Ever find yourself having incredibly strong cravings for a certain type of food? Well, according to scientific research, it could be your body’s way of telling you that you’re lacking in a specific nutrient.
Genuine hunger is triggered by the stomach and if you’re hungry enough, it’s likely you’d eat pretty much anything. Cravings though, tend to be a lot more specific and focused on a certain type of food, which gives a lot away in terms of what your body truly needs or might be lacking. You may not realize it, but certain cravings can tell you exactly what your body is crying out for.
Here are some common food cravings and what they suggest your body isn’t getting enough of so that next time you reach for that chocolate bar or salty food, you are well informed to make the right food choice for your body!
Have a craving for chocolate? It might be more than just a sweet tooth, especially if you’re not really craving other sweet foods in the same way. A strong craving for chocolate can be a sign that you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet.
Dark chocolate in particular is a good source of magnesium and with a high quality choice, you could get as much as 25% of your daily needs of this mineral with just one square. Trouble is, most people gravitate towards the milk chocolate kind that is full of sugar and offers little to no nutritional value.
What to eat instead: Boost your magnesium intake with leafy greens, avocado and pumpkin seeds. If you really can’t stay away from chocolate, make sure you go for dark chocolate that is rich in cacao (at a minimum 70%) and just stick to one or two squares. As a general rule of thumb: the darker the chocolate, the more magnesium it’s likely to have.
Craving other sweet foods can suggest you’re not getting enough chromium in your diet. Your body doesn’t need a huge amount of this mineral but it is exceptionally important for helping insulin to do its job and improving blood sugar levels.
Some studies have looked at whether chromium picolinate supplements could be used to reduce cravings in general and there is some evidence it could do this, especially for women who are currently overweight.
What to eat instead: Stock up on broccoli, onions, green beans, mushrooms, tomato and romaine lettuce for a chromium boost. Cinnamon is also another option.
Constantly craving salty foods could be a sign that your adrenal glands are under stress. If this happens, it can mean that they aren’t producing the right balance of hormones. This can encourage your kidneys to get rid of more salt and your body then craves it to get your salt levels back up again.
Mineral deficiencies can also be a factor. Your body needs minerals such as potassium for lots of different roles in the body but if you’re lacking in it, it may lead to a yearning for salt.
It can be a sign that you’re dehydrated too. Your body needs a certain amount of fluid to function properly and if you’re beneath that, craving salt could be a subtle way of telling you this.
What to eat instead: If low potassium is the culprit, you can eat more bananas, avocado, tomatoes, potatoes and cantaloupe melon to counteract it. Or drink a glass of water if you suspect you might be dehydrated. If you’re not sure about your adrenal glands, speak to your doctor about getting them tested. Good quality sleep is important for your adrenals.
Meat cravings can happen often. Even veggies and vegans can get a real craving for meat as it can be a sign of iron deficiency. Plant based iron sources aren’t always used as efficiency as animal sources so this is a possibility.
What to eat instead: Red meat is a great source of iron, particularly beef. If you don’t eat meat, make sure your diet includes plenty of legumes, beans, prunes, figs and dried fruits. Don’t go too overboard with dried fruits though as they can contain a lot of natural hidden sugar. You can help iron absorption more easily by consuming it alongside vitamin C rich foods such as oranges.
Can’t stop eating cheese? You could be lacking in essential fatty acids. And less surprisingly, it may also indicate a calcium or vitamin D deficiency. Sugar cravings are another possibility as milk contains natural sugars in the form of lactose.
What to eat instead: Walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and wild salmon are all great sources of fatty acids. Experts recommend that you eat fatty fish a couple of times per week if you are a fish eater. If calcium is the problem, greens such as broccoli and kale can boost your levels. And of course, there’s always cheese itself if you eat dairy!
This isn’t an obvious link but craving ice can mean you’re not getting enough iron. It’s part of a wider range of cravings for things that don’t offer any nutritional value and is known as pica. Some experts have linked pica to an iron deficiency, although they’re not entirely sure what the connection is.
What to eat instead: Stock up on iron rich foods such as meat, legumes, beans and dried fruits.
Do you find yourself craving any of these foods often? Perhaps it’s time to boost your nutrition and replenish those essential vitamin and mineral levels.