We all get food cravings from time to time. Pregnant women aren’t the only ones that feel the urge to eat certain foods—most of us are familiar with those feelings of really wanting a certain food, and our minds are unable to think about anything else until we get it. While those food cravings can be bad most of the time, there are times when they’re actually your body’s way of letting you know something’s wrong. So what are your food cravings telling you?
Persistent Cravings = Liquid, Not Food?
If you are feeling persistent cravings for certain foods, especially foods rich in liquid (like fruits or soft drinks), it may be your body’s way of telling you that there’s something missing. However, that something may be liquid rather than solid. When you’re dehydrated, your body sends signals to your brain that you need more water. While your brain typically interprets this as thirst, sometimes your wires get crossed and you end up feeling hungry. If you have strong, unusually insistent cravings that won’t be resolved even when you meet it, it may be a sign of something more serious.
Cravings Signal Nutrient Requirements
If your body is telling you that it must have chocolate, maybe it’s not the sugar or flavor in the chocolate it’s craving, but the minerals and antioxidants. If you’re craving a slice of cheese, your body may be signaling that it needs more calcium rather than more fat and delicious cheesy flavor. When your body is nutrient-deficient, it works with the brain to send signals to encourage you to eat the foods it needs. However, your brain may often misinterpret the signals, so you end up craving the wrong thing or misunderstanding the reason why you want those foods.
Cravings May be Mental
Nine times out of ten, a strong food craving will be the result of some visual stimulus (an ad or delicious food you saw) that triggers a craving that has nothing to do with hunger or appetite, simply desire. Denying those cravings can often intensify our desire for them, leading us to become even more excited when we get them. But it’s all in our heads! It’s just your brain playing tricks on you. Distracting yourself or getting away from the food you’re craving can often be enough to help you forget about the food you were so eager to eat.
Cravings Can Be Okay
Sometimes, when you’re getting a craving for certain foods, it’s okay to indulge in moderation. For example, a piece of chocolate can actually be good for your health, provided it’s dark chocolate and not some milk chocolate candy bar. Giving in to your cravings can help to make them go away, and knowing you can yield makes it easier for you to channel your cravings into a healthier option. Craving Sprite? Why not make yourself a homemade soda using bubbly water and fresh-squeezed lemon juice? Craving chips? Cook yourself some veggie chips or snack on banana chips—a healthier choice!
Cravings Can Overwhelm You
If you’re not careful, suppressing your cravings for too long can actually lead to negative consequences. When you fight your cravings for days on end, you may end up ultimately giving in and overdoing it on the food you’re not supposed to eat. Think of it like shoving a beach ball underwater: eventually, the ball is going to pop back up, no matter how hard you try to push it down. Giving yourself an outlet (like healthier alternatives of the foods you’re craving) can be the key to managing cravings.