Why Do We Crave Certain Foods?

What signals an irresistible urge to eat something unhealthy and how to avoid it

Weight gain often happens spontaneously – we suddenly decide to eat a bar of chocolate before going to bed, grab some fast food after work or “snack” on another season of “Sherlock” with a bag of chips. And every time it tastes so good! Payback for the sudden urge is tight jeans and guilt. And now the good news is that for every such urge, our body has a good reason and, knowing the nature of the problem, a harmful impulse can easily be avoided. You may simply be lacking in certain nutrients.

If you have a craving for chocolate…

It means your body is deficient in magnesium. This mineral is responsible for energy production, glucose metabolism, and muscle function. This is especially true if you regularly go to the gym. What’s more, magnesium levels naturally drop during premenstrual weeks, which is why we have such an unbearable craving for a chocolate bar during PMS.

Instead: choose chocolate with low sugar content – it should have at least 75% cocoa. Or include ordinary sunflower seeds in your diet, for example.

If you have a craving for sweets…

This means: an abstract craving for sweets is a clear sign that you lack energy. Sugar in this case is the easiest and most instantaneous fuel for the cells. Especially after a long day of hard work or exhausting stress.

Instead: a quick way to boost energy is to eat protein along with fats. For example, an apple with a handful of nuts or kefir with berries. Unlike simple sugar, it will take your cells longer to consume this fuel.

If you’re craving ice cream…

It means: the body needs healthy fat.

Instead: as mocking as it may sound, try replacing your favourite strawberry ice cream with a handful of walnuts or half an avocado – they’re so full of healthy fats. In emergencies, opt for coconut-flavoured ice cream, which traditionally has less sugar.

If you’re craving salty…

It means the most obvious thing is that you’re dehydrated. Salts help retain water, which is why we crave for something salty when our bodies lack fluids.

Instead: just drink water. Maintaining hydration levels is important at any time of year, but especially as the summer months approach. If drinking lots of plain water is difficult for you, just add mint, lemon slices or frozen fruit to it. If the water trick doesn’t work and you’re reaching for fries, try finding a lower-calorie alternative, such as nori or seaweed chips.

If you’re craving a burger…

That means: if you can’t stop thinking about a red meat steak or a juicy burger, chances are you’re deficient in iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid.

Instead: the good news is that burgers can also be healthy and appetising, provided they were made from farm meat – animals fed without antibiotics or hormonal stimulation. Alternatives are cottage cheese, peanuts, lentils, tuna.

If you’re craving starchy carbs…

That means: A craving for pasta or pizza for dinner is a signal from your body: it urgently needs the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin.

Instead: Take a bath, surrounded by candles and a pleasant scent. Another option is meditation. It’ll leave you feeling calm and peaceful, release bad thoughts, and reduce your stress sensitivity. You’ll also keep your waistline and hips free of those extra centimeters.