When you are dehydrated, your body urges you to drink by thirst signals. When you are tired, your body urges you to sleep by sending signals to your brain. Our lives are full of situations where out bodies translate a physical need into an urge to act a specific way, it is how our different organs talk to us and nutritional needs are no different. There is often an underlying nutritional cause behind food cravings other than your love for a specific food.

Starchy Carbs (bread, pasta etc.):
Carbohydrate cravings are often your body’s way of telling you it needs more nitrogen. High protein foods like chicken, fish, meat, or legumes are rich nitrogen sources.

Craving chocolate generally indicates your body’s need for Magnesium. Dark chocolate is a proven mood booster as it boosts serotonin production, the happy hormone. Other foods high in magnesium include spinach, sesame seeds, avocados and yogurt.

Cheese and Other Fatty Foods:
Our bodies need two types of essential fatty acids from our diets, and intense cravings for fatty foods like cheese or other fried foods are an indication that you are not getting enough essential fatty acids. Good sources of these fatty acids include fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, avocados, and walnuts.

Low levels of electrolytes in your blood can trigger intense sugar cravings. Raw nuts and seeds are great ways of combating this, as well as beetroots and sweet potatoes.

Pica is a defined clinical condition that results in strong cravings towards non-food items such as clay, dirt, and chalk. This is a condition usually secondary to an iron or zinc deficiency and is most common in children or during pregnancy. Consuming iron and zinc rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts, and lentils can correct nutritional status and cure pica completely.

Despite nutritional cravings, your emotional state plays a huge role in food cravings and choices. To differentiate between true and emotional hunger ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the hunger sudden?
  • Is the hunger for a specific food?
  • Is your stomach hungry or just your tongue?
  • Do you stop when you are full or overeat?

Finally, succumbing to your cravings and letting your guard down every once in a while is not a bad thing. We are all human, and if you really really love ice cream you can learn to enjoy it in moderation. The key is to prevent mindless food decisions, not completely restrict naughty pleasures every now and then. But, since food cravings are often fleeting and disappear within an hour, choosing to eat a healthier food for the time being or opting for a mood-bosting activity may give you enough satisfaction in the moment while the craving passes.