Your body is smart and it knows what it wants. Food cravings are no exception. ….Usually.
Food cravings are often the result of one of these three things: a deficiency, an unfilled emotional need, or an allergy.
Often when we crave a food, it is the body’s way of directing us towards something it needs, even if the specific food you want isn’t the best vehicle for it. We tend toward our early memories, and if we didn’t grow up on kale and quinoa, we’re not likely to crave these things when we are low in a given nutrient that those foods might be high in.
Say you’re really low in essential fatty acids at the moment. Your body NEEDS these good fats! Some healthy food choices to get these good fats into you could include avocados, flax seed oil, raw hemp seeds, fish, or organic walnuts. But did you eat a lot of those as a kid? Maybe! But if you’re like me, you ate a whole lot more macaroni and cheese as a kid than you did avocados, raw hemp seeds or organic walnuts. And while far from being the best source of essential fatty acids, cheese does contain some good fats, so your body might start to crave some good ol’ mac and cheese. Is this a healthy food choice? No. Is there some wisdom in your body’s desire? Yes! It’s just working with what it knows – or more likely – with what it was taught early on.
A side note for women with chocolate cravings:
A lot of women crave chocolate either soon before or during menstruation. This is a time when a lot of women experience cramping. Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a muscle relaxant, making it very beneficial for cramps. And guess what food is high in magnesium? CHOCOLATE! Way to go body, you sure are smart! But wait! Don’t reach for that chocolate candy bar yet! I’m not talking about the stuff that comes in colourful foil wrappers at the gas station. Real chocolate goes beyond being dark: it is dark, yes, and it is pure, and it is raw. Milk chocolate bars are candy. Eat them as a treat if that’s your thing once in a while, but don’t kid yourself that it’s doing anything good for your physical health. Dark chocolate bars – that is, with no milk and less sugar – are a step up, but the heat processing used to make them destroys most of its nutritional value. Buy yourself a raw chocolate bar – becoming increasingly available and found at most health food stores – or better yet, grab a bag of raw cacao powder and use it to make your own goodies. Try making some raw chocolate bark or if you wanna get fancy, check out this recipe for Raw Chocolate Coconut Pie! But it can be as simple as adding raw cacao powder to warm almond milk with a pinch of stevia or a bit of raw honey to make a comforting drink.
In the list below I’ve offered some suggestions about what nutrient you might be lacking when you crave a certain food, using 4 common food cravings. HOWEVER. Every body is different! And all foods contain more than one nutrient. That means that demystifying your cravings is not as black-and-white as following this chart. But it might give you some ideas:
|FOOD CRAVING||MISSING NUTRIENT||HEALTHY FOOD SOURCE|
|Chocolate||magnesium||Raw cacao, kale, pumpkin seeds, spinach|
|Cheese or Ice Cream||Essential fatty acids||Fish, flax oil, avocado, raw nuts and seeds, eggs|
|Bread or Pasta||B vitamins||Quinoa, brewer’s yeast, nutritional/Engivita yeast, nori, beans, kale, molasses, spinach|
|Salty foods||Minerals (in general!)||Nori, wakame, quinoa, pumpkin seeds|
Are you an emotional eater? There’s no denying that we have a very intimate connection with our food. Do you use food to cover up your emotions, such as turning to ice cream rather than allowing yourself to experience sadness? Food can be abused in such a way that it is substituted for feeling, because real feelings can be scary. That doesn’t make you a coward – this reaction is often an unconscious, automatic reflex. But if you feel yourself reaching to your same old crutch-y foods, try to catch yourself in the act, and ask yourself what you’re feeling. Sit with that feeling, explore it, and let it move through you. Where did it come from? Why are you reacting this way? See if you can talk yourself through it, and if there might be a more appropriate way to deal with your emotions.
Here are those same 4 common food cravings as seen through the emotional-eating lense; again, everyone is different, but these are the foods’ common emotional connections:
|FOOD CRAVING||EMOTIONAL CONNECTION|
|Chocolate||Needing love, feeling of rejection|
|Cheese or Ice Cream||Feeling empty|
|Bread or Pasta||Needing comfort, or calmness|
|Salty foods||Stress, anxiety, or anger|
Be gentle with yourself and honour your needs. Maybe you need some time to yourself to rest, or to think, or to release your emotions creatively. Maybe you need to go for a run and even yell and shake. Maybe you need to call a friend to talk with, or, depending on what might be bothering you, to confront them – just be honest and gentle. Allow yourself to feel whatever is inside you. Whoever you are reading this, you are beautiful, and you deserve good things.
Sometimes we crave foods we’re allergic to. That might sound odd and goes against the previous “your body is smart” statement, but your body is still smart! But sometimes is can get hooked on a rush, too.
Not all food allergies cause anaphylaxis. This is an extreme form of food allergy that is well acknowledged, but less acknowledged are the mild and moderate food allergies, which are capable of producing nearly any symptom at all. There are a whole lot of people out there who have food allergies but don’t know it. You may well be one of them! When we eat something that we’re mildly allergic to, one of the body’s responses is to release a course of adrenaline, to help the body cope with this irritant and ride it out.
Do you see where this is going?
Are you an adrenaline junky?
Some people can get hooked on that rush, and any food that you are allergic to can get you there. Wheat and dairy are the most common food allergens. It’s a good idea to remove suspected food items from your diet completely for a minimum of one week, and then slowly reintroduce them one at a time (one every couple days). Note how you felt without it, and then how your body reacted once it was introduced. The results can be very illuminating.
What are your food cravings? Do you know why you get them? Do you have your own tricks for getting around them? Let us know in the comments below!
Stay healthy, friends!
-the FGF team