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A food craving is an intense desire to consume a specific food, stronger than simply normal hunger. Understanding what your body is really asking for when you can’t seem to stay away from that chocolate will help you make choices that keep you on a healthy track while giving your body what it needs.
What your body wants: carbohydrates
If you are dying for a bar of chocolate, it means that you need carbohydrates. Our bodies turn carbohydrates into glucose, which gives us energy. These cravings occur often in the middle of the afternoon when energy is at its lowest. Chocolate or sugar in the form of other sweets will give you a rush of glucose and then a sugar crash. Try oatmeal, couscous, or hummus instead to keep your energy more level and make the effect last longer with the additional fiber.
The cravings for certain types of food are also linked to their ingredients. Chocolate for example, contains the amino acid phenyl ethylamine, which is important for the regulation of the body’s release of endorphins. Endorphins are released following a stressor and result in a sense of relaxation. Exercise and sleep are two alternative ways to help facilitate the release of endorphins.
Chocolate also contains large quantities of iron, which can be depleted during the menstrual cycle explaining the timing for a lot of women.
What your body wants: fat
If you are fancying fried food, chances are that your body needs some fat. Our bodies need fat to survive, so if you restrict it too much, you’ll get cravings. Instead opt for fats that are good for you from oily fish, nuts, seeds or add some olive oil to your food. If you really have to have fries, oven-baked sweet potato fries drizzled with olive oil are a good substitute for fries as they absorb less oil and you get additional nutrients from the yams.
What your body wants: iron
A lack of iron can make us tired and lethargic, as there are fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Instead of depending on caffeine for a pick-me-up, eat red meat, beans, chickpeas, and fortified cereals. If you already get enough iron, those cravings could be caffeine addiction so cut it out for two weeks.
What your body wants: vitamin B
When we are under pressure, our adrenal glands (which regulate our salt levels) pump hormones into your body and you start craving salty foods. Avocados are a great source of vitamin B which helps de-stress the body and keeps the immune system strong. If nothing but chips will do, choose baked rather than fried and stick to small portions.
Craving salt may also be partly due to being dehydrated. When dehydrated, the body loses water, electrolytes, and salt, and by ingesting salt, water retention can be increased. Craving salt can also be a sign of diabetes, heart disease, and sickle cell anemia so if you are experiencing it often, talk to your doctor.
The amazing thing about eating clean for me personally is that when I listen to my body and feed it what it needs with clean eats, I don’t really experience cravings at all. My body is getting everything that it needs so there is no deficit of anything and hence no cravings.