What Your Food Cravings Are Telling You
We have all experienced food cravings, but lots of people don’t realize that their food cravings can indicate underlying issues. Here’s what some common food cravings mean for your general nutrition.
A Balanced Diet
Ensuring that you have a balanced diet shouldn’t be difficult. However, many people struggle to maintain a well-rounded diet that includes everything they need. For example, people who have recently gone veggie or vegan often have to make some serious adjustments to their eating habits to ensure that they are getting everything they need. If you have trouble maintaining a healthy diet yourself then you might want to consider using meal delivery services. This makes it easier to ensure that you’re getting everything you need. But if you still have cravings, read on.
Fats Mean You Need More Calories
When we say “fats”, we are talking about things like butter, nuts, avocados, and other foods that have high fat content. There are some fatty foods, some kinds of meat, for example, that people don’t tend to crave. Not for this reason, at least. If you have recently started on a calorie-restricted diet, then cravings for the above-listed foods are common. Your body needs a constant supply of energy, which it derives from food. We measure the amount of energy contained in food in calories (kilocalories to be exact). The reason that people start to crave foods like the ones we’ve listed above is because fat is a very efficient source of energy. A single gram of fat contains 9 Kcals. Women are more prone to these cravings because their bodies tend to contain and require more fat. It is important to remember that not all fat is bad. While fat has undoubtedly got an image problem (seriously, fire the PR guy), healthy fats can be beneficial for our health. Hormones are comprised of fatty acids, so a lack of fat in your diet can lead to hormonal imbalances.
Salty Foods Mean That You Are Suffering an Electrolyte Imbalance
If you find yourself with a craving for things like salted chips, popcorn, celery, or other salty foods, you may have an electrolyte imbalance. An electrolyte imbalance is indicative of dehydration, which can itself cause you to crave salty foods. Even common tap water is loaded with vital minerals, minerals that your body needs to function. Fluids carry these minerals throughout your body, so if you are lacking in fluids then your body won’t be able to transport these minerals. If your cravings for salt are coming with a side helping of nausea or headaches, an electrolyte imbalance is definitely the most likely culprit. Fortunately, the solution is simple, you just need to increase your fluid intake. Any fluid will do, even bog-standard tap water. However, there are also sports drinks that are specially formulated with extra electrolytes for when you have a serious deficit.
A mild electrolyte imbalance isn’t a serious threat to your health, but the effects become progressively worse as the imbalance becomes more extreme. Dramatic mood swings and irritability are followed by confusion and, ultimately, seizures. It is, therefore, important to address an electrolyte imbalance promptly and to ensure that you don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated.
A Craving for Carbs Indicates A Tryptophan Discrepancy
Carbohydrates include things like pasta, bread, crackers, cake, and of course, bagels, which are a vital component of a healthy and well-rounded diet. Fortunately, carbohydrates are something that any reasonably balanced diet should have no trouble incorporating. There are many misconceptions about carbs, they get a bad rap in many modern diet books, but they are important, and you need to make sure that you’re getting enough of them.
In order to build neurotransmitters in the brain, our bodies need access to the right chemical building blocks. These come from things called essential amino acids. These compounds are essential for the proper functioning of our brain and body, but we do not synthesize them endogenously. Instead, we get these substances from the food that we eat. One of these essential amino acids is tryptophan, which is required to make serotonin. If you are craving carbohydrates, then it might indicate that you are lacking in tryptophan.
Craving Chocolate Indicates Magnesium Deficiency
One of the most common cravings people experience is a craving for chocolate. There are numerous reasons that people might crave chocolate, some of which are related to their wider diet and nutrition. For example, a lack of magnesium in your diet will inhibit your body’s ability to produce dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter involved in regulating moods. If your dopamine levels are low your mood will be as well. If you are on a diet and trying to avoid chocolate, or you can’t eat it for other health reasons, there are other foods that have a high magnesium content. These include figs, leafy greens, and avocados, all of which are loaded with magnesium. However, if you are looking for any source of magnesium then chocolate is a good source and dark chocolate is even better than regular chocolate. Dark chocolate also contains less sugar, so it is a better option for some people.
According to one study, 80% of women have a magnesium deficiency. This is largely down to the fact that women lose magnesium during menstruation, which is also why chocolate is a common craving for women on their periods. Chocolate’s ability to stimulate the production of dopamine and serotonin, along with oxytocin, also makes it a useful ally.
Food cravings are common, and they often indicate underlying issues with our diets and lifestyles. If you're still craving a treat, check out the recipes in our free Healthy Chocolate eBook.
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