Do you give in to your cravings or do you fight them? When you have a craving, it’s thought that your body must actually need that food for your health and the craving is your body’s way of talking to you.
But let’s face reality, your body does not physically need french fries!
That craving for something warm, salty, starchy and oily is your body’s healthy response to needing nutrients, minerals and essential Vitamins, not your need for junk food.
It’s not surprising that we have cravings. We have evolved to seek out food that is high in calories so that we have energy to sustain us over periods when food is scarce. For today’s health-conscious culture, these treats are too easily available and now we avoid them and select healthy choices instead.
In a survey of 1000 college undergraduates about their food cravings, 97% of women and 68% of men reported cravings. Chocolate was the most frequently reported food craved, especially among women. The majority of subjects reported that they indulged their food cravings at least half the time.
In the same study, women tended to feel badly about indulging their cravings more often than men did. Only 32% of women thought that their cravings had anything to do with their periods. Also interesting from this study was the fact that avoiding the craved food had no affect on the intensity of the cravings.
In other craving research, overweight teenagers were offered a milkshake while their brain activity was measured with an MRI. The overweight teens had a higher level of brain activity than leaner teens, both when they actually drank the milkshake and when they were told about the milkshake.
The researchers believe that the pleasure and reward centers for overweight people are activated in the brain more than for people who are not overweight and in response to the possibility of a fatty food being eaten. The craving ends up being almost as pleasurable as eating the food for those who are overweight.
Instead of immediately trying to satisfy your urge or resisting the craving until you can’t stand it, use our guide to reveal what nutrition your body actually needs for its’ health.
Here’s What Your Food Cravings Reveal About Your Health
If you are craving chocolate, it’s easy to give in to temptation. That dark brown, sugary, melting treat is full of fat, sugar and calories that would be better left out of your body.
Chocolate contains magnesium. For a healthier source of magnesium, eat raw cacao. Raw cacao has healthy antioxidants and you can find 100% raw cacao bars in most health food stores. Other healthy sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, veggies or fruits.
Craving Sugary Foods
Sweet cravings are rooted in our childhoods and are often associated with holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day. We might have been rewarded with a sweet treat for good behavior. With all the happy psychological connections to sugar, it’s no wonder we crave these goodies.
Sugary foods can cover a wide range of unhealthy food products from caramel apples to zingers. Since there are a wide variety of foods with sugar, your craving could be one of several healthy minerals that your body needs.
If you are craving sweets, here are some likely nutrients that you need and healthy sources for them:
* chromium – broccoli, grapes, cheese
* phosphorus – eggs, dairy, nuts, veggies, grains
* sulfur – cranberries, horseradish, cabbage, cauliflower
* carbon – avocado, kiwi, banana, apple, mango, pear and papaya. Your body might also have a need for soluble fiber that it gets from these fruits.
* tryptophan – cheese, raisins, sweet potatoes, spinach
Craving bread, pasta and other carbs
A craving for foods high in carbohydrates could mean that your body needs to increase consumption of nitrogen. To get more healthy nitrogen, replace the carbs with high protein foods like eggs, nuts, beans, and chia seeds.
For more information on why you might be craving unhealthy foods, read our article 6 Telling Signs You May Have a Protein Deficiency.
Craving oily foods
A craving for oily foods can mean that your body needs more calcium rich foods. You can find calcium in organic milk, cheese, and in green leafy vegetables. You might also be needing more healthy fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
Craving salty foods
If chocolate is the most commonly craved food, salty snacks are the second most popular craving. Craving salt is rarely just a need for sodium. These foods tend to be high calorie items that have salt on them, like chips or French fries.
Salt is sodium chloride chloride and you can get chloride in healthy forms from fatty fish and goat milk. Cravings for salt can also be a need for silicon in the diet. You can get healthy silicon from cashews, nuts and seeds.
When cravings hit, the best advice may be to ride it out. Remember the study that we mentioned earlier? Pleasure centers of the brain are activated when we just anticipate being able to have a treat.
If you can imagine the smell, taste and texture of the craved food, you may be able to fool your brain into being satisfied, without having to add the high calories to your diet.