Diet & Nutrition 6 MIN READ 93 VIEWS November 16, 2022

Types of Food Cravings and What They Mean

Written By HealthKart

Food cravings
Causes of Food Cravings
Food Craving and Nutrient Deficiency
Food Cravings and Emotions
Smart Ways to Handle Food Cravings
Conclusion

We all know what food cravings feel like. While some may crave sugar foods, some may want high-fat, salty or savoury foods, the list of food cravings is way bigger than these four types. But do these cravings indicate something? Is food craving similar to food addiction? Let’s find out!

Causes of Food Cravings

Food cravings happen when something in the body is out of balance. This is primarily the deprivation of essential nutrients. They are also triggered due to physical and mental factors. Read through to identify the possible causes of cravings:

1. Hormonal Imbalance

Leptin is the fullness hormone and ghrelin is the hunger hormone. An imbalance in the leptin or the ghrelin hormone triggers food cravings and hunger pangs.

2. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the body undergoes a complete hormonal revamp. This intensifies food cravings. Also, the taste and smell receptors are activated during pregnancy, intensifying food cravings.

3. Premenstrual Syndrome

Oestrogen and progesterone, the reproductive hormones of the body, fluctuate before every menstrual cycle. This leads to food cravings. The craving is particularly high for carbohydrate-rich foods.

4. Lack of Sleep

Poor sleep affects the sleep-wake cycle, triggering hormonal imbalance. Hunger and the satiety hormones are the first ones to get affected. These increase appetite and intensify food cravings.

5. Imbalanced Diet

A diet low in proteins and fibre does not satiate the body completely. The body begins to feel hungry quickly. This is marked by food cravings.

6. Dehydration

Lack of water in the body affects the functioning of the liver. As the liver releases less glycogen, the body starts craving food to compensate for low levels. Moreover, the brain confuses thirst for hunger and intensifies craving for food.

7. Gut Health

Research shows a link between cravings and gut flora. A certain type of bacteria can influence the type and frequency of food cravings.

8. Low Glucose Level

A drop in blood sugar level is the main reason for food cravings. The craving can be for any food item, not necessarily sugar. Eating at this point helps elevate blood sugar levels, settling the craving.

9. Low Physical Activity

An active lifestyle helps regulate the body’s hormonal balance. Conversely, an inactive and sedentary lifestyle triggers more food cravings.

10. Processed Foods

High intake of processed food can lead to food addiction. The onset of addition-like symptoms intensifies the cravings as well.

11. Stress

Increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can fuel food cravings. Chronic stress leads to an urge to eat calorie-dense and high-fat foods.

12. Personality Type

People who are more aggressive and impulsive are more likely to experience food cravings than people with a calm and composed nature.

13. Mood Swings

Fluctuations in mood also trigger food cravings. A low or depressive state of mind increases the urge to eat comfort foods.

14. Context Eating

The brain associates eating a specific type of food with specific situations. As soon as a person enters into the same situation, the brain craves the associated food.

15. Nutrient Deficiency

Low levels of certain nutrients trigger food cravings. Interestingly, the lack of different nutrients triggers different food cravings.

Food Craving and Nutrient Deficiency

The best and the only way to settle a food craving is to eat what the body longs for. But certain food items are not healthy for the body. Thus, finding healthy alternatives to settle food cravings becomes important. Let’s understand the types of cravings triggered due to nutrient deficiency, what they mean, and healthy ways to settle them:

1. Chocolate

Chocolate craving indicates magnesium deficiency. A healthier way to settle chocolate craving is by eating green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, and fruits.

2. High-Fat Foods

Craving high-fat foods means calcium deficiency. Eating calcium-rich foods like almonds, milk, spinach, broccoli, and sesame seeds helps.

3. Soda and Carbonated Drinks

Craving soda and other carbonated drinks also mean calcium deficiency. This can be settled by eating legumes, cheese, broccoli, kale, etc.

4. Salt

Craving for salty snacks happens due to chloride deficiency and the fluctuation of stress hormones. One can settle chloride deficiency with sea salt, celery, tomatoes, and olives, whereas eating green leafy vegetables, vitamins B and C and specific breathing exercises as well as meditation can help lower stress hormones.

