Updated: Oct 9, 2020
Here's an article that sums up what your food cravings might mean for you.
Contrary to popular belief, cravings are not necessarily 100% an indicator of nutritional deficiency. If they were, we would all be a lot healthier, obesity would cease to exist and our bodies would essentially be on auto-pilot. The fact is - we're human and we're complex. For many of us, choosing what to eat each day doesn't come easy and the reasons for this are endless.
I think it's safe to say that eating is a very social thing, even cultural and a lot of our comfort foods are tied to feelings and emotions which feed into our relationships as well. Actually, all of the decisions we make throughout the day must first go through the part of our brain that processes emotion. It's up to the other parts of our brain to take care of the logic.
When it comes to cravings, take me for example. I am not a sweets person but the comfort that comes with a big bowl of freshly cooked Jasmine rice is irresistible. Over the years this has become problematic, not because the excess calories but because of the cause and effect on my body. If I eat an entire 6 cup batch of rice over the course of a couple of days, I can count on not being in the bathroom for #2 for up to a week. Super no bueno.
So when it comes to managing your food cravings, it's simply that - managing them. Not, eliminating those foods because restriction and deprivation of anything have a whole other set of repercussions. Manage your food cravings with moderation. Manage your food cravings with macros.
Here are 5 common food cravings, what they might mean for your and how you can manage them:
Salt Cravings - this is chips, pretzels, pizza . . . salt on your food. A lot of these salty foods are crunchy so what we might actually be looking for is the emotional release that comes with crunching down on your food. Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch. A craving for salt can also mean you need more water as salt helps regulate the fluids in your body. This is why you hear of long distant runners drinking pickle juice during a run - the sodium in the juice can help prevent dehydration. So, how much water should you drink per day? As a guideline, you would take your weight and divide by 2 to get the number of ounces, therefore a 150 lb person would need at least 75 oz of water per day depending on activity levels. More activity, more water.
Sweet Cravings - this is cookies, cake, chocolate. This is a very popular one as sugar causes our brains to release serotonin which is a chemical that makes us feel relaxed and regulates mood. If you're not getting a good night sleep, you might also be craving sugars for that quick pick-me-up to get us through the day. Funny thing is, exercise releases "feel-good" hormones too, including serotonin, and will also increase your energy levels without the added calories. Does that sound like a bonus or what?
Meat Cravings - this is a funny one because for me, I think it's just because I want the wine that I usually have with a big ol' fat ribeye. In actuality, this could be a sign that you need more protein in your diet or that you might be iron or Vitamin B deficient. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you might want to increase your intake of nuts, tofu and leafy veggies . . . just keep in mind that nuts and tofu are fat macro dense so make sure to portion out your servings so don't go overboard on calories for the day.
White Carb Cravings - here it is . . . my nemesis! This is bagels, bread, muffins, incredible fluffy nummy nummy white rice mmmmm . . . oh yeah, where was I? Right, so these carbs? M'yeah they are processed the same way as sweets or that added sugar. Not to be confused with natural sugar from fruit either - that's good sugar. In terms of macros though - a bagel, is a donut, is brocoli, is a bottle of beer - carbs are carbs. Thinking of them this ways let's you find that balance with eating so that you can achieve moderation. So just like sweets, we crave these white carbs so we can have that pleasure moment. To balance this? Perhaps, have half the donut and go for a short walk.
Dairy Cravings - this milk, yogurt, cheese (like on pizzas mmmm) and seems to be the most complicated of the 5 as depending on what kinda of dairy you're craving, it might really fall into the salty or sweet cravings category. Milk also has L-typtophan which again plays a role in releasing that feel good hormone serotonin. Craving dairy can also indicate a Vitamin D deficiency. To remedy this? Go outside for your walk with that half a donut and soak up some Vitamin D rays from Mother Earth. How much sunshine do you need a day you ask? Well, that depends on you and could be anywhere from 13 minutes to 3 hours depending on how dark your skin is.
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