You know how you just surrender to your cravings and drive all the way to McDonald’s to get that Big Mac you were thinking about all day long? Ever wondered why that happens? Apparently, cravings indicate some signs about your overall health and mood. Unlike hunger, which is controlled by the stomach for surviving mechanism, cravings are largely controlled by brains. According to Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic, cravings are also a result of your snacking habits-it’s developed by your consistent habit of snacking on certain kind of food after certain routines or during the onset of particular emotions such as anxiety or stress.
From pregnancy to nutritional deficiency, here is what your body might be trying to tell you every time you crave. Without further ado, we present to you the types of food cravings featuring what they may actually indicate:
Food Cravings and Their Healthier Substitutions
Indication: Chocolates are most likely to signal that you are pregnant, about to get your period, highly stressed or have deficiency of calcium. Chocolate cravings are also triggered by deficiency of hormones that improve moods, which can be easily satisfied by indulging in it.
Healthier substitutes: Raw cacao nibs/beans/powder, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, greens, fruit, magnesium
Related: 20 healthy snacks to satisfy your growling stomach
Indication: If your candy cravings come with a sense of urgency to pee, then it could your body’s way of signalling that you’re pre-diabetic. Whereas in some cases, it indicates hypoglycaemia, also known as low blood sugar. The rest of the time, it could mean that you are stressed or about to get your period. It is totally normal for you to get sweet cravings in your pre-menstrual days.
Healthier substitutes: Fruit, high fibre foods (beans, legumes), complex carbs (grains), chromium (cinnamon), coconut chips or peanut butter.
Related: Magnesium rich foods
3. Ice cream and fizzy drinks
Indication : Like any other sweet cravings, increased appetite for ice cream could indicate PMS, an overworked body, acid reflux, hypoglycaemia or pregnancy. It is also your body’s way of telling that you need to up your calcium intake, particularly when you crave for soda, coke or any drinks fizzy.
Healthier substitutes: Greek yogurt, low fat yogurt, milk, soy milk, kale, mustard greens, calcium supplements
Related: Calcium rich foods
4. Salty food cravings
Indications: When you crave for salty snacks like chips, popcorn or pretzels, it is an indication that your body is in need of more fluids and chloride. High levels of stress, or too much of mushy and soft food in a day can also make you crave for salty food. Crunchy food helps stimulate your jaw on a regular basis apart from relieving stress.
Healthier substitutes: Celery, olives, tomato, kelp, Himalayan sea salt, Vitamin B and C, and regular meditation and breathing exercises.
Related: Foods high in zinc
5. Carb like pasta and white bread
Indications: As unlikely as it may sound, craving for carb actually means that your body wants more sugar. This because your body processes starch in the same way as it does with sugar. So, it’s either that or your body lacks chromium.
Healthier substitutes: Onion, romaine lettuce, tomato, cinnamon, grapes, apples, sweet potato.
Related: Best foods hat are high in fiber
6. Spicy food
Indications : An increased appetite for spicy food like horseradish, chilies and peppers or curry could signal that your body temperature is low or you are about to catch a cold. When your sinuses are congested, your brain signals you to up your spicy food intake to stave off congestion. It could also mean that your thyroid hormones are imbalanced, which calls for spicy food to boost metabolism.
Healthier substitutes: Bell peppers, ginger, cinnamon tea, anything not overly spicy.
Related: Top 10 high protein foods
7. Caffeine cravings
Indication: Unlike the cravings listed above, caffeine craving is habitual. If you are someone who routinely takes coffee every morning, then it is of no surprise if a craving kicks in. It’s only your body’s way of alerting you for energy boost. What if you are not a coffee person yet you desire for one? It indicates low blood sugar level as well as iron deficiency.
Healthier substitutes: Green tea (contains less caffeine), decaf coffee, nutty smoothie, carob powder, wheatgrass juice.
Related: 21 foods that will land you in emergency room
Indication: Endless desire to hanker for anything cheesy usually means that you are stressed or unhappy. Otherwise, it indicates calcium deficiency. Cheese contains a stimulant known as tyramine, which is responsible for hormones that make you happy, serotonin. So, don’t be surprised to find yourself craving for cheese during an emotional breakdown.
Healthier substitutes: Omega 3?s (EPA and DHA)– Flax oil, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, low fat yogurt, greek yogurt.
Related: 12 reasons why peanut is a healthy food
9. Burgers and fries
Indication: Burgers, fries or anything fried signals that you could possibly be sleep deprived. An increased appetite for greasy breakfast is normal after a sleep-deprived night. This is because your energy is always low, causing your body to feel exhausted when you have insufficient sleep.
Healthier substitutes: Baked sweet potatoes, yogurt, cauliflower chips, a good night sleep.
Related: 20 types of whole grains and their benefits
10. Red meat
Indication: Red meat cravings generally means only one thing, iron or protein deficiency. It is usually normal during menstruation, as your body loses blood which then results in iron deficiency. As for those of you whose workouts involve resistance-training, cravings for red meat could mean that your body needs more protein. Try to consume 1 gram of protein for every pound you weigh, Dr.Collela suggests.
Healthier substitutes: Beans, legumes, unsulphured prunes, figs or other dried fruit, seaweed, spinach, cherries, Vitamin C for iron absorption.
Now that you already know what these food cravings may actually indicate, go ahead and satisfy them guilt-free, or simply resort to the healthier alternatives! And remember, in most cases, cravings can be habitual. For instance if you are someone who loves pizza, it is typical for you to have an elevated desire to consume anything cheesy or starchy. So, try a change of diet, and you will notice your cravings come in control over time!