What Do Your Intense Food Cravings Mean?

Find out what your food cravings really mean and how to interpret them.

Ah food cravings!

We all know that pregnant women experience them, but what does it mean for the rest of us?

Is it normal to crave certain foods and why would the body be sending us such clear messages that it wants what it wants?

Let’s explore this topic more.

Food cravings for major food groups

Wouldn’t it be great to know what the “hidden” messages behind your sudden intense need to eat mushrooms or asparagus?

Wanting fatty foods

If you’re salivating over pizza, lasagna and a good ol’ fry up, you might be needing to increase healthy fats in your diet.

Fat is actually an essential nutrient in the body and is important for the generation of hormones, protection of your organs and nerves.

Food cravings

If you’re after something on the fatty side, choose wisely because fats are energy-dense.

Healthy options include nuts, seeds, avocado and whole egg.

When it comes to healthy oil for cooking, opt for EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) or coconut oil. Forget about using processed cooking oils, they might be on the cheaper side, but they’ve proven to be unhealthy for you.

Sweet treats

Sweet tooth cravings are some of the hardest to ignore. Take your favourite chocolate for example, can you look the other way and pretend it’s not staring back at you from the sweets aisle?

When it comes to chocolate try to opt for those with a higher cacao count. Choose dark chocolate over milk and white chocolates.

Dark chocolate is healthier for your and is loaded with beneficial compounds that will benefit your heart.

Other than chocolate, we also tend to crave cakes, pastries, liquorice, toffees, gummies, caramel, biscuits, anything super-sweet and yummy. Sugar cravings might be your body’s way of signalling for an energy boost.

Women might crate sweet treats before their cycle – rather opt for bananas and berries instead of candy.

You could also be low on good nutrition and thus getting a sweet-tooth-fix may seem a better option.

Instead of unhealthy sugary treats, rather go for the Greek yoghurts, fruit, dark chocolates, and other healthy snacks.

Carb cravings

If you’re looking to sink your teeth into some pasta, bread rolls, bagels, anything starchy and heavy, then your blood sugar balance might be off. Simple carbs break down quickly and offer less nutritional value.

A diet high in processed food increases the risk of obesity and diabetes.

To curb the carb craving, eat food rich in fibre. Fibre-rich foods include wholegrain options, prunes, apples, pears, oats, broccoli, lentils and beans.

Other than chocolate, we also tend to crave rich cakes, pastries, liquorish, toffees, gummies, caramel, biscuits, anything super-sweet and yummy. Sugar cravings might be your body’s way of signalling for an energy boost.

You could be low on good nutrition and thus getting a sweet-tooth-fix may seem a better option.

Instead of unhealthy sugary treats, rather go for the Greek yoghurts, fruit, dark chocolates, and other healthy snacks.

Craving salty foods?

If your body is signalling to you that it wants something salty, you might be low on electrolytes. This is especially true if you do a lot of physical activity or exercise. When we sweat, we lose some electrolytes and our body sends us messages that we need to replenish.

While it’s tempting to grab a Powerade or energy drink, remember these are usually full of sugar, artificial sugar, colourants and preservatives.

Healthy options are air-popped popcorn, vegetable salty crisps, biltong, salted nuts and marmite.

To manage a mean salty craving, pick salted nuts and salted crackers. Nuts provide good fats and fibre. Crackers is a lower carb option too. You can also have seeds if you can’t eat nuts and substitute regular meat biltong for healthier vegetable variants such as mushroom and brinjal biltong.

Fizzy drinks

It’s easy to become addicted to fizzy drinks and they are linked with causing obesity. They always seem to “hit the spot” after munching a meal.

Of course, the best thing to do is to drink water, but if that’s a struggle for you, opt for unsweetened iced tea or a small glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice diluted with ice water. You could also choose sparkling water with a slice of citrus. Flavoured water will work too. The sugar count is much lower in these than their fizzy cousins.

Why do people crave specific foods?

Even if you didn’t know the meaning behind your food cravings, here are some reasons people long to eat certain foods.

It’s nostalgic

You can’t help but feel that sense of time travel when you bite into foods that you perhaps ate on a specific occasion, or as a child. Those memories are probably fond ones and something that could stir up some cravings.

You’re pregnant

Pregnant women crave certain foods, sometimes even foods they loathed before the pregnancy.

A craving for salty gherkins could mean that there is a lack of sodium. A craving for chalk and other non-foods might be a sign that the body is lacking iron and other essential minerals.

Another reason pregnant women crave different food is mostly thanks to the extreme hormone fluctuations. The hormones change because the body is changing to accommodate the survival of the unborn baby.

Some cravings even include ice, salted nuts, pickles and lots of other strange and random foods, or food combos.

Emotional eating

Psychologically our brains can send all sorts of confusing messages to our bodies, especially during high stress, grief, loneliness, boredom and feelings of anxiety. These emotional stressors can lead to emotional eating.

You might be hungry

If