Is it true that craving a certain food is a sign that you are low in the nutrients that food has?
-- (Name withheld) Albany, NY
This is a much-believed myth.
Food cravings have more to do with rises and drops in specific brain chemicals (i.e.: serotonin) as well as emotional states than nutrition.
Many people find, for instance, that they are more likely to crave fatty and/or sugary foods when they are stressed, sad, anxious, or lonely.
It's also worth pointing out that most cravings are for particular tastes and textures, as opposed to specific vitamins and minerals.
A craving for ice cream, for instance, does not mean the body is in need of calcium. Nor does a craving for potato chips signify low potassium levels.
If this were the case, people would be just as likely to crave a glass of milk or some baked tofu in place of ice cream, or an avocado or bananas rather than potato chips.
I find that frequent cravings often signify eating patterns that are too strict or limited.
Liberalizing food selection usually leads to less cravings, and, consequently, less chances of losing control once that craving is fulfilled.
Another important factor worth keeping in mind with cravings is to truly identify what is being sought.
A lot of people fall into the trap of attempting to satisfy a craving by eating anything BUT the very thing they want.
If you are craving chocolate, fruit isn't going to cut it. Neither are whole wheat crackers or peanut butter. Coincidentally, sometimes the avoidal of a craving results in a higher caloric intake than the craving itself!
The key, particularly with fatty and sugary cravings, is to find a small amount that is truly satisfying.
For instance, when I crave chocolate, I have a few squares of an intensely dark chocolate that I love.
Those two squares are less than 100 calories but, thanks to the rich and decadent flavor, fulfill my craving much better than, say, 250 calories of a regular milk chocolate bar.
People who blame themselves for their food cravings only worsen their mood and increase their need for serotonin. That’s when a pattern of emotional eating can develop. Remember, there are biological causes of sugar cravings, and your carbohydrate craving is rarely just a behavioral problem. The root problem is more likely inadequate nutrition.
How to break this vicious cycle? To reduce food cravings, the body needs real support — and lots of it. We have seen over and over that eating
healthy foods, adding pharmaceutical–grade nutritional supplements and moderate exercise can almost miraculously curb cravings. Your metabolism will heal itself when provided with the necessary nutritional support. If it has been damaged, the process can take some time, but it will happen. The good news is — you don’t have to give up chocolate!