When a real craving hits, it’s irrational. That means there must be a deeper need our body is trying to communicate to us in a very real, compelling (and hard to resist) way.
Cravings are about much more than just what we put in our mouths though. They also have an emotional component. It’s been found that when you have food cravings the part of your brain associated with emotions and memory is triggered. We crave things we associate with comfort, things that trigger memories of feeling soothed and safe, or loved
Food cravings are also about what you have habituated your body to associate with a quick fix and so your taste buds have adapted to that.
Here are a few cravings you may have that could mean your body (or emotional self) is trying to tell you something:
We all know about this one! (Most of us anyway). This craving for chocolat-ey decadence could mean you need more:
Magnesium: this is a common nutrient deficiency and has a big impact on our wellbeing. Not only does it help your muscles relax, it helps for stress and anxiety and is needed for over 300 biochemical processes in your body (read more about magnesium here).
Seratonin: Chocolate – more specifically cacao – boosts serotonin in your body – a feel-good neurochemical. That’s why when you are feeling low, you may find yourself cuddling up with a giant slab all to yourself.
Of course there is sugar in chocolate too, so bear in mind that this may also be something to consider. We’ll discuss sugar cravings next.
What to eat
The great thing about chocolate is that you can still enjoy the craving with a healthy version of chocolate such as raw cacao nibs and powder. Other sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, fish, beans and blackstrap molasses.
This is a major one. The sweet tooth. This could be caused by a number of needs and is often the symptom of a blood sugar imbalance. You could need:
Chromium which helps to regulate blood sugar levels
Phosphorus which helps your body produce energy
Sulfur which helps detoxify your body
Tryptophan: which regulates feel-good serotonin
How to deal with it: make sure you are getting plenty of mineral rich nutrition as minerals such as chromium help keep your blood sugar in check and reduce sugar cravings (Fulvic acid can help your body make the most of your minerals) If you need that something sweet, try eating low glycaemic foods such as apples or pears to give yourself some sweet energy without the crash, and use low GI sweeteners or raw honey. Bear in mind that sugar cravings could also mean a parasite infestation or Candida overgrowth and consider looking into these issues and doing a cleanse if it seems necessary.
Oh those carbs! Craving foods based on white flour may indicate insulin resistance and poor blood sugar control. As with sugar, refined carbs spike your blood sugar and if you body isn’t controlling your blood sugar very well, you could find yourself in a vicious cycle of peaks and lows and cravings, as well as picking up unwanted weight, particularly around your middle. Because its not so obviously ‘sugary’ people may not realise it’s a blood sugar issue when craving biscuits, noodles, white bread and pasta. This could indicate a need for:
Chromium to help stabilise blood sugar
Fibre to slow down your body’s processing of sugars
Nitrogen which is an essential component of nucleic acids and protein
What to eat
Include more fiber in your diet for better blood sugar control and eat more chromium and mineral-rich fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, spinach, kale, beetroot, avocado, broccoli and celery. Fruits and veggies are particularly rich in nitrogen and fibre too.
Strangely enough craving salt can mean you are underhydrated. You need minerals with your water intake to keep the fluids in your body balanced and the more dehydrated you are the more you need salts, as salt helps your body retain water. That’s why athletes make sure they get in electrolytes (mineral salts) with their drinks. Salt also helps balance the pH of your body.
What to eat
Mineral rich foods such as seaweeds (nori, kelp) and super seeds like hemp and chia. Nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Using a mineral rich unprocessed natural salt in your cooking is also an obvious way. Coconut water is a delicious option too – chock full of electrolytes and wonderfully hydrating.
That greasy lasagne or toasted sarmie could mean you’re needing:
Essential fatty Acids: they’re exactly that: essential. Fat is extremely important for your body, being used to make hormones and tissue as well as provide fuel and help cells membranes function correctly.
Where to get them
The trick with fats is to go for the healthy ones instead of the deep fried fast food variety.You can get healthy essential fatty acids in cod liver oil (be sure to get a heavy metal free brand), hemp seed, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and seaweeds as oils such as coconut oil, flaxseed oil and evening primrose oil. If you are not vegan, some people are great proponents of grass-fed butter and ghee.
And more unusual cravings…
Some people have cravings for non “food” things with little nutritional value like ice (crunching on it), clay, dirt and chalk. It could be a general mineral deficiency, or something such as needing iron. This most often happens during pregnancy or with children. Quite a bizarre version of this is craving cigarette butts! Have you ever craved cigarettes butts?
What to eat
You can re-train your taste buds to prefer healthier options by replacing unhealthy choices with healthy ones and soon you may find you crave those options instead. A healthy, balanced diet of nutrient rich, fresh organic foods and good fats should go a long way to helping you conquer those cravings.
Remember though, we are all unique and complex and cravings could mean numerous things, from an unmet emotional need to a nutrient deficiency, or even illness. Listen to your body and your heart and follow them to good health and happiness.