You should always listen to your food cravings, but that does not mean you need to give into them. They do not always have a clear meaning either as to why you are having these cravings.
While there are times that your body is letting you know it is lacking something nutritionally, most of the time clarity is not there. One is left wondering, “Why am I craving that?”. If it were really all that simple then you would crave bananas or spinach when you were low on Vitamin B12 or an orange or broccoli when you were low on Vitamin C. These are the two most common nutritional deficiencies we see, yet generally your body does not say, “Hey, go eat a banana because I am low on Vitamin B12 or potassium today”. It would be great if it did, but that really isn’t how it generally works. Sometimes you do crave something nutritious that your body really desires, but most often not.
Generally what we crave are things like fatty foods, sugar, and salt. Things like cheese, cakes, pasta, and chocolate seem to be high on the “crave” list. We know that the body certainly can survive without these types of foods, yet we still “want or crave” them. New research suggests that cravings are really more related to your hormones, something psychologically or brain chemistry as opposed to nutritional deficiencies. Our bodies are always changing and the hormonal balance fluctuates every day.
It stems to reason that women experience different cravings during their menstrual cycle or when pregnant since there are many hormonal changes going on within the body during these times, they crave certain foods. Generally cravings are not an issue except when one has Pica – this is a craving for non-food items like soap, paper, dirt, etc. as this can be quite damaging to the body. These types of cravings should be evaluated by a health care practitioner.
One may also get cravings just from smelling food. Have you ever passed a bakery, the scent of donuts, cakes or bread fills the air. You can almost taste them. Next thing you know, you are craving something from the bakery. It’s amazing how quickly this can happen.
During stressful times many of us crave comfort foods. Things that we loved or made us feel good and/or safe are what we are searching for. We develop associations with certain foods over the years and how we feel and those are our go-to foods during stressful times, these are the foods one tends to crave.
It is possible that this also could be related to our brain chemistry. One might start craving carbohydrates to trigger the Serotonin – our feel good hormone - to increase that good feeling in the body.
Different people crave different things. What may bring relief and comfort to one person may not for another. If you are curious as to when, where, and what you crave you may try keeping a journal and documenting the experiences you have with each of these. What were you feeling when you ate that item? Did that food remind you of a certain time in life? When you are under stress at work, do you crave the same type of food? One could find some insight on how to change certain behaviors or different ways to interact with them. Awareness is the first step to understanding any condition.