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What Your Cravings Really Mean

Updated: Jan 21

What Your Cravings Really Mean

It is absolutely amazing what your body does for you day in and day out. Your body is extremely intelligent and is continuously rejuvenating and healing. When you give your body the tools it needs to function optimally, there’s no telling how great you can actually feel!

Cravings are just one of the many important messages your body sends you to assist you in maintaining a healthy balance. It’s important that you are able to decipher what those cravings truly mean so you can respond to your body with the correct response.

Being Mindful is Key

Sometimes it can be smart to sit down and ask yourself questions to really zone in on your personal behaviors and your relationship with food.

Which foods do I eat often?

Which foods do I rarely consume?

Around what times do I eat?

How far apart are my meals?

Am I giving myself enough time to digest optimally?

Do I experience actual hunger and satisfied cues?

Am I stress eating?

Am I rush eating?

Am I using food to boost my mood or to celebrate?

Am I binge eating or rarely eating?

Am I giving myself the time to food shop and prepare my meals?

These questions will give you answers to the underlying causes of your cravings. When you experience a craving, try to deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body want and why?

Here are Some Main Causes of Cravings:

1) Lacking Fulfillment in Life. Many times, food is used as a substitution for something missing. It can be involving relationships (romantic, friends, or family), not having a sustainable or appropriate exercise regime, lacking hobbies or just being bored, having an uninspiring job or career, lacking a spiritual practice, or just being overwhelmed and stressed. These examples can all lead to emotional eating or not eating enough.

2) Hydration. Most people do not drink enough water throughout the day. Dehydration can show as mild hunger or the want to snack. Get into the practice of drinking half your weight in ounces every day (example: if you are 150 pounds: 150/2 = 75 ounces a day).

Drinking a full glass of water when you first wake up in the morning will set the stage for the day. Also drinking a full glass of water when you feel like eating can minimize cravings and overeating.

3) Memory. Certain cravings can be brought on due to foods you may have recently eaten, memories from childhood, or what your mind connects to certain activities. Try switching it up – you do not always have to have a hotdog at a baseball game or a pretzel after shopping at the mall. You can also search for healthier versions of that meal or that specific food moving forward to break bad habits while still enjoying yourself.

4) Change in Seasons. Nature is extremely intelligent and offers us what we need throughout the year. Our bodies crave balance, which naturally changes what we feel like eating from one season to the next. Detoxifying foods like leafy greens and citrus foods are usually craved in the Spring. However, in the Winter, we want hot foods, oils and fat. Knowing this and offering yourself these seasonal foods will quench many cravings before they even show up. As you work with nature, you will notice less cravings.

5) Hormones. When women experience each phase of their cycle, pregnancy or menopause - unique cravings can arise. Each phase requires specific nutrients to support you as hormones travel all over the body effecting many different functions including your ability to exercise and recover, your metabolism, the fuel sources your body uses, your immune system, your sleep, and much more.

6) Gut imbalance or dysbiosis. When there is an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria and/or yeast in the gut, you will experience cravings for sweets and carbohydrates because that is what they feed on. If you are experiencing these uncontrollable cravings, it may be time to work on balancing out your gut flora. Connect with your Nutritionist on the subject.

7) An Imbalance in Hunger Cues. Leptin and ghrelin are our hunger and fullness hormones. If there is an imbalance, you may experience more food cravings than others. Resetting how often you eat and the times of day you eat can help re-train the body. Stick to 3 meals a day, around the same times every day. Your body will get use to this routine, enzymes will prepare for digestion, and you will notice less cravings.

8) Lack of Sleep. When you do not get enough sleep (strive for 7-9 hours a night), this can disturb the levels of your hormones responsible for regulating hunger and fullness, as well as sleep-wake cycles. This can intensify food cravings as your body is really searching for quick sources of energy. It’s important to remember that our bodies are constantly healing and repairing while we sleep. We also lose the most weight while we sleep.

9) Lack of nutrients. If you are not fueling your body with adequate nutrition on a daily basis, it will ask for quick fixes through cravings which can sometimes be odd … just to ‘survive’. However, you don’t want to just survive! You want to thrive! You should not be hungry or eat all day long. The ultimate goal is to stick to 3 meals a day (around the same time) without snacking. If you are hungry between meals, then you are not eating enough nutritious food, and in most cases, you are missing quality protein, healthy fat and fiber sources.

So, What is Your Craving Really Telling You?

When your body craves certain foods, it is really looking for specific nutrients. Here is a list of nutrients your body really needs and which nutrient rich food sources you will find them.

Chocolate:

Magnesium (more common with women as menstruation can deplete magnesium levels) - nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews), spinach, quinoa, seafood, artichokes, avocado, raw cacao nibs, beans, dandelion greens, broccoli.

Sweets or High Carbohydrate foods (pasta/breads/pastries):

Chromium (helps support blood sugar regulation) - broccoli, grapes, potatoes, garlic, basil, apples, bananas, poultry, onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes.