5. Coffee

Craving coffee can indicate salt, sulphur, phosphorus, or iron deficiency. For salt deficiency, consume sea salt, regular table salt, or Kombucha tea. Sulphur deficiency is best settled with garlic, cabbage, onion, and broccoli. For phosphorus deficiency, eat beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and nuts. Spinach, legumes, dried fruit, cherries, plums, and figs help settle coffee cravings caused by iron deficiency.

6. Sugar

Sugar food cravings are caused due to low sugar levels, sulphur, tryptophan, chromium, or phosphorus deficiency. For low sugar levels, eat quinoa, fruits, legumes, cinnamon, and raisins instead of regular sugar. To meet sulphur deficiencies, consider eating garlic, onion, asparagus, or kale.

For tryptophan deficiency, eat sweet potato, raisins, oatmeal, spinach, and pumpkins, whereas chromium deficiency is best managed through cinnamon, grapes, tomato, onion, apples, and lettuce. For sugar cravings triggered by phosphorus deficiency, consider eating lentils, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains.

7. Cheese

A deficiency of essential fatty acids or calcium leads to the craving for cheese. Flax oil, Omega 3 fatty acids, walnuts, and chia seeds are high in essential fatty acids. Calcium deficiency can be managed through legumes, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, and spinach.

8. Alcohol

Craving alcohol is a food addiction. But the food craving for alcohol is triggered due to some or all of the following deficiencies:

  • Protein deficiency – consume beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, and green leafy vegetables
  • Calcium deficiency – consume mustard greens, kale, turnip greens, and sesame seeds
  • Potassium deficiency – eat tomato, citrus fruits, pineapple, banana, black olives, and bitter green vegetables
  • Glutamine deficiency – include bone broth, parsley, spinach, cabbage, and vegetable juice in your diet

9. Chewing on Ice

The urge to chew on ice is caused due to iron deficiency. Include iron-rich foods like Legumes, dried fruits, cherries, spinach, and poultry in your diet.

10. Cakes and Cookies

Craving for baked foods is due to chromium deficiency. A high intake of such foods is not good for health. Eat cinnamon, grapes, tomato, onion, apples, and lettuce instead.

11. Junk Food

An imbalanced diet is the main cause of craving for junk food. Consider eating proteins, fibre, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Also, increase your water intake.

Food Cravings and Emotions

Our emotions are strongly connected to our food cravings. The way we feel affects our mood and our food choices. Thus, eating foods that we crave elevates our mood and makes us feel better. Food cravings triggered due to emotions are also called emotional hunger.

The characteristic traits of emotional hunger are:

  • Unexpected hunger pangs
  • Craving for comfort food
  • Guilty feeling post eating
  • Indulgence in quick and immediate eating
  • Preferring to eat in privacy
  • Continued eating well beyond the feeling of fullness

The food craving chart in emotional hunger looks like:

  • Sugar craving is triggered by depression
  • Salt craving is triggered by stress
  • Craving for crunchy foods is triggered by anger
  • Meat craving is triggered by anger
  • Craving for soft foods is triggered by anxiety

Smart Ways to Handle Food Cravings

Giving in to food cravings can turn into food addiction. Therefore, managing your cravings is extremely important. Here are some helpful tips to help you get through this smartly:

  • Dietary restrictions can make cravings worse. Therefore, consider portion-controlling rather than eliminating a food item.
  • Opt for low-calorie, healthy foods whenever possible.
  • Don’t skip meals and avoid letting yourself get too hungry.
  • Maintaining a cravings’ journal can help reduce the frequency.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that helps you stay full for a long time.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Conclusion

We all experience food cravings. In the given moment, the urge to eat the desired food can be overwhelming. Ignoring the food cravings, therefore, seems impossible. But while giving in to these urges is the easiest thing to do, it can have serious health repercussions. Uncontrolled food cravings can turn into food addiction.

Thus, understanding the reason behind food cravings is extremely important. Physical and mental factors drive these cravings. Nutrient deficiency and psychological factors are also prominent reasons. The better way to get through food cravings is to understand the cause behind them and opt for healthier food alternatives. Regular exercise, an active lifestyle, and a balanced diet help regulate body hormones, reducing the frequency and intensity of your cravings.

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