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Identify What Your Food Cravings Mean

What are your food cravings telling you?

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Foods and liquids all correspond to our mood...whether it is due to hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, stress or adrenal fatigue.  Chewing ice can even symbolize something deeper. When your your sweet tooth or cravings are out of control, it’s because you want to feel BETTER: more energetic, happier, or more relaxed. Your cravings are for the food that will produce the desired effect. If you were actually HUNGRY for a cookie--you would not need to go back for a second one. That is the difference between cravings and hunger. They give our brains different cues. 
HUNGER is caused by our primal instinct to survive, and fuel our bodies and brain. CRAVINGS are caused by chemical or hormonal imbalances or food insecurities.

Every food contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, textures, smells and other mood- and energy-affecting properties. Some are stimulants, some are depressants, and some activate the pleasure and reward seeking center in our brains. Sugar, for example, releases dopamine and gives the body an instant satisfaction and high. 

 

Chocolate: Magnesium deficiency; Low Oxytocin; Hungry for Love
 The feel-good chemical in chocolate is phenylethylamine (PEA) is the chemical that the brain creates when we’re feeling romantic love. No wonder why chocolate is sold most on Valentines's Day! An oz of dark chocolate boosted the levels of serotonin and dopamine, also known as “feel good chemicals,” in participants’ brains. In addition, chocolate contains magnesium and theobromine, two compounds shown to reduce levels of stress hormones and promote muscle relaxation.

Dairy: Calcium/Vitamin D Deficient; Antidepressants; Trouble Sleeping or Focusing
Tyramine (found in cheese) is an upper, while choline (in eggs) has a soothing effect. L-tryptophan (which helps promote sleepiness contained in milk) combined with carbs stimulates the production of serotonin, creating a happy sensation. This combination is found in ice cream, pizza, creamy sauces, and a long list of other common foods. Since most dairy contains choline, it helps promote memory, and proper brain functioning. Meanwhile, sour cream and cheese contains Tyramine and pyrazine, (also found in pickled foods, and coffee) are the main ingredients in antidepressants and asthma bronchodilators. 

Salty Snacks: Stress or Electrolyte deficiency
Craving salt foods is a sign of adrenal weakness. Your adrenals manage your stress response-including anger. Often salty snacks are also crunchy - the crunch gives your jaw a physical outlet for stress (people usually hold anger in by clenching their jaw). Further, salt cravings can mean that you are deficient in sodium and magnesium or potassium---which are important electrolytes for 

Spices: Excitement, Euphoria
Chances are if you like to spice up your food, you like the rest your life to follow suit. Feeling stuck, bored or generally dull might make your body convert this frustration into cravings for spicy foods. Mint also heightens senses and alertness. Sensation seekers have been correlated with cravings for spicy, crunchy or sour foods with strong cravings.

Breads, Rice and Pasta: Comfort
Comforting and calming...Carbs  induce relaxation and also release dopamine. They give a sense of fullness in times of need when all you REALLY NEED is to phone a friend or go for a walk.

Fatty Food: Fear, Anxiety, Low-fat diet
These kinds of cravings indicate a fear of feeling empty or being alone and need more satiety. Fat is also associated with comfort--since our mother's breast milk has natural fats. Low-fat diets also may contribute to craving fats. Whether it is the good stuff (salmon, all-natural peanut butter) or the bad stuff (fried foods, vegetable oils, fatty meat), you need efficient fat in your diet in order to avoid cravings.

Ice: Iron deficiency
People who crave or chew ice frequently and like snow cones or shaved ice on a regular basis are typically anemic or have iron or zinc deficiencies. 

Citrus (lemon) or vinegar: Low Stomach Acid
 If you commonly crave acidic foods, you could be low in stomach acid. Strong stomach acid is your body’s first line of defense and serves the purpose of sterilizing your food, disinfecting the stomach, and breaking down your foods (particularly proteins). When your stomach acid isn’t adequate, it starts a cascade of digestive dysfunction leading to digestive discomfort, food intolerances, and constipation.

Red meat: B12, Zinc or Iron Deficiencies 
You could be low in iron, zinc, or amino acids (building blocks of proteins). If you regularly consume steaks, beef, etc, and still have daily cravings, you might not be digesting it correctly. This may be a sign that you are a type A blood type OR a type O blood type and avoiding the meat. Certain blood types have enzymes that break down or do not break down red meats.

 

Learn more from Meghan at EVU center.

Author
Meghan Doherty Clinical Nutritionist

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