What the Most Common Food Cravings Really Mean

woman giving in to food cravings

Can't get enough chips and guac? Or maybe chocolate -- the darker the better -- is your thing. Salty fries, crispy onion rings, a bowl of ice cream EVERY night before bed -- we all have our extremely specific food cravings. Wanna know why?

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"Your body is a brilliant and wise healing machine," explains Leanne Jacobs, a certified clinical nutritionist in Toronto and founder of HealthyGirl Inc., a community of wellness experts. "Cravings are its way of letting you know that something is out of alignment."

And by "out of alignment," we mean you're missing some key nutrients that you need to stay healthy. Here's your cheat sheet for what some of the most common cravings mean:

Salty foods: Potato chips. French fries. Pork rinds. Cravings for high-salt fare can mean you need more minerals like calcium and magnesium in your diet, says Jacobs. Hint: Eating more mineral-heavy sea vegetables like nori and kelp will make a difference.

Chocolate: "I like to consider a chocolate craving a little indication that more pleasure could be experienced in your life," Jacobs admits. "Are you working too much? Are you lacking fun and passion in your life?"

Excessive cravings, however, could have more physiological reasons. For instance, are you tired beyond belief? "Exhaustion can lead to cravings, especially for sugar and chocolate," Jacobs points out.

Think of them as your body's well-intentioned -- but uh, not quite successful -- attempt to stay awake and alert.

Carb-heavy foods: If a muffin or a hunka bread is your guilty pleasure, take a closer look at your mood. Research shows that people who are upset, stressed, or depressed crave more carbs. Eating carbs increases your body's production of serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone.

"I also find carb cravings to peak when your intution is trying to tell you something and you're choosing not to listen," Jacobs says. "You may be at a crossroads at your life, such as a relationship, and have a choice to make."

The more you can flow with your life rather than fight it, says Jacobs, "the less often you'll crave those yummy but addictive carby snacks."

Fatty, high-calorie foods: "If you're an avid workout junkie, your fat cravings may simply be [a sign] that your caloric intake needs to be increased," says Jacobs.

Still, no need to double-down on the drive-thru. What your body needs is more GOOD fats, like you find in nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil, and fatty fish such as salmon. It won't hurt to also talk to your doctor about starting a multivitamin.

More from CafeMom: 6 Wild Pregnancy Cravings & What They Could Really Mean

All this info making you hungry? Then maybe it'll help to learn how to successfully fend off a craving.

"The more self-aware we become, the less we have to deal with cravings," Jacobs offers.

Mindfulness, got it.

But what else can help on those days we truly feel less than emotionally evolved?

Ride it out. Cravings are like waves. They roar in fast and hard, crest, then recede. Distract yourself for 10 minutes -- about how long a craving lasts -- and you're golden.

Give your body what it NEEDS, not what it wants. And what it needs is two glasses of water and a handful of nuts for a protein fix. Boom. Craving gone.

Get rid of temptations. If brownies are your weakness, don't keep them in your house!

Put pen to paper. Writing how you feel when a craving hits can help you ID triggers -- and mentally prepare for them in the future.

Ask yourself, "What is it I want?" Don't allow yourself to answer with a specific food -- only with an emotion. Do you want to feel happier? Calmer? Less lonely? Then find another activity that fills in that blank for you.

 

Image via Rachata Teyparsit/Shutterstock

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