All Your Food Cravings - Explained
Weight gain from out-of-control cravings aside, it can be frustrating to have a constant hankering for something unhealthy and not know why. The good news is that there's usually a reason underlying that burning desire to house a bag of potato chips, or the feeling that you'll die if you didn't get chocolate in your system.
We talked to Los Angeles based dietitian Shira Lenchewski, M.S / R.D and got the skinny on some common food cravings, including what you can do to satiate the hunger without going overboard.
If you're craving Chocolate
You could be lacking magnesium in your diet, says Lenchewski.
"Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in energy production, glucose metabolism, and muscle function. This is especially true for those hitting the gym hard." Additionally, magnesium levels lower during the pro-menstrual weeks of your period, which explains why PMS so often comes with chocolate cravings.
High-quality, low-sugar dark chocolate, which is naturally high in magnesium. "I recommend sticking to 70% cocoa or higher, and pairing it with another magnesium-rich source like sunflower seeds" - Lenchewski She suggests the chocolate brand Hu, a small-batch food company that forces on high-quality ingredients produced locally. "It's a little pricey, but all the more reason to keep portions in check - it's my personal favourite."
If you're craving Candy
"Craving pure sugar is a good indication that you're running low on energy. Think about it - What is that one thing you're itching for, after a terrible night's sleep or at around 4pm during a stressful workday? The answer is usually sugar, because it's used as an instant fuel for our body's cells."
Apples with peanut butter.
"If you're raiding your co-workers stash, I recommend a more slow-burn carbohydrate with a source of fat or protein. Unlike simple sugar, this will fuel your cells while avoiding the post-sugar crash. Two options that make for great pick-me-ups the next time you're raving candy: a sliced apple with your choice of peanut butter or berries with 2% unsweetened Greek yogurt."
If you're craving Salt
"If nothing but the saltiest pickle will do, you may not be drinking enough H2O. Salt helps the body hold on to water, so we crave it when we're in need of fluids."
Water | "Stay hydrated, especially as we approach the summer month." The next time a craving hits, trying quenching it (literally) with a few refreshing glasses and you might find the urgency to sodium binge disappears. "If plain water bores you, try adding in mint, lemon or frozen fruit to mix it up. If you're really just craving salt after all, toasted seaweed is a great low-calorie option" - Lenchewski. And if that still doesn't do the trick, there's a healthier alternative to bagged chips or french fries.
If you're craving Starchy Carbs
"Because high-carb foods boost the feel-good hormone serotonin, starch cravings can be a sign you're in need of a mood booster." - Lenchewski
A Bath | "Bust out the Epsom salts, because it's time for some serious R+R. Trust me. Indulging in a starch free-for-all feels really good in the moment, but it will likely bum you out more than the next day."
(As anyone who has ever indulged a pizza or pasta craving knows.)
So the next time you want to dive head first into a bowl of carbs, draw a bath, light a candle, and treat yourself without any regret or dense calories.
If you're craving Rich Creamy Dairy
"Your body may be telling you it's in need of some healthy fat."
Coconut Ice Cream
"I'm a realist, so if you're craving ice cream, I'm not going to recommend a handful of walnuts, which are, of course, full of healthy fat. For ice cream emergencies, I recommend lower-in-sugar coconut ice cream in Los Angeles." We can vouch for the fact that coconut ice cream tastes incredible, and just like the real thing.
If you're craving a Burger
You need iron | "If you can't stop thinking about red meat, there's a chance you body is craving iron, b12 and folic acid. This is especially true during or around that time of the month." - Lenchewski
A healthier burger | "I'm a proponent of grass fed, antibiotic and hormone-free re meat once a week. Try experimenting with an open-faced bison burger - which, cut for cut, is leaner and has more iron than beef."