Phosphorus – fish (salmon, halibut), poultry, beef, liver, lentils, whole eggs, dairy, nuts (almonds).

Sulfur - garlic, onions, cruciferous veggies, leafy greens, whole eggs, beef, poultry and seafood, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils.

Tryptophan – whole milk dairy, tuna, poultry, oats, nuts and seeds, beef, pork, fish, squash, pumpkin seeds.

Magnesium - nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews), spinach, quinoa, seafood, artichokes, avocado, raw cacao nibs, beans, dandelion greens, broccoli.

Soluble Fiber (contributes to feeling full and helps with weight management) – beans, avocado, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, asparagus.

Prebiotic & Probiotic rich foods for gut healing and balance – dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, oats, apples, burdock root, flaxseeds, cabbage. Cultured dairy and coconut yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, pickled veggies – ginger, carrots, etc.

High Salt and Sugar:

Zinc (deficiencies in zinc reduce the sense of taste, therefore you can overload to compensate) – shellfish (oysters, crabs, lobster, shrimp), game meat (bison, deer), beef, lamb, pork, poultry, pumpkin seeds, garbanzo beans and lentils.

Meat:

Iron (taken with vitamin C will increase absorption – bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, etc.) – oysters, white beans, dark chocolate, organ meats, venison, lamb, beef, salmon, mussels, clams, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, spinach, sardines, shrimp, poultry.

Protein – Grass-fed beef, lamb, venison, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, beans, lentils and hummus, nuts, seeds and nut butters, clean protein powders.

Cheese:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – whole eggs, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, seafood, cod liver oil. Tryptophan - whole milk dairy, tuna, poultry, oats, nuts and seeds, beef, pork, fish, squash, pumpkin seeds.

Bread/Toast:

Nitrogen - high protein foods: seafood, beef, pork, poultry, veal, organ meats, nuts/seeds, beans, celery, parsley, leeks, fennel.

Oily snacks, fatty foods:

Calcium – sardines, salmon, mustard, collard, dandelion and turnip greens, Bok choy, broccoli, kale, spinach, white beans, dairy, shellfish.

Caffeine (Coffee or tea):

Phosphorus - fish (salmon, halibut), poultry, beef, liver, lentils, whole eggs, dairy, nuts (almonds).

Sulfur - garlic, onions, cruciferous veggies, leafy greens, whole eggs, beef, poultry and seafood, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils.

Sodium Chloride – raw goat’s milk, unrefined sea salt, fish, seaweeds - kelp, olives, leafy greens, tomatoes, celery.

Iron - (taken with vitamin C will increase absorption – bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, etc.) – oysters, white beans, dark chocolate, organ meats, venison, lamb, beef, salmon, mussels, clams, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, spinach, sardines, shrimp, poultry.

Chewing Ice:

Iron - (taken with vitamin C will increase absorption – bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, etc.) – oysters, white beans, dark chocolate, organ meats, venison, lamb, beef, salmon, mussels, clams, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, spinach, sardines, shrimp, poultry.

Burned Food:

Carbon - Fresh fruits

Soda and Other Carbonated Drinks:

Calcium - sardines, salmon, mustard, collard, dandelion and turnip greens, Bok choy, broccoli, kale, spinach, white beans, dairy, shellfish.

Salty Foods:

Chloride - raw goats’ milk, fish, unrefined sea salt, seaweeds - kelp, olives, leafy greens, tomatoes.

Water – boost your water intake. Add flavor with lemon or lime, cucumbers, or berries.

Real Salt – unrefined sea salt.

Possible Cortisol Regulation – Stress reduction practices. Protein, B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Omega 3s and Prebiotic/Probiotic rich foods.

Fatty foods:

Protein – poultry, seafood, beef, lamb, pork, whole eggs, whole dairy, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, spinach, oats, collard greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, quinoa.

Essential fatty acids - seafood, whole eggs, avocado, flax or chia seeds, walnuts, coconut oil/yogurt/milk, ghee or grass-fed butter.

Crispy & Crunchy Foods:

Chloride – raw goats’ milk, fish, unrefined sea salt, seaweeds - kelp, olives, leafy greens, tomatoes.

Essential Fatty Acids - seafood, whole eggs, avocado, flax or chia seeds, walnuts, coconut oil/yogurt/milk, ghee or grass-fed butter.

Acidic Foods:

Magnesium - nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews), spinach, quinoa, seafood, artichokes, avocado, raw cacao nibs, beans, dandelion greens, broccoli.

Preference for Liquids Over Solids:

Water – increase your water consumption. Drink half your weight in ounces daily. Add flavor with lemon or lime, cucumbers, or berries. Utilize more smoothies, soups, stews and broths.


Cool Drinks:

Manganese – mussels, oysters, chickpeas, pineapple, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, oats, brown rice, pinto beans, lima beans, navy beans, spinach, sweet potato, squash, green tea, blueberries.

