Cravings – are they nutrient deficiencies or emotional based?
Either way, understanding your cravings can help you manage them. If cravings are a nutrient deficiency, then the body is actually trying to correct the deficiency by getting you to give it what it needs (ie. it’s trying to fill the nutritional void.)
Craving chocolate? It’s often thought that a chocolate craving is your body’s way of saying it needs magnesium. Craving Sweets? You may just be dehydrated and need water, but sweet cravings can also indicate a need for energy (carbohydrates, glucose).
Craving salty foods? Your b12 or sodium levels may be depleted. But it’s important to keep in mind that people who consume high-sodium foods regularly tend develop a preference for salty foods. The challenge with health in general is that every body is different and there isn’t one answer that explains and satisfies everyone.
Another challenge with cravings is the food we associate with the craving are often not a great source of the nutrient in need and/or could come via a unhealthy processed food. Doing a little research would help you find healthier solutions. For instance, if you were deficient in magnesium it would be better feed your body magnesium-rich nuts and beans rather than a milk chocolate candy bar that is laden with more sugar than actual magnesium-rich cacao.
Fried Foods could mean you need essential fatty acids, but reaching for the tub of greasy french fries isn’t going to help the body with it’s original need.
We also need to keep in mind that giving in and feeding that craving, even on a daily basis, only helps temporarily and does not solve the underlying problem and may even create more issues. Craving red meat might signal a lack of iron but eating red meat every day will build up and cause other health problems including raising your cholesterol and increasing heart disease.
Cravings and Emotions?
What if we dig a little deeper? Could cravings be connected to our thoughts and emotions? Most of us have scrapped the bottom of a Ben and Jerry’s carton after a breakup. That sweet flavor provides nourishment on the physical level AND comfort on the emotional level.
What about a cold, windy, rainy and blustery day? Chances are you going to crave a warm soup or hearty chili more so than a cold ice cream.
What about social motives? I’m not that big of a popcorn fan until I walk into a movie theater and am overcome by the warm, buttery aroma. I notice that even talking about a going to a movie triggers an emotion that causes me to salivate for the crunchy kernels.
Insufficient sleep, chronic stress and dehydration actually promotes hunger and cravings while weakening our body’s ability to function optimally.
How To Reduce or Overcome Cravings?
As mundane as this sounds, it starts with a balanced diet.
- Don’t skip meals
- Eat a balance of protein, fat and carbs at every meal
- Ensure you are well hydrated
- Get sufficient amounts of sleep
- Engage in stress-reducing activities (deep breathing, mediation, yoga)
- Strengthen stomach acid.
Beyond food, begin take notice of what, when and where your cravings are happening. Get curious about why.
- Ask yourself if it’s boredom or habit? Can you then find a replacement activity?
- Are you really craving sugar or are you craving companionship?
- Are you in the same location each time?
- Are you performing the same activity each time the same craving hits?
Journaling about these episodes can be extremely helpful to uncover true, hidden meanings. Once you’re able to identify emotional connections you can proceed with a more intuitive approach.