Ah cravings. We’ve all had them before, but for some, this can be a daily occurrence. Some cravings can even be so intense that our mind is completely consumed with the thought of eating that specific food we crave, and no matter how hard we resist, it lingers in the back of our minds until we finally cave and binge on it.
Has this ever happened to you before? It has for me, on countless occasions, and was why I went delving into exactly why we crave certain foods. I wanted to know if there was a deeper meaning behind it, if there was something our bodies were trying to tell us, and most importantly if there was a way to stop these cravings in a healthy way rather than giving in to temptation.
So, here is what I uncovered. I hope it helps you in reducing (or even eliminating) intense cravings you may be experiencing so you can get on with your day.
Chocolate is one of the most common food cravings people experience. If you find yourself craving a block of chocolate, it may be due to a lack of magnesium. This mineral can help reduce levels of stress and anxiety, relax muscles, keep bones strong, maintain healthy heart function, regulate blood glucose levels, and assist with energy production in the body (among many other things).
Some healthier alternatives to boost magnesium levels include (but are not limited to) raw cacao nibs/powder/beans, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds (all preferably soaked or sprouted), green leafy vegetables, and fruit.
If you crave sugar on a regular basis it could be linked to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), or a deficiency in tryptophan, chromium, sulphur, or phosphorus.
Healthier alternatives for tryptophan include (but are not limited to) spirulina, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, raw cacao, oatmeal, sweet potato, spinach, and raisins.
Alternatives for chromium include onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, cinnamon, grapes, apples, and sweet potato.
Healthier options for sulphur include veggies belonging to the cruciferous family (like kale, cabbage, etc.), cranberries, horseradish, asparagus, carob powder, garlic, and onion.
Finally, alternatives for phosphorus include whole grains (again, soaked or sprouted is best), pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, and lentils.
Now why would our body be craving something so toxic for us? It could be due to a deficiency in calcium. Phosphoric acid, which can be found in carbonated drinks, can leach calcium and magnesium from our bones, creating a terrible cycle of depletion then craving.
Healthier options include (but are not limited to) sesame seeds/ tahini, broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard and turnip greens.
Cheese contains l-tryptophan, a fatty acid that can help improve your mood and promote relaxation. If you find yourself craving this popular comfort food, it may be due to a deficiency in essential fatty acids.
Some great plant-based alternatives rich in omega 3′s (EPA and DHA) include flax oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Bread, Pasta, & Pastries
Nothing beats that delicious smell of freshly baked bread from the bakery, or stopping off on the way home from work to pick yourself up a bagel or pastry. However, if you’re constantly craving these carby foods, it may be due to a chromium deficiency. Chromium works with insulin in the body to help metabolise carbohydrates.
Healthier options for boosting chromium levels in the body include onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, cinnamon, grapes, apples, and sweet potato.
Craving red meat can a common sign that the body’s low in iron. However, eating too much red meat can have its own problems. Thus, it’s much healthier to include a variety of iron-rich foods in your diet. Pairing vitamin C-rich foods with foods high in iron is a great way to boost iron absorption in the body, especially if your iron intake comes mainly from plant-based sources. Vitamin C is well-known for its ability to help synthesise red blood cells in the body (where iron is found).
Alternative for red meat include (but are not limited to) beans and legumes, sulphur-free prunes, figs, and other dried fruits, seaweed, spinach, cherries, and vitamin C rich foods to help with iron absorption.
Who doesn’t love to munch on chips. It’s up there as one of the most common food cravings. If you find you’re downing a bag of crisps every other day, it may be a sign you’re low in chloride and essential fatty acids. Chloride works with electrolytes like sodium and potassium to help balance fluids, acids and bases in the body. Fatty acids help manage inflammation in the body.
Healthier options for the fatty acid Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) include flax oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
If you find yourself craving toast on a regular basis, it may be a sign you have a nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen is found in amino acids (which are the building blocks of your cells) in your body, and also in your DNA.
Healthy foods containing proteins include green leafy veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains (again, best when soaked or sprouted).
