Food cravings: What is your body trying to tell you?
Is your urge down to a big appetite or something more important? Read on, you’ll be surprised…
During a busy working week, and especially during colder days, it’s perfectly normal to get overwhelming cravings for certain foods. We’ll be having lots of chocolate and hearty, carby meals please. Fighting the temptation to sneak in a naughty snack can feel like a nutritional victory, but is it really healthy to ignore your cravings?
That persistent urge to devour an entire chocolate-box selection, including the flavour you don’t actually like that much, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a worrying cocoa obsession; it’s actually down to a magnesium deficiency. Cravings are our body’s way of telling us that we’re lacking in important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Clever, right?
Chocolate = Magnesium
Thanks to nutritional science, we now know that about 80% of the population lacks the recommended level of magnesium in their diet, which could be one of the reasons that come 3.30 so many of us reach for the chocolate box the HR girl brought in for a birthday last week. ‘Magnesium plays a crucial role in balancing the nervous system and reducing anxiety’, Shona Wilkinson, a nutritionist at the UK’s biggest wellbeing retailer, NutriCentre, tells us. What’s more, magnesium aids the immune system by preventing inflammation, and it’s essential for healthy bones.
However, don’t take this as us giving you permission to snaffle a second Galaxy bar next time you’re yearning for a chocolate fix; make sure you reach for the darker variety (at least 70% of cocoa). Dark chocolate not only contains less fat and sugar, but also a higher amount of magnesium. Fish, nuts and leafy green vegetables are great sources of magnesium too!
Sugar = Chromium
The scientific explanation for ‘having a sweet tooth’ could be a lack of the mineral chromium. Refined sugar and carbohydrates can create a blood-sugar imbalance because our bloodstreams absorb them so quickly. As a result, a greater amount of the natural chemical insulin, which our body releases to regulate the levels of blood sugar, is released to manage the imbalance. High volumes of insulin then cause the blood sugar to fall too far, and the cravings for a sugary pick-me-up begin once more. Essentially it’s a never ending circle: a sugar coated trap.
Chromium is key for balancing insulin levels, and thus for suppressing sugar-cravings. It looks like we’ll have our coffee decaf, sans sugar today! For a diet-based solution, a healthy protein and carbohydrate based breakfast is key. Try scrambled eggs on rye bread, followed by helpings of vegetables throughout the day. This’ll help achieve a steady blood sugar level rather than more ups and downs than your last relationship.
Salt = Sodium
If a salt craving is your norm, you’ll find that this is caused by a lack of sodium. Sodium is important for a number of reasons including regulating blood pressure and maintaining the body’s water balance. Thus dehydration (caused by illness, exercise or drinking alcohol) is more often than not the cause of depleted sodium levels. Don’t rejoice just yet, we’re not giving you an excuse not to go to the gym, neither are we condoning Saturday night’s heavy drinking session, but we do suggest you eat more carrots, celery, salted popcorn or dried anchovies for a quick sodium fix!
Carbohydrates = Tryptophan
It’s particularly common to long for warm comfort food (eaten out of a bowl whilst watching trashy TV) when the weather is perpetually cold, gloomy and grey. Such comfort food typically comes in the form of seriously – mouth-wateringly – stodgy carbohydrates. Cravings of this kind are symptomatic of a tryptophan deficiency. What on earth is that, you ask? Well, tryptophan i