We all experience food cravings, which are more powerful than simply wanting to eat or drink a certain item. Instead a craving feels like an almost primal instinct to devour the object of your affection, be it an incredible desire for your favourite chocolate or a packet of potato chips. When you have a craving for foods you know are not the best for you, it's naturally to try to show some restraint, but even the most strongly willed of us are no match for the temptation of a powerful craving.
Being hungry is one thing; you'll eat almost anything when you're hungry. A craving, on the other hand, is the desire for a specific food or taste, even if you aren't hungry. The good news is that most cravings have simple physiological or psychological causes, and can be easily controlled by addressing nutritional deficiencies and lifestyle practices, ensuring you have healthy food swaps at hand or healthy ways to manage your emotions.
You want salty foods
Your Body Needs: Adrenal Support and Electrolytes
Craving salty snacks such as crisps, nuts, popcorn or pure salt can be aggravated by stress hormone fluctuations and low levels of electrolytes. Our body's craving for salt most often indicates a need for the minerals which support the adrenal glands. Maybe the candle has been burning at both ends (and the sides!) for a little too long. A craving for salt may also be the body crying out for some water as salt tends to retain water.
GO FOR: Celery, olives, tomatoes, seaweed or Himalayan sea salt. You may also want to load up on some H2O and Coconut water to restore electrolytes. Getting a few good nights of shut-eye should also reset your adrenals and normalise your stress hormone levels.
You want carbs galore
Your Body Needs: Sugar Balancing and Chromium
This may indicate insulin resistance, hypoglycaemia (blood sugar fluctuations), chromium deficiency or fatigue. This is separate to sweet cravings and can often go unnoticed as people often crave crackers, savoury biscuits, noodles, white breads, chips, etc.
GO FOR: Bananas, apples, apricots, capsicum, spinach, beetroot, avocado, broccoli, celery, chard (silverbeet), carrot and parsnip. Start to include more fibre in your diet for better blood sugar control and eat more chromium and magnesium rich fruits and vegetables in particular dark leafy greens to help to overcome this craving. Ensure your meals contain a small amount of protein for example nuts and seeds, legumes, tempeh, eggs or fish (if not vegan).
You want everything chocolaty
Your Body Needs: Magnesium, Essential Fatty Acids and Chromium
Magnesium, chromium, B-vitamins and/or essential fatty acids are often depleted in times of stress. Chocolate is also metabolized to serotonin, a mood boosting hormone so cravings can also be related to an emotional need.
GO FOR: A hot chocolate made from raw cacao, two squares of 70%+ dark chocolate or nuts and seeds and dark leafy greens which are all high in magnesium and essential fatty acids. Even better, reach for a loved one, friend, pet or any activity that will give your feel-good hormones a field day.
You want sugar sugar sugar!
Your Body Needs: Energy, Chromium or Tryptophan
Craving sugar is perhaps one of the most complex deficiencies. It may be your body crying out for some brain or body fuel as carbohydrates provide energy for the brain and body. It may also indicate a deficiency of amino acids or protein or an overgrowth of sugar or yeast in the body which leaves the body craving more sugar to keep it growing. Or perhaps it is purely an emotional sign of not having enough "sweetness" in your life.
GO FOR: Legumes, pears, berries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and whole grains. Treat yourself to something that makes your heart sing - a walk in the park, art or some good music and you may find that craving for sweet is fulfilled without food.
You Want cream, cheese and all things "grease"
Your Body Needs: Essential Fatty Acids and Calcium
Craving fried foods and other oily foods can indicate an essential fatty acid deficiency or calcium deficiency. Simply eating more good quality fats and calcium will solve this in a flash.
GO FOR: Raw nuts and seeds, flax-seed oil, broccoli, kale, legumes and leafy greens.
You want fizzy drinks
Your Body Needs: Calcium
Craving soda and fizzy drinks is a common craving particularly in those with an "acid" biologic terrain i.e. you've been relying a little too much on stimulants and neglecting your greens and water for some time. This often indicates a calcium deficiency.
GO FOR: Kale, tahini, almonds, spinach and broccoli. All are naturally high in alkaline-forming calcium.
You want ice
Your Body Needs: Iron
This is a condition called Pica or Geophagia (literally means "eating the earth") and involves cravings for non-food items such as ice, clay, dirt and chalk. This can often point to an iron deficiency or mineral deficiency in general. This is more frequently seen in children and during periods of greater nutritional need such as pregnancy.
GO FOR: Plenty of iron-rich foods including dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and ensure that you have your iron levels tested.
Whilst the above provides a general guideline for some common nutritional food deficiencies associated with food cravings, we always recommend seeing a qualified health professional if you feel your cravings are particularly abnormal in their nature or you require support to deal with issues such as emotional or binge eating.