Updated 19 October 2015

What your food cravings really mean

Do you constantly crave chocolate? Or greasy junk food? Your body is trying to tell you something, but it might not be what you think.


There is a big difference between true hunger and a craving. Hunger is controlled by the stomach, whereas a craving is controlled by the brain. Learning how to differentiate between the two will help you satisfy what your body is really craving, and help you avoid consuming unnecessary calories.

Some of the most common cravings include chocolate, sugary foods, and salty foods. However, that craving for chocolate is mostly likely not actually for chocolate – it’s your body telling you it is experiencing a deficiency in magnesium. If you learn how to identify which healthy foods can satisfy your body when it appears to be craving unhealthy foods you can avoid eating unnecessary calories.

Common cravings and what they mean

Here is a list of all the common food cravings, flavour cravings and eating habits you may experience and the possible reason behind each craving, and all the foods you can eat to fix the craving:

Chocolate:  Your body may be experiencing a magnesium deficiency. Try eating foods rich in magnesium such as raw cacao nibs, fresh coffee, raw almond nuts, seeds, greens and fruit.

Salty foods: Often when we’re craving salty and savoury foods, it’s actually more the crunchy texture we crave when we're stressed, angry, or anxious. Craving popcorn or crisps can be an indication of stress hormone fluctuations or a deficiency in chloride or Essential Fatty Acids. Try incorporating some meditation or breathing exercises and light exercise such as walking into your day and eat more leafy greens and ‘oily’ foods such as flaxseeds, nuts, olives.

Sugary foods: Psychologically a craving for sugary, sweet foods is a often a throw-back to our childhood when we were rewarded for good behaviour with a sweet treat, meaning this craving for a sweet treat is generally more ‘learned’.
However they can also be indicative of a deficiency in a number of different minerals such as tryptophan, chromium, phosphorus and sulphur. Try to include more fruit in your diet such as grapes and apples, as well as spirulina and pumpkin and sunflower seeds; sweet potatoes, lettuce and cruciferous vegetables and nuts.

Dairy: Cravings for dairy foods such as cheese can be an indication of a deficiency in Essential Fatty Acids such as omega-3’s found in flax oil, walnuts and oily fish or of a calcium deficiency. To combat these eat more leafy greens, which have ample calcium in them, as well as sesame seeds and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils.

Carbs:  A craving for high carbohydrate foods such as pastas, breads and pastries may mean your body is short in chromium or nitrogen. Rather than reaching for another piece of toast, try a crunchy salad with onions, lettuce, apples and some seeds. Apples, grapes, sweet potato and cinnamon are also good options.

Stop cravings before they start

The best way to avoid any food cravings is to eat a balanced diet rich in fresh, real foods – vegetables, fruit, legumes and grains.

However in modern-life sometimes it seems impossible to be able to get everything your body needs every day. Here are some tips to help you try:

1.      Eat a variety of foods, don’t get in a rut and eat the same foods every day.

2.      Don’t skip meals, then your blood sugar won’t dip too low and have you craving something to fill the void.

3.      Aim to eat a protein, a carb and a fat at every meal/snack time to keep you fuller for longer.

Read more:

Craving sugar? Blame your brain

Brain scans confirm food addictions

The role stress plays in your eating habits


Ben Greenfield Fitness

5 reasons we have cravings



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