Listen to Your Body: What Your Food Cravings Mean
Food cravings: we have all experienced them. Once they hit us, it’s nearly impossible to resist reaching for a bar of chocolate or a bag of chips. But where do food cravings come from, and why are you sometimes hungry for sweets and other times for something salty? Find out below the causes of food cravings and why you should listen to your body.
Pay attention to your body’s signals
Food cravings often mean your body is lacking certain nutrients, but they can also be related to your hormone balance or emotional state. It often helps to pay attention to your body’s signals. Perhaps you are craving one of the following right now:
Are you hungry for gummi bears, cookies, ice cream or cake? This can be a sign of blood sugar irregularities, hormonal imbalances, stress or sleep deprivation. It’s better to work on the root problem than simply give into your food cravings.
Women, in particular, often crave chocolate. This can be related to their menstrual cycle: women lose magnesium, a mineral found in cacao, during their period. Thus, chocolate cravings are the body’s way of trying to restore its magnesium levels to normal. In addition, the sweet food increases your body’s oxytocin levels. This hormone is released when you cuddle, hug or have sex. And let’s be honest: during this time of the month, we can use all the good feelings we can get. A square or two of dark chocolate with a high cacao content is just what you need to brighten your mood.
A craving for pasta or white bread can indicate a lack of the amino acid tryptophan, which is vital in the production of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin. If you are not getting enough carbs in your diet, this can put you in a bad mood. Cravings for high-carb foods are our body’s way of trying to cheer itself up.
Many people like to snack on chips and salty nuts while watching TV. A yearning for salty snacks is often caused by a lack of electrolytes (especially sodium). Dehydration can also be a reason for salt cravings.
Sodium in large amounts is unhealthy and is often associated with high blood pressure. However, our body needs a certain amount (max. 5 g per day). Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and if you are exercising or it’s hot outside, try drinking electrolyte drinks. A healthier snack option is homemade popcorn or unsalted nuts.
Are you a vegetarian or vegan? If you do not get enough iron, zinc and vitamin B12 because of an unbalanced diet, you might start to crave meat. This does not mean that a plant-based diet is necessarily unbalanced. But what it does mean is that vegans need to spend more time planning what they eat to ensure that they get all the nutrients their bodies need. Iron can be found, for example, in legumes, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. These should be eaten in combination with vitamin C (oranges and bell peppers) to improve your body’s ability to absorb iron. Plant-based iron generally has lower bioavailability than animal-based iron. This means that your body can better absorb the iron from animal sources. If you eat a vegan diet, you have to make sure that you maintain your vitamin B12 levels. You might want to consider fortified foods or supplements. The vitamin is contained in animal source foods (meat, eggs, dairy products).
Bottom line: The human body is smart! If you listen to its signals, you will know what you need. Sometimes, it makes sense to give into your food cravings, but other times you should take a closer look at what is causing your hunger attacks.