Your body sends you signals to let you know what it needs. It tells you when you need to drink water, or use the toilet, or sleep. So when your body gives you a food craving, is it because that food has something your body needs?
Your body does send you messages through cravings, but unfortunately those messages are not straightforward. When your body needs something, it will crave a food that can satisfy that need, even if it is not the best way to satisfy it. For example, you might crave lasagna not because your body needs lycopene from the sauce or fat from the cheese, but because you had a stressful day and it was a comfort food in your childhood.
Here are some common reasons for cravings besides nutritional deficiencies:
- Desire for comfort
- Consumption of foods with addictive qualities, such as sugar or dairy
- Your body craves what it is used to. It can take months or years after drastically changing your diet before your body stops craving the old foods and begins craving the new foods.
- Hormones, usually associated with the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause
- Consuming too much of some foods makes you crave foods that have the opposite effect. For example if you have a lot of sugar you might crave savory foods, and too many raw vegetables might make you crave meat.
- At a subconscious level you gain something from failing to stick to a healthy diet
- Changes in physical intimacy
Even cravings from nutritional deficiencies can be misleading. Dehydration is a perfect example. It is easy to miss your body’s early requests for water. Once you’re mildly dehydrated it sends you cravings for foods that contain water, such as fruit, soup, or pasta sauce. Similarly, if you don’t normally consume vitamins and minerals in their natural form you might crave foods that you do consume that are fortified with the ones you lack.
When you get a craving, try to interpret it on a deeper level. With practice you can deal with cravings at their root cause and make sticking to a healthy diet easier and more enjoyable.
Fitness and Holistic Coach, New York City
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