Has this ever happened to you? You’ve just finished a big, juicy steak with a side of asparagus and a green salad and suddenly you’re craving ice cream! Ah, how frustrating!! Ice cream will totally ruin your healthy eating plan but you just can’t stop thinking about it!!
Food cravings happen to the best of us. Many food cravings are not actually cravings at all but are actually subconscious desires for comfort. True cravings, though, are strong and usually mean that your body is actually lacking some specific nutrients. Nutritional deficiency cravings, if not addressed, can actually lead to illness because the body is not in a state of balance.
Once you’re aware of the difference between a nutritional deficiency craving and an emotional craving, you can start to tweak your diet so that you’re less likely to be hounded by unhealthy food cravings.
Sugar and Sweets:
That ice cream craving after a heavy meat and/or veggie meal is actually your body telling you it’s out of balance. Protein is a contractive food while sugar is expansive; veggies, especially salad greens, are highly alkalizing while sugar is acid-forming. Cravings for sugar could also mean you’re deficient in chromium or magnesium. To avoid sugar cravings, incorporate sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, dates and whole grains into your diet.
Emotionally, sugar can mean you are overworked, stressed out, or just not getting enough fun and enjoyment out of life. You should identify emotional sugar cravings first before taking the next steps; stress reduction is always a good idea and everyone should aim for 30 minutes of self-defined fun each day. (Me? I dance or read, but sometimes I just like to do easy TRX workouts!)
Salt cravings hit you when you’re stressed because cortisol reduces sodium in the body by preventing production of aldosterone. You may also be irritated or angry and just want to chew on something, so you reach for crunchy foods like chips, pretzels or roasted nuts.
Deficiencies in potassium, calcium and iron can also lead to salt cravings. Try adding seaweed, black beans and vegetables to your diet to thwart salt cravings. Salt cravings are also an indication that you’ve overdone it on the sweets or alcohol too.
Chocolate cravings are #1 on most people’s list! This is interesting because chocolate cravings are often associated with inadequate love and acceptance. Whether you’re lonely or someone just made you feel bad, chocolate cravings are common when you’re having a bad day.
Chocolate cravings happen a lot with highly restrictive diets. A healthy diet is one that incorporates all types of food, so make sure you’re getting a variety all 3 macro-nutrients daily! (It’s okay to have food aversions or avoid food for allergy reasons though.) You may also have a magnesium, chromium, B vitamins or essential fatty acids deficiency.
If you’re craving chocolate, why not just have a bit? Choose high-quality chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and have 1-2 ounces the next time you want some. Or, try adding 1 tablespoon of raw cocoa powder to a smoothie for an excellent source of magnesium.
Historically, eating carbs was associated with comfort and enjoyment, as well as preparing for times of little food. If you crave carbs, you may just need a hug or you could be in need of some emotional support. Carb cravings are especially hard to ignore when you’re stressed out or tired, too.
Craving carbs often could also mean you are hypoglycemic or have insulin resistance, so it’s important to balance your blood sugar with whole grains, cinnamon and fiber.