Have you ever felt that you simply must have that chocolate bar or that bag of crisps? Many of us have our own individual cravings but did you know it could be a sign that you are lacking in certain nutrients? Here are some of the most common foods we crave and which nutrients you could be lacking in if you crave them:
Cravings for chocolate can be a sign that you need more magnesium. Magnesium can have a calming effect on us which is why we are most likely to crave chocolate when we are stressed. You may also notice that you crave some of the sweet stuff during the second half of your menstrual cycle. This is because your magnesium levels drop during this time which hints at a link with many PMS symptoms. If you feel like you need that chocolate hit, opt for dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa but you can aim for higher) as it is lower in sugar than milk chocolate and higher in magnesium. Other ways of getting some more magnesium are wholegrains, nuts, raw cocoa nibs, leafy green veg, bananas and legumes.
Feeling the need to reach for a bag of crisps (or two) could be a sign that your adrenal glands are weak. The adrenal glands produce stress hormones during times of stress which can cause an imbalance of sodium in the body. This causes us to crave more salt. Instead of reaching for your salty staples, opt for olives, unsalted nuts such as cashews and walnuts, oily fish such as salmon, seeds and goat’s milk.
If you struggle to resist a scoop or two of the frozen stuff, it could be a sign that you require more calcium. Calcium is required for keeping a regular heartbeat and keeping our bones, teeth and nails strong and healthy. Instead, try leafy greens such as broccoli, chard, kale, salmon, fortified orange juice, legumes, tofu and low fat dairy products such as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk (make sure products such as yoghurts don’t have added sugar) which contain high levels of calcium.
You might not be aware, but some people have a craving for ice. This could be a sign that you are deficient in iron and have anaemia. While doctors are unsure why, Professor Lowe has stated that “it may be that ice helps relieve the painful inflammation in the mouth that can be a symptom.”. If you do crave ice and suffer from low energy, go visit your GP. Food wise, to up your iron levels, eat foods such as red meat, wholemeal bread, spinach, broccoli and lentils.
Craving carbs can be a sign that you are low in tryptophan which is an amino acid. Tryptophan is needed to synthesis serotonin which is the mood-regulating chemical in the brain. Lacking tryptophan can lead to low mood, anxiety and trouble sleeping. Carbohydrates don’t contain tryptophan but research has suggested that more tryptophan is transported to the brain because of increased blood sugar. You can decrease your carb cravings by upping your protein intake with sources such as turkey, milk, cashews, walnuts, eggs and cottage cheese. Bananas also contain tryptophan.
Craving sweets could mean that you are low in chromium. Chromium is a mineral that works alongside insulin. It’s needed for the release of energy from glucose. There have been studies that show that chromium helps to level out blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. However, you could be making the situation worse if you reach for sweets when you feel a bit of a sugar dip because it causes the body to produce insulin which can lead to a blood sugar crash. Instead, go for foods such as meat, wholegrains and eggs which will help you avoid those sugar crashes.
If you suspect you are deficient in any vitamins and minerals and want to supplement them, it is always wise to consult a doctor, nutritionist or dietician.