Are you a serial snacker? Does your mind often drift to thoughts of delicious desserts? Find yourself constantly reaching for salty snacks, or cheesy pizza?
If so, you may be a part of a much larger phenomenon: the mysterious marvel of food cravings.
It's estimated that over 80% of Americans experience cravings on a regular basis, and yet, most of us don’t realize that they could actually be a sign that our body is trying to tell us something.
Today, let's explore the science behind cravings and decode what your body might be trying to tell you.
With a bit of careful observation, you’ll be able to better understand the root of your cravings, find out what your body is actually asking for, and make healthier choices. So, let’s get started!
are we just along for the ride?
Sometimes it feels like your body has a mind of its own. You know you should reach for a piece of fruit instead of a bag of chips, but sometimes your cravings lead you astray.
What’s going on? Why do we crave certain foods, and why can’t we always resist them?
Don't panic: We’re here to decode the mysteries of food cravings and help you understand what your body might be trying to tell you. Let's get started with a rundown on all the different types of cravings, and how you can outsmart them next time they strike.
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Cravings vs. Nutritional Needs
Everyone experiences cravings, and the trickiest thing is that they often have nothing to do with our nutritional needs... But then, sometimes they do! Here's how to tell the difference:
I'm sure it's no surprise that many cravings are actually triggered by emotional distress or boredom. When we feel overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, we may turn to food for comfort.
On the other hand, when we’re bored or don’t have anything else to do, we may reach for something to eat out of habit. If you suspect this might be the basis of your biggest cravings, it’s helpful to recognize these triggers and find healthier ways to manage our emotions. (Although sometimes there is a lot of solace to be found in the bottom of a tub of ice cream!)
On the flipside, if you tend to have persistent cravings for a particular kind of food, it can also mean you've got a lack of certain nutrients in your body. It may be your body crying out for something, so if you think this might be you, listen up so you can give your body what it needs to thrive!
If you’re craving something sweet, it could be a sign that your body is low on energy. Similarly, if you’re craving something salty it could be a sign that you’re dehydrated or need more electrolytes. Pay attention to these cravings and make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.
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CRAVING FOODS WITH CERTAIN QUALITIES
Sometimes we crave foods with certain qualities, like crunchy, creamy, or sweet. These cravings can be a sign that our bodies are trying to find balance.
For example, if you’re craving something crunchy, it could be because you need more fiber in your diet. If you’re hankering for something creamy, it could be a sign that you need more healthy fats and Omega-3s in your diet. And if you’re craving something sweet, it could be a sign that you need more complex carbs for slow-burning energy.
While it's ok to indulge on occasion, it’s important to listen to these cravings if they just won't quit, and find healthier alternatives. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, try a piece of fruit. Instead of potato chips, try a handful of nuts. It's always best to find foods that can satisfy these cravings without compromising your health!
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OFTEN FIND YOURSELF CRAVING SPECIFIC FOODS?
While the occasional hankering for a particular treat is totally normal and part of being human, you may tend to favor one kind of food over all others when cravings strike. If this is the case, your cravings might be telling you something important is missing from your diet!
While factors like conditioned experience and associated memories can trigger food cravings, nutrient deficiencies can also play a role. Here are some common food cravings and what they might be indicating:
Can’t Stop Craving Sweets?
This might be a sign that you're not getting enough protein in your diet. Protein not only helps build muscle, but it also slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream, which provides a steady stream of usable energy when you need it most.
To curb sugar cravings, aim to boost your daily protein intake with low-fat dairy, legumes, nuts, and lean meats or plant-based alternatives.
Got a Fixation on Fried Foods?
If you're craving greasy foods like french fries or donuts, it might be because you're limiting your fat intake. However, some fats are essential for fueling your body's processes.
Instead of focusing solely on fat intake, try to consume healthy fats like unsaturated and Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, and olive oil.
Dreaming About Dairy?
If you're constantly craving dairy products like cheese, ice cream, milk and pizza, your body might be telling you that it needs more calcium.
However, you don't need to indulge in loads of dairy to get your daily quota. Soy products, leafy greens, eggs, plant-based milks, and low-fat yogurt are all excellent sources of calcium that are lighter on the calories if you're watching your weight.
Searching for Salty Snacks?
If you can't stop your hand from going into that chip bag, your cravings for salty snacks could be a sign of a chloride deficiency. An imbalance in electrolytes like chloride, sodium, potassium, and carbon dioxide can throw your body's fluids and pH balance out of whack.
While most foods easily provide enough salt for the average person, if the symptoms of chloride deficiency persist, it's worth consulting with a doctor.
Remember, balance is key. It's totally fine to treat yourself to your favorite foods every once in a while, even when you're watching your caloric intake! Enjoying a treat on occasion can help keep your morale high and help you stay on track with your wellness goals.
And don't forget, cravings can be a sign that your body is trying to tell you something. Listen to your cravings and make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.
It helps to pay attention to the qualities of the foods you’re craving and find healthier alternatives. And don’t forget to check in with your emotions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, be gentle with yourself and find some other outlets and coping mechanisms other than diving into the fridge!
With a little bit of self-awareness, you can decode your cravings and make sure you’re giving your body what it needs to not just survive, but thrive.
Fefe Jacobs | Greens Steel Lifestyle Contributor