Pre-Menstrual Cravings:

Zinc - shellfish (oysters, crabs, lobster, shrimp), game meat (bison, deer), organ meats, beef, lamb, pork, poultry, cashews, pumpkin seeds, garbanzo beans and lentils. Vitamin B6 – chickpeas, beef liver, seafood (tuna, salmon), poultry, sweet potato, avocado, spinach, banana, beef, squash, nuts and seeds, onions.

Magnesium – nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews), spinach, quinoa, seafood, artichokes, avocado, raw cacao nibs, beans, dandelion greens, broccoli.

Alcohol, Recreational Drugs

Protein - poultry, seafood, beef, lamb, pork, whole eggs, dairy, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, spinach, oats, collard greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, quinoa. Glutamine (amino acid) - beef, chicken, fish, whole eggs, dairy, cabbage, beets, beans, spinach, parsley, lentils. Tyrosine (amino acid) – Cucumbers, green peppers, almonds, strawberries, apricots, avocados, bananas, beef,

dairy, whole eggs, fish, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds.

Tryptophan (amino acid) – whole milk dairy, tuna, poultry, oats, nuts and seeds, beef, pork, fish, squash, pumpkin seeds.

B Vitamins - pork, brown rice, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, whole eggs, seafood, poultry, beef, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, sweet potato, bananas, organ meats, leafy greens.

Potassium – lentils, squash, potatoes, prunes, beans, seafood (clams, halibut, tuna, cod, salmon), lima beans, broccoli, asparagus, banana, spinach, beet greens, poultry, tomatoes.

Calcium - sardines, salmon, mustard, collard, dandelion and turnip greens, Bok choy, broccoli, kale, spinach, white beans, dairy, shellfish.

Tobacco:

Silicon – green beans, bananas, leafy greens, brown rice, lentils, oats, seafood, eggs. Tyrosine - Cucumbers, green peppers, almonds, strawberries, apricots, avocados, bananas, beef, dairy, eggs, fish, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds. Tryptophan - whole milk dairy, tuna, poultry, oats, nuts and seeds, beef, pork, fish, squash, pumpkin seeds.

Vitamin C – bell peppers, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, cantaloupe, guava, sweet potato.


General overeating:

Silicon – green beans, bananas, leafy greens, brown rice, lentils, oats, seafood, eggs. Tryptophan – whole milk dairy, tuna, poultry, oats, nuts and seeds, beef, pork, fish, squash, pumpkin seeds.

Tyrosine - Cucumbers, green peppers, almonds, strawberries, apricots, avocados, bananas, beef, dairy, eggs, fish, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds.

B Vitamins - pork, brown rice, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, eggs, seafood, poultry, beef, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, sweet potato, bananas, organ meats, leafy greens.

Healthy Fats – coconut oil/yogurt/milk, extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, nuts and seeds, avocado, fish and shellfish, good quality proteins (beef, pork, poultry), whole eggs.

Lack of Appetite

Vitamin B1 – pork, seafood (trout, mussels, tuna), liver, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, oranges, oatmeal, spinach, whole eggs, spirulina.

Vitamin B3 – liver, poultry, seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, anchovies), beef, lamb, pork, avocado, brown rice, mushrooms, seeds and lentils.

Vitamin B12 – liver, seafood, beef, dairy, whole eggs, poultry.

Manganese - mussels, oysters, chickpeas, pineapple, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, oats, brown rice, pinto beans, lima beans, navy beans, spinach, sweet potato, squash, green tea, blueberries.

Magnesium - nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews), spinach, quinoa, seafood, artichokes, avocado, raw cacao nibs, beans, dandelion greens, broccoli.

Chloride - raw goat’s milk, unrefined sea salt, fish, seaweeds - kelp, olives, leafy greens, tomatoes, celery.

Zinc - shellfish (oysters, crabs, lobster, shrimp), game meat (bison, deer), organ meats, beef, lamb, pork, poultry, cashews, pumpkin seeds, garbanzo beans and lentils.

Pica:

B Vitamins – pork, brown rice, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, whole eggs, seafood, poultry, beef, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, sweet potato, bananas, organ meats - liver, leafy greens - spinach, spirulina, whole fat yogurt, quinoa.

In conclusion, being mindful of what you’re eating, when you’re eating, and how often you’re eating can give you more insight into why you experience certain cravings. When a craving comes up, deconstruct it, and feed your body what it truly needs.

As you start to balance out your diet, your cravings will diminish. Your body may even begin to ask you for a specific healthy food like veggies for certain minerals, fruits for antioxidants, animal sources for amino acids and B vitamins, etc.


Make sure you are always hydrated and that your meals are 4-6 hours apart for optimal digestion. Try to incorporate high quality proteins, healthy fats and fiber with each meal to meet satiety without overeating. And, remember to eat an array of different foods so your body is getting a variety of nutrients that work together harmoniously to support your body and mind.


If you feel as though you have multiple food deficiencies and want to learn more, ask us about our functional testing.


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