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Thursday, March 17, 2016

What’s with the Craving?

The ultimate: donuts with ice cream and chocolate chips.
There’s not a single person in the world who hasn’t experienced a food craving. 

If cravings weren’t on the brain, advertisements full of tasty treats wouldn’t be plastered all over billboards, magazine covers, and t.v. screens. We wouldn’t base our next meal on “what we’re hungry for,” wouldn’t eat when we’re not really hungry, and where we’re going to eat and what we’re going to eat wouldn’t be part of the daily round and round.

Cravings can derail even the hardest efforts to eat healthy, lose weight, and live whole. They can make us feel defeated, overwhelmed, and at the bottom of the bottomless pit we sometimes turn into. But the truth is, there’s a reason and a purpose for that craving and if you know what a craving really is, why you have it, and how to satisfy it properly, you can control your cravings instead of letting them control you. 

What is a craving anyway?

A craving is simply an overwhelming desire to consume a certain food (and sometimes non-food) item. It’s your body’s way of telling you it needs something…a vitamin, mineral, protein, or nutrient to function properly. A craving can also have a chemical component to it which is why cravings are more common when someone is depressed or emotionally upset.

Your body stores an impression of everything you’ve ever eaten – every flavor, texture, and chemical make-up of what’s gone into your mouth. If your diet isn’t full of a wide variety of nutrients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality protein, and flavors (beyond salty and sweet), it will crave the only source it knows of to obtain what it needs…brownies, cookies, chips, anything fried, and everything bad. 
Because these foods only contain a trace amount of what your body really needs, you have to consume more to satisfy it. For example, one serving of butternut squash might supply you with your entire day’s need of magnesium but it would take an entire box of chocolate brownies to give you a fraction of the daily requirement. 
This is why you go through a whole bag of chips before you feel “satisfied” and why that craving comes back the next day. This is why you’re told to satisfy your craving with something “healthy” because it will take less of that healthy food to make you feel full and turn that craving off. 

What’s really causing my craving?

Now that you know a craving means you’re lacking something in your diet, how do you figure out what you’re lacking? Good question and it’s one your regular doctor can’t answer for you unless you have a deficiency big enough to come up on a lab test. So we’ll spell this out naturopath style. 
Below is a list of the biggest craving causes and how to satisfy them with healthy options you can choose to kick a craving so you don’t demolish a bag of chips or batch of cookies. And your waistline? Let’s just say it won’t be expanding any time soon.
  • Craving chocolate? Chocolate cravings are associated with deficiencies in magnesium and copper. Around “that time of the month,” the body uses up more magnesium which is why many women experience PMS and chocolate cravings.To curb the craving, try a magnesium supplement, eat more yellow foods like butternut squash, (Non-GMO corn if you’re into that sort of thing), apples, apricots, bananas, and nuts (especially around “that time of the month” where your body requires extra magnesium). Still want some chocolate? Substitute with carob or add a teaspoon of raw cacao to a smoothie.
  • Craving tortilla chips? Your might be deficient in magnesium.
  • Craving all thing dairy like, milk, cheese, ice cream, or pizza? Your body is telling you it needs calcium.
  • Craving nuts? Your might need more essential fatty acids, protein, or healthy sodium.
  • Craving salt? Your body is craving healthy sodium (which is naturally rich in iodine) and attempting to restore balance within your body. Avoid table salt and opt for Himalayan salt or celery juice, which is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to satisfy a salt craving.
  • Sweet and sour cravings? We’re talking pickles, lemons, limes, or a combination of sour on sweet. These cravings are associated with liver congestion. The simple fix is to add lemon to your water on a regular basis.
  • Craving sugar and starches? These cravings can be caused by any number of things, the most common being a candida (yeast) overgrowth, a neurotransmitter (often serotonin) imbalance, and a lack of glucose from good complex carbs. If you crave sugar while studying, it’s because the brain burns glucose for energy. If you crave sugar after chow’n down on some chips, it’s because you ate too much salt.
    Instead of grabbing the sugar, try eating carrots or a piece of fruit and wait 15 minutes to see if the craving goes away. Invest in a good probiotic. Up the fiber. Do a candida cleanse. Make sure your diet contains adequate amounts of protein. Exercise to properly regulate your neurotransmitters, and incorporate healthy carbohydrates into your diet so you’re less likely to binge on the empty ones.
  • Craving dirt? A dirt craving is often associated with a deficiency in trace minerals and is very common during the third trimester of pregnancy. Make sure you’re getting adequate fruits and vegetables and invest in a trace mineral supplement. If you have your own organic garden, pull a carrot up from the soil and eat it without washing.
  • Craving fried foods? This is a sheer sign your diet is lacking good fats. Ditch the “taste good but bad for you” fried foods and up the olives, avocado, coconut, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils.
  •  Craving spicy foods? A spicy food craving is associated with a thyroid imbalance or sulfur deficiency. Eat garlic, horse-radish, curry, cayenne, etc. and make sure you source organic.
  • Craving chalk? A craving for chalk is another common third trimester pregnancy craving and is associated with an iron, calcium, or trace mineral deficiency.
  • Craving caffeine? Your adrenals are exhausted or you have a neurotransmitter imbalance. Cut out the stress in your life and try licorice rootvitamin B5, and vitamin C.
  • Craving nicotine? People who crave nicotine often have unresolved emotional issues and a b vitamin deficiency.
  • Craving alcohol? You might have an L-glutamine deficiency (especially if alcoholism is genetic) and a neurotransmitter imbalance.
  • Craving meat? You might have a deficiency in protein (rare in this country), iron, amino acids, or phosphorus.
  • Craving ice? An ice craving is most commonly associated with an iron deficiency. Try to incorporate more iron rich foods into your diet, more leafy greens, or try a chelated iron or supplement that increases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen (required for iron absorption), like I-X or liquid chlorophyll.
  • Craving tuna? You might be deficient in essential fatty acids or protein.
  • Craving carbs after a hard day’s work? People crave carbohydrates and magnesium at the end of a busy day to calm their nerves. Take magnesium right before you leave work so you won’t attack the junk food and tortilla chips when you walk in the door.
Clearly, cravings are a big deal. We have drugs to chemically curb our willpower, eating support groups, constant struggles with our waistlines, obsessions with dieting, and we struggle to eat the way we should eat, even when a health crisis slaps us in the face. Hopefully this list will give you some direction on where you can turn (and what you can turn away from) the next time the monster cravings hit.