We often think of food cravings in association with pregnant women who want ice cream and pickles at 2 a.m.! Sometimes are bodies are talking to us, telling us they need something. Do you ever crave any foods? I know I have!
I used to crave salty chips, pizza and sometimes sweets/chocolate too! My cycle was first to eat something salty, chase it with something sweet, then chase that with something salty, a catch 22!
Do my food cravings mean anything?
Some would say we want to eat something “emotionally” out of seeking “comfort” others might say we are eating out of stress and anxiety. Diets (not dieting) which do not contain a great deal of variety in foods can trigger cravings. Foods with pleasant memories and associations can also trigger us craving as well. Ladies are we “PMS’ing?” Yes, our monthly cycles can trigger food cravings!
Most people have listed the following foods as what they “crave”; Macaroni and Cheese, Chocolate Chip cookies, Chocolate, French Fries, Potato Chips and Ice Cream. These foods all have one craving element in common “fat.” We might be craving fat along with those carbs!
What is the most commonly craved food in America?
Chocolate is the most craved food in America. It contains chemicals which stimulates the body’s release of endorphins which help us to get that “feel good feeling!” Chocolate also contains trace amounts of THC the same substance also found in marijuana producing a much smaller “high.” Another component of contained in chocolate is the mineral iron which women often have a deficiency. Check the calendar ladies the next time you are craving chocolate! If your body has a deficiency in magnesium, you might be craving chocolate. There have been estimates that over 80 perfect of people have this deficiency and could be why it is a “universal” crave is for chocolate. Healthier ways of getting magnesium into your body are to avoid milk chocolate and go for a very dark chocolate high in cacao (70% or higher) and to eat foods like: nuts, seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables.
Craving Sweets or Carbs?
Craving Sweets could mean your blood sugar is experiencing shifting levels. To feed the need for sweets, try eating a piece of fruit high in natural sugars and more foods which are higher in fibers like beans, legumes and whole grains. Eating a high carbohydrate snack might give you an almost instant burst of energy but that quick burst of energy will be followed by a fast low drop in energy. This leaves you even hungrier and even more vulnerable to eating more unhealthy snacks. Reach for foods which give you lasting energy such as yogurt, nuts or a piece of fruit.
Craving Salty/Fatty Foods?
Before eating healthier, I often craved salty foods which were indicators that stress could have been over-taxing my adrenal glands! By eating healthier and removing stressors from my life, I no longer “crave” salty foods. This makes sense to me! Healthcare professionals also recommend practicing breathing exercises, meditation or other stress reducer behaviors before reaching for those salty snacks! A University of Utah study actually showed that if someone practiced deep breathing, took a break or meditated before reaching for a salty snack, reduced their stress hormones by 25%!!! That is impressive!!! They were also able to cut their binge eating in half!
Craving Red Meat?
Craving a large juicy steak or burger? This was did not surprise me that indicates an iron deficiency. Every 7 or 8 years, I have had times when I was iron deficient. The best foods to reach for which are high in iron are: prunes, figs, dried fruits (in moderation), beans (legumes).
Craving Pizza and/or Cheese?
I used to also experience cravings for cheese or even pizza! This indicates I might have had a fatty acid deficiency. Fatty acids are needed for healthy skin, hair, and nails. I could not imagine me having a deficiency of anything “fatty” after all; I was not only fat but obese! Most American do not eat enough foods to satisfy the body’s need for these fatty acids. The best sources of fatty acids are found in: flax-seed oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, tuna, olive oil and wild salmon.
The Most Common Cause of Food Cravings
Guess what the majority of cravings are commonly indicating about us? We are dehydrated/thirsty! Most cravings are chased away by drinking a glass of water. This shocked me when I read that 80% of people are chronically dehydrated! So next time I crave something, I am going to do what health professionals suggest: reach for a glass of water and wait 30 minutes to see if the craving is gone before indulging in something that my body might not need! I know I have greatly increased my water intake since starting Weight Watchers and that could explain why I am not craving all those salty chips anymore, but I suspect reducing the stressors in my life and using stress management techniques are at the bottom of that lack of salty cravings!
What are strategies to cope with cravings?
- Cutting the specific food out of your menu make it “forbidden.” NOT a good idea!! This can actually backfire and cause more cravings! Having portion controlled amounts might be the best way of allowing these cravings to be satisfied.
- Making a healthier choice instead of the “target” food when you are able or making a lower fat/carb substitute.
- You might have to modify your environment. The TV/radio is constantly telling us what inexpensive cheap choices we have at our local fast food restaurants. You might need to lower the amount of exposure you have to this convincing advertising.
- Not allowing yourself to get too hungry is another strategy. Eating smaller meals and healthy snacks every 2-3 hours is recommended as a good tool in fighting cravings.
- Write out your feelings when you are craving foods. What are you feeling at the time you are craving something, what is going on around you, what time of day is it, what are you craving, how much did you end up eating? If you can keep a log for a month you might discover some patterns to your cravings. This is a great step in self-discovery!
- Eating more whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables can help us curb cravings since these are healthier basics for our bodies.
- Nourishing your body and your mind. Do things that give yourself a break from the stressors of your life. Take some “me” time and give yourself a facial, a manicure, a pedicure, read a book, treat yourself to a cup of gourmet coffee, or get a massage.
- Move! Go for a walk, run, bike, hike, head to the gym, do yoga, tai chi, or go for a swim. Even a ten minute walk can reduce your food cravings.
- Make sure you are getting plenty of rest. Being over-tired can lead to anxiety and stress which can trigger food cravings and binges.
- Follow a routine. Keeping your body on a regular schedule can help to reduce stress and not only help alleviate food cravings but can help reduce symptoms of PMS.
When you feel you are craving a specific food, it might be time to step back, drink a glass of water and wait out the craving or find a healthier alternative to the food you were craving.