Our decision to binge on certain foods isn’t always dependent on willpower. Many studies, including one from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, show that urges to eat certain foods can be blamed on moderate to severe nutrient deficiencies.
So no, it’s not always about emotions or the chemical addiction of certain foods. Your body may be lagging in certain micronutrients. Some common deficiencies include...
A super common nutrient deficiency in vegans and sometimes carnivores depending on genetic propensities or absorption issues.
iron deficiencies can cause people to feel tired and to dream about meat at every meal. These meat cravings can stem from the fact that iron sources from plant-based foods (non-heme iron) aren’t as well utilized by the body as animal based sources (heme iron. If you’re set on avoiding animal products, eat more beans, legumes and nuts along with a source of vitamin C for better absorption. A supplement is also a great idea.
2. B Vitamins
Ever heard of the condition known as PICA? Pica can be a symptom of anemia (due to B-12, folate, or iron deficiency) causing unexplainable cravings for dirt. More common in pregnant expecting mothers.
Craving foods like leafy greens, rice, fortified cereals, seafood, eggs, bananas, poultry, dairy, and potatoes can also indicate a deficiency from the B-vitamin family. Food cravings and wicked mood swings often accompany this deficiency.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Ah, some of the good fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are among the best fat sources. This essential fatty acid (ALA, EPA, and DHA) can be found in fish (tuna, salmon, and sardines) eggs and kelp and even cheese! That’s why many people deficient in this essential fatty acid crave the cheesiest meals they can find.
So instead, find some fresh wild salmon, sardines and pasture raised eggs.
One word. Chocolate!!! First things first. Craving chocolate does not necessarily mean that you are deficient in magnesium. But, some studies suggest that up to 68% of North Americans are Magnesium deficient. Causes include our modern, nutrient poor soil from massive farms that use the same soil over and over, over-consuming sugars and, being super stressed out.
While reaching for a square or 2 of 85% + dark chocolate is a great fix for the craving, boost your magnesium levels by supplementing and eating more nuts, green leafy veggies and beans.
Zinc plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the immune system.
Low zinc can cause a dulled sense of taste. This can lead to pus craving the sweetest of sweets and the saltiest of savory foods. Reach for eggs, nuts, oysters, liver, and dark poultry meat to top up zinc stores. Especially before the flu season!
Now, what about those annoying Emotional cravings that we’ve all (well most of us) experienced?
“Man, I have one badass sweet tooth”
No big shocker that sugar and sweets are the most highly craved food. When we are feeling a little down or stressed, our brains are looking for a serotonin and dopamine boost.
Most people report that emotional eating was brought on by sadness, loneliness, stress and/or boredom.
So what’s behind the loneliness, sadness or stress?
Is it a lack of joy?. If you’re craving ice cream or those old school Halloween candies you would collect as a kid, it could be because you’re working too hard? Not surrounding yourself with good supports or maybe you’re keeping yourself from indulging in the simple pleasures of life?
Why not try making a list of things that make you feel good (that doesn’t involve food).
-Going outside for walk in nature.
-Watching your favorite show on Netflix.
-Calling your best friend or closest family member.
-Taking a long Epsom salts bath…..
“Once you pop, you just can’t stop”
When it comes to cravings for salty and savory foods, similar to sugar, certain studies have shown that people who crave salt are often suffering from symptoms similar to depression. Keep in mind that salt (sodium), unlike processed sugar, is something that your body needs. In your intestines, sodium helps absorb chloride, amino acids, glucose and water. It’s also responsible for regulating blood pressure and nerve impulses. Your body-mind connection may be using your depressive symptoms to tell you that you’re deficient in the mineral.
However, when your mind is saying “pull over at McDonalds and pick up a large fry”, it’s highly unlikely that your body will get what it “needs” from anything coming from McDonalds.
Consider supplementing your diet with healthy salted snacks like pumpkin seeds or cashews. Also, try adding good quality, mineral rich Pink Himalayan or Aztec sea salt to your food.
Also, do something about your mood. Pick something from the list above (or the one that you made;)). Choose one or even a few things that you can do to keep your mind off of or, to help you cope with the negative emotion.
“Whoever snuck the S into fast food was a clever bastard”
Ever had an intense craving for Crunchy things? Yes, craving certain textures can mean something emotional is happening as well. Some psychologists believe that a craving for crunchy food means we are experiencing stress, anger and/or frustration. Crunching down on something, breaking it apart can provide a sort of release.
But, do we have to reach from chips every time we want to crunch? Crisp Apples, coconut chips, carrots, kohlrabi, jicama, kale chips also provide crispiness. Or, theres an even better and longer lasting solution to your present state. You could search for the root of the problem and find non-food related ways to cope with that stress or anger.
Try journaling (don’t knock it until you’ve done it for a week), talking to a close friend, engage in activities that bring you joy, connect with others by doing a good deed etc.
Something I like to do is complete a chore or project that I’ve been putting off. Procrastination is a big cause of anxiety. For example, vacuuming out my car or organizing the office are things that I put off for WAY too long. But when it’s finished, there’s a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Plus, it takes my mind off of what was bothering me (even if it’d just for a short time).
Boom. There you have it. A nice brain dump brought to you by a major nutrition, longevity and psychology nerd. Hope the above article helps you out next time cravings happen.