What are your food cravings trying to tell you?
From chocolate cupcakes to a big ol’ steak, not all cravings are created equal. While some are purely about pleasure (like your favorite comfort foods), others can point to a lack of nutrients or a hormonal imbalance. If you’ve ruled out stress or other emotional reasons you’re craving unhealthy foods, there might be a physiological reason your body is trying to get you to eat potato chips or pasta carbonara.
And while we’re all for giving in to temptation occasionally, if you’re looking to maintain a balanced and healthy diet, there might be some swaps you can make. Read on to find out what your cravings mean and how you can honor them in a way that's good for your body.
You May Need Magnesium. While it’s true that sometimes our bodies use food cravings to tell us we’re lacking something, when you crave chocolate, chocolate usually isn’t what your body needs. Rather, when a chocolate craving strikes, it’s more likely you’re deficient in magnesium, chromium, and vitamin B.
Give your body these micronutrients in supplement form or eat 70 percent (or higher) dark chocolate if you really can’t resist as it's a natural source of magnesium. A handful of raw almonds can also help relieve this craving, since these are high in magnesium.
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Craving Salty Foods?
You May Need B Vitamins
A salt craving can be caused by several things, such as excessive sugar in the diet, a deficiency in sodium or too much potassium. Recommendation here is to cut down on sugar and avoiding table salt. Opt for Himalayan or celery juice to remineralize the body.
If your craving for salt is coming during a stressful period, it might also indicate a need for B vitamins. Taking a good vitamin B complex will quell the craving. However, if the salt craving is following a sweaty workout or an illness or upset stomach, Pedialyte or a similar electrolyte powder is better than plain water to replace the missing minerals. Best to choose these rather than sports drinks, which often contain too much sugar.
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Craving Red Meat?
You May Need Iron.
A craving for red meat often points to a deficiency in protein (which is quite rare in the United States) as well as iron, amino acids or phosphorus. Iron deficiency is usually responsible for the red-meat craving, but cautions against eating too much meat to make up for this.
People really do not need as much protein as the popular press seems to try to convince us. There are cheap, nonmeat solutions that are friendlier to the planet and keep the body healthy, happy and well-fed, without cravings and deficiencies. Eat dried fruits, beets, beans and prunes if you’re iron-deficient. These are all packed with adequate iron and are also easier on the kidneys and your digestion.
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Craving Bread or Pasta?
You May Need Nitrogen.
Bread and pasta are comfort foods that seem to be like ‘crack’ is to the brain of addicts. When you’re eating that croissant, the neurotransmitter dopamine (also known as the “pleasure chemical”) is released, explaining why you may have a hard time quitting carbs.
Carbohydrate cravings could mean that your body wants more nitrogen (meat, chicken and fish contain this). Or it could need a food ‘hug’ and instant gratification. Snack on a handful of nuts or a helping of hummus. If this fails to extinguish your hankering, then it’s likely a gratification craving. An emotional commitment (journaling, chatting with a friend, etc.) and positive self-talk about what is really needed may be the answer here.
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