What do your food cravings say about you? From meat to sweets, they can provide crucial clues about your health
Cravings are the body’s way of telling us it is missing out on something
But what do our desires for certain foods mean?
YOU CRAVE: Something sweet
YOU NEED: Chromium
As a person eats, their blood sugar levels surge and insulin is released. If you’re eating refined sugar and carbohydrates they will hit your bloodstream fast and cause an imbalance in blood sugar. Your body will release more insulin to deal with this rapid rise in blood sugar.
Once dealt with, the blood sugar levels will drop, but because you’ve generated the release of so much insulin, the levels will drop too low and you will soon feel like snacking on something sweet. ‘The more sweets you eat, the more you will crave them. It is crucial for good health to break this circle.
To help curb sugar cravings, it can help taking chromium, a mineral that helps balance insulin levels and keeps afternoon sugar urges away.
Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, which contains protein as well as carbohydrates, scrambled eggs with rye bread for example. And continue later during the day with vegetables to maintain a steady flow of blood sugar. Other good sources of chromium include liver, kidney, beef, chicken, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, wholegrains and eggs. You can also take Chromium supplements, which reduce your cravings for sugary stuff and keep your insulin in balance.
YOU CRAVE: Chocolate
YOU NEED: Magnesium
An undeniable urge for your favourite chocolate bar could be your body telling you it needs magnesium. And with around 80 per cent of people lacking magnesium in their daily diet, it is unsurprising so many are heard to be craving for chocolate. Magnesium not only can support the immune system by preventing inflammation but it also plays a crucial role in balancing the nervous system and easing anxiety. It is also important for good bone health.
The best way to deal with this craving is to eat a square of dark chocolate, which is at least 70 percent cocoa. Foods that are rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, raw or cooked baby spinach, kale or Swiss chard. nuts and seeds, including almonds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, flaxseed and pecans… Eating wild salmon, tuna and mackerel is another good way of adding more magnesium to your daily menu at least once a week. Snacking on half a cup of dry roasted soybeans provides nearly half the necessary magnesium for the day. And avocado is loaded with multivitamins, including around 15 percent of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. But if you’re after a slightly sweeter alternative, low fat yoghurt and bananas can help boost levels of the nutrient. And of course there are many magnesium supplements wildly available.
YOU CRAVE: Stodgy carbohydrates
YOU NEED: Tryptophan
For those of us who long for bread, pasta, potatoes – basically any carbs we can get our hands on – this could be a sign the body is lacking an essential amino acid, tryptophan. The body uses it to synthesise the chemical serotonin, which regulates moods. It plays a crucial role in sleep and wake cycles as well as digestion. A lack of serotonin can lead to low mood and anxiety.
Though carbohydrates don’t contain tryptophan, scientists believe raising blood sugar levels helps drive more of the amino acid to the brain.
Eat bread, potatoes, pasta… any carbs you can get your hands on. Instead of reaching for stodgy carbs, upping the amount of protein in your diet can help. Turkey, eggs, bananas and walnuts are all rich in tryptophan.
YOU CRAVE: Meat
YOU NEED: Iron, zinc
Craving meat could be a sign the body is in need of more iron. A growing tendency towards cutting down on the level of red meat in our diets has resulted in more people suffering iron deficiencies. Iron plays a vital role in supporting the immune system, as it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without it, we become fatigued and tired.
While craving meat is a sign of iron deficiency, it can also indicate the body is lacking in zinc. Zinc plays an important role in the immune system – so low levels will make a person more susceptible to suffering colds and flu. Zinc is also vital for strong hair and nails and healthy skin.
Red meat is the best source for both iron and zinc, but shellfish, lentils, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cheese and wholemeal bread are all good sources of zinc. Alternatively, you can replenish iron deficiency by taking iron supplements.
YOU CRAVE: Salt
YOU NEED: Sodium
Craving salty foods is a sign that sodium levels in the body are too low. It is usually due to dehydration, after exercise, illness or drinking alcohol.
Sodium is an important mineral that helps maintain water balance in the body and regulates blood pressure.
You can quickly improve your level of sodium by snacking on dried anchovies or salted popcorn, which are naturally high in sodium. You can also find small amounts of this mineral in celery and carrots, which should help your craving.