Cravings 101: Which Food Groups Show What Your Body Actually Needs

People whose mind and body are in sync can easily distinguish hunger from craving. We eat because our stomachs are growling from emptiness or because our bodies crave certain products. 

Although the easiest way to eliminate cravings is simply to indulge in the foods you want, it is also crucial to understand why we crave a particular product. 

In fact, this is one of the ways the body tries to tell us what nutrients we lack(1, 2).

By knowing and understanding what the body needs, we could improve our health and mood by simply adding a few different groceries to our shopping list. 

Let's look at the most common food cravings and what exactly our bodies try to tell us with them. 

Sugary Foods

Sugar is one the most common cravings(3). However, it may not necessarily mean that your body lacks some nutrients. Sugar is often the most popular choice among people who are emotional eaters, too. 

That's why it's essential to understand if the body actually needs it or if it's a coping mechanism caused by stress and anxiety.

It's definitely an emotional craving if you catch yourself wanting sweets and pastries when faced with uncomfortable situations. 

However, if you lack energy and get an intense craving for, say, a piece of pie, and the feeling just doesn't go away – you might be deficient in chromium. 

Chromium is a supplement that functions as a facilitator in moving glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Blood sugar is then used as energy and fuels our body. 

The best natural sources of chromium are vegetables and fruits because chromium is originally a mineral found in soil. 

Also, chromium is an over-the-counter supplement and is among one of the most commonly used minerals. 

Salty Foods

Are you keeping a bag of salty treats next to you at all times? If the answer is yes and you constantly crave something salty, there's a high chance you lack chloride or electrolytes. Another option is you're simply dehydrated. 

Chloride helps the body balance the fluids and is an essential part of our digestive system. Although a salty snack may sound like a good source of chloride, it is actually not the best option someone should go for.

The best natural sources for chloride are sea salt (mix small amounts of it with water for rehydration), seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, and olives. 

Oily Foods

Fats are essential for our bodies, and we couldn't function without them. Fats give us energy and are one of the building blocks for cells. Craving fats are prevalent when the body lacks fat-soluble vitamins A, K, D, and E.

Consuming fast food, which is extremely high in fats, won't help and definitely won't provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Instead, you will be craving more fast and processed foods because the fats in processed foods do not have the nutrients the body lacks. 

To satisfy the need for fat-soluble vitamins, people should consume healthy fats. Here's the list of the most nutrient-dense and healthy foods that are mainly fats:

  • Avocado
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oily fish
  • Butter

Include these foods in your diet, and you will satisfy your body's needs and crave less unhealthy fatty foods. 

Chocolate 

Sometimes the craving is very specific and does not include the whole group of foods but is somewhat more focused on a particular product. It is especially common with chocolate. 

Of course, one may want a piece of chocolate just for the taste of it, but it could also mean that the body is asking for a specific nutrient. Most likely, it's magnesium that the body needs(4)

Magnesium is a part of more than 300 processes in the body. It supports muscle and nerve function and also energy production. 

Since chocolate includes sugar and sugar is best to avoid, it is better to swap chocolate for better alternatives high in magnesium. 

The best options are legumes, raw nuts and seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains.

Magnesium deficiency does not have any specific symptoms. However, long periods of insufficient magnesium levels in the body can increase the risks of heart disease and even type 2 diabetes.

Meat

You should pay attention if you crave meat more often than usual. Especially if you don't consume meat daily or if you're on vegetarian or vegan diets. 

Craving meat might mean that you lack essential nutrients like iron, B12, or amino acids. 

Consider either changing your diet to one which includes more meat or use quality supplements to replenish your body. 

This is important since vitamin B12 is responsible for keeping your body's blood and nerve cells healthy. It also facilitates making your DNA.

Iron has the function of “carrying” oxygen from your lungs to all tissues and organs, including your brain.

If you don’t want to include meat to your diet, there are plant based food options that contain high levels of iron:

  • Kidney beans
  • Pumpkin, sesame, and squash seeds 
  • Dark, leafy greens

Another option is to supplement, however make sure you are really deficient, because too much iron can be harmful to your health. 


Final Takeaways

There may be mental and physical reasons behind food cravings. There is no clear path to understanding what exactly causes them. 

In times of scarcity, cravings were extremely important for survival, but nowadays, constantly wanting food might lead to overeating, gaining weight, and even harming our health. 

Understanding what your body is telling you is vitally important. The only way to nourish yourself is to eat a quality diet and avoid unhealthy foods along with stress. This way, anyone can become more in sync with their body and better understand the signals it sends. 


FAQs

1. What deficiency causes sugar cravings?

One of the functions of chromium is glucose and insulin levels regulation. A deficiency in chromium will cause intense sugar cravings. The best natural sources of chromium are vegetables and fruits because chromium is originally a mineral found in soil. 

2. Why am I craving fried foods?

Fats are essential for our bodies, and we couldn't function without them. Fats give us energy and are one of the building blocks for cells. Fried food is extremely high in fats, however not the ones you actually need. Since craving fats are prevalent when the body lacks fat-soluble vitamins A, K, D, and E, you should consume healthy fats like avocados, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds to supplement the vitamins. 


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