Food Craving Identifier: What Certain Cravings Suggest You're Missing From Your Diet
Got a hankering? It might mean something else entirely…
Maybe you’ve sworn to cut down on carbs, started watching your caloric intake more closely, or simply committed to making healthier choices in general. Perhaps you’ve gone the extra mile and put in the work, dedicating Sundays to meal prepping and stocking up on healthier snacks to ward off any possibility of falling off the wagon…
So why do you still find yourself drooling in the candy aisle of the grocery store, or fantasizing about a super-sized portion of delightfully greasy french fries?
Food cravings can be the result of a few different factors, including physiological ones like conditioned experience and associated memories, as well as simply longing for the indulgent taste you’ve acquired for sweet, salty, and/or fatty foods.
Oftentimes, however, these cravings can be traced to specific nutrient deficiencies.
Whatever your guilty pleasure, here’s what the foods you're craving can tell you might be missing from your daily eating habits:
Ah yes, the notorious sweet tooth. If you find yourself wondering when or if you’ll ever grow out of your childhood affinity for sugar, there could be an underlying sneaky but all-too-prevalent issue at hand:
Not enough protein in your diet.
But how can a protein deficiency lead to sugar cravings? Aside from its role as a building block for muscle repair and growth, protein has another important function in the body that few of us are aware of: Slowing the release of sugar into your bloodstream and supplying your body with a steady stream of energy.
Without the adequate amount of protein, your blood sugar will spike and crash, resulting in your body craving quick energy in the form of sugar.
Any fitness enthusiast is probably aware of the importance of protein, but it can still be easy to overlook (looking at you, veggies and vegans!). To avoid sugar cravings, average adults should aim to get at least 0.36g protein per pound of bodyweight, but increase this amount during higher levels of activity.
Craving Fried Food?
If you ask someone what they crave most while on a restrictive diet, you’d better believe that french fries are going to be a top contender on their list of guilty pleasures.
That’s because diets with the sole focus of weight loss intuitively zero-in on fat intake, sometimes all but limiting the nutrient completely in favor of its muscle-building counterpart, protein.
While watching your fat intake is not bad inherently for those looking to shed some pounds, it’s important to keep in mind that some fats are essential for fueling your body and all of its processes, including converting sugar to energy!
Rather than simply focusing on how many grams of fat you’re consuming, instead hone in on singling out healthy fats like unsaturated and Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as healthy sources like fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, and vegetable oil.
Find yourself asking for extra cheese on your pizza, or fighting the urge to pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s?
This could be your body pleading for more calcium.
Contrary to what the marketing minds behind the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign would have us believe, however, you don’t need to indulge in loads of dairy to get your daily quota.
Soy, leafy greens, eggs, plant-based milks and low-fat yogurt are all excellent sources of the mineral without going overboard in the fat and lactose departments.
Craving Salty Snacks?
Can’t get enough salt? One possible culprit could be a deficiency in chloride, or ‘hypochloremia’.
An imbalance in chloride, as well as other electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and carbon dioxide, can throw your body’s fluids and pH balance out of whack.
While there are a menagerie of causes that could be to blame, from excessive sweating to chemotherapy, the symptoms usually present similarly to those of dehydration: fatigue, muscle weakness, diarrhea, nausea, and thirst.
Naturally, table salt contains chloride, hence the signal your body is sending you to reach for the potato chips. To be honest, though, it’s less likely that you’re not getting enough salt in your diet, as most foods (especially processed) easily provide more than enough for the average person in a single serving.
If the symptoms of chloride deficiency sound familiar and the cravings persist, it’s something worth checking out with your doctor to get to the root of the problem.
Armed with this new knowledge on what specific food cravings can actually mean your body is missing - you’re officially set to look right down the barrel of your food cravings and know whether there’s more to them than a simple hankering!
And don’t forget about balance - it’s important to treat yourself with your favorite foods every once in a while, even when you’re watching your caloric intake! Keeping your morale high and getting to enjoy a treat on occasion is all part of the strategies to keep yourself on track. As always, everything in moderation… Even moderation.
Maggie Johnson | MME Lifestyle Contributor