understanding of the global health care system crisis and the importance of preventive strategies in health promotion. Her Masters in Integrated Health Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies, US has enabled her to blend scientific rigor with holistic self-care with emphasis on mind/body/spirit wholeness. Her expertise lies in exercise physiology, nutrition, wellness coaching, health coaching, stress management, corporate wellness programs, integrated and complimentary medicine, healthy aging and global health systems to name a few.
She is the only certified health and wellness coach and consultant in India. She is currently associated with Max Hospitals as thier health and wellness consulant and also has her private practice at two different locations.