Almost all of us at some point or another have had food cravings. Whether you’re looking for something sweet, salty, or otherwise – those cravings are clues to what your body is doing when processing food and what your body needs.
Ever since I started eating a healthier diet, I’ve been able to pay more attention to my cravings. Most of us just go through life thinking nothing of when the urge to eat a certain food strikes us – but it’s also a way of your body telling you something.
I’ve written a lot about how sugar is addictive – and as you know eating a lot of starchy/sugary foods can often cause those cravings to intensify. This is because eating sugar and starchy foods (ie: white bread) can cause your blood glucose levels to change, and is often responsible for sways in how we feel during the day, going from being tired to wired. Your body craves sugar because it wants it for your blood glucose levels to get back on the right track – though we often eat too much sugar which causes it to go back out of synch.
Sugar’s just one example though. Some people crave things like bread not for the sugar, but possibly because wheat is a decent source of magnesium, which can help with everything from absorption of calcium to how your body deals with the toxins we’re exposed to day in and day out. I have some new feelings about wheat (it may not actually be good for you at all!) but some research may suggest that a craving could also signal an intolerance.
There are other things as well – take pica, for example, a condition which causes people to want to eat non-food items such as dirt, pencils or paint chips. This is usually attributed to an iron deficiency, most common amongst pregnant women as well as children.
So many diets are all about controlling and overcoming cravings – but the solution is not to suppress these cravings – it’s to research and see what, if any, possible dietary issues could be causing them.
Here’s some tips on trying to pinpoint the cause of your craving:
Identify Your Craving: If you’re craving a single food, then it’s easy to say “Oh, I’m craving an apple”. But if you’re craving something that includes multiple ingredients, such as a cheeseburger, then you’ll want to think about what it is of that you are wanting the most. Is it the bun and the meat? The ketchup flavor? The cheese? Maybe it is a little bit of everything – or maybe there’s something specific about it.
List the Ingredients and Nutrients in the Foods You Crave: If you’re asking the question of why we crave certain things, the best place to start is to know what the nutritional properties of the food you are craving are. Every food we eat has different nutritional value or a potential clue into what your body needs. This doesn’t always mean you should eat the thing you want – for example, some believe that those who constantly crave milk may actually have an intolerance to it to some degree. But when you make a list of these things, you can help identify which things are found in the foods your body wants, which can then make you decide what is going to help you.
Research the Food & It’s Nutrients: Thankfully the internet has tons of information on any food you can think of. Type in any food and its health benefits or its nutritional value and you should be able to find some information on it. Obviously, you are going to want to make sure that your research is accurate – so don’t just stop at the first few pages you find in your search results. Dig a little deeper. You may even want to add the word “deficiency” to the food you are searching and see if anything comes up.
Discuss Your Findings With Your Doctor: The occasional craving for a food shouldn’t be too much cause of concern. However, if you’re constantly craving sweets or starches or anything else for that matter, there’s likely a good reason why. Maybe your blood sugar needs to be more regulated, maybe you are deficient in another mineral or vitamin. While it’d be nice if we knew what all this meant in a big picture, most of us haven’t spent years researching food and how it affects our health. Doctors can’t help you determine what is wrong unless they see proof, pattern, and understand the role of diet in health (and what they know about that may even be outdated) – but at the very least they can help you identify any major potential problems such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, food intolerance, and more which could be causing some problems for you and do need professional medical treatment.
Consider Emotional Factors: For some, foods can also mean an emotional attachment – perhaps ice cream is your “comfort food”. But have you ever considered why? If you as a kid and all the way through adulthood were given ice cream anytime something went wrong, then it could possibly be due to habit and environment. But, again, some foods may be a result in a deficiency (or in some cases too much) of a certain nutrient.
Obviously, this is something that a lot more research needs to be conducted on – I’m not a doctor nor a professional nutrition expert by any means. But the next time you have a craving for something – be it sugar or a cheeseburger, rather than fight that craving, take it as a cue from your body that your diet might be missing something. You shouldn’t try to stop food cravings – instead take a look at why they’re there in the first place.