This may sound like an odd craving to have, but if you’re someone who craves burnt food it can be a sign that you may have a carbon deficiency. Carbon makes up 18% of the human body (cool, huh?). It’s the basic building block to most cells in the body, and helps with cellular respiration – a process where sugar is broken down into a form the cell can use as energy!
Fresh fruits are a wonderful, healthier alternative.
Coffee and Black Tea
Do you crave a super strong coffee on the hour, every hour? It may be an indication that you’re deficient in phosphorus, sulphur, iron, or NaCl (salt).
Healthy alternatives for phosphorus include whole grains, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, and lentils.
Foods high in sulphur include cruciferous veggies (cabbage, kale, etc.), horseradish, cranberries, asparagus, carob powder, garlic, and onion.
Iron rich foods include beans and legumes, sulphur-free prunes, figs, and other dried fruits, seaweed, spinach, cherries, and vitamin C to aid in iron absorption.
Foods high in NaCl include Himalayan or Aztecan sea salt, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha (if you buy store-bought kombucha, look for ones containing no added sugar).
Crunching On Ice
This isn’t for those who simply enjoy chewing ice, no, it’s if you crave ice often. This can be a sign of an iron deficiency (funnily enough). The reason behind this is still yet unclear, however in one study, chewing on ice was shown to help increase alertness in people with iron deficiency anaemia.
Foods that may help to boost iron levels in the body include beans and legumes, sulphur-free prunes, figs, and other dried fruits, seaweed, spinach, cherries, and vitamin C to assist with the absorption of iron.
This above list of cravings is just a handful of the most common cravings experienced by most people. When I learnt what all these cravings might be telling us, I became very conscious of my body. I kept my eye out for any cravings that I was experiencing regularly and did some research into what nutrients I possibly needed as a result of those cravings.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products or home remedies. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction to it. If cravings persist, seek healthcare professional.
Did you recognise any of the food cravings above? If you have other cravings that you’re experiencing, please feel free to share them below.
Lots of love,
Hilton Andersen, Charlotte. What Your Food Cravings Secretly Reveal About Your Health. Reader’s Digest. Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/cravings-meaning/
What Do Food Cravings Mean? 21 Common Food Cravings And What You Can Do About Them. Ben Greenfield Fitness. Retrieved from bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/fat-loss-articles/what-do-food-cravings-mean/
Easton-Smith, Kim. (June 14, 2018). What Your Food Cravings Say About Your Health. Cosmopolitan. Retrieved from https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/diet-nutrition/a21342964/food-cravings-what-do-they-mean-health/
Marks, Lynn. (2016-05-09). What Is Chromium Picolinate?. Everyday Health. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/chromium-picolinate
Lee, Elizabeth. (August 29, 2011). The Truth About Red Meat. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-red-meat#1
The Relationship Between Iron and Vitamin C. Fergon. Retrieved from http://www.fergon.com/the-relationship-between-iron-and-vitamin-c/
Stress Symptoms. (July 11, 2017). WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body#1
Mayo Clinic Staff. (April 28, 2016). Stress Symptoms: Effects On Your Body And Behavior. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
What Is A Chloride Test?. (December 16, 2016). WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-a-chloride-test#1
Lewis, Sherry M., Knapka, Joseph J. (2006). Learn more about Chloride. Nutrition. ScienceDirect. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chloride
Floyd, Margaret. What Are Fatty Acids Used For In The Body?. Share Care. Retrieved from https://www.sharecare.com/health/fats-nutrients-diet/what-fatty-acids-used-for
Feed The World – General Briefing Sheet (TV). Why Do We Need Nitrogen?. Retrieved from http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/Inspirational/resources/6.5.1.pdf
Eddy, Catherine. (March 12, 2014). The Role of Elements in the Human Body: Carbon. Prezi. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/kedbi6unipvy/the-role-of-elements-in-the-human-body-carbon/
Cellular Respiration. (October 9, 2018). Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellular_respiration
Pruthi, Rajiv K., M.B.B.S. Craving and chewing ice: A sign of anemia?. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/expert-answers/chewing-ice/faq-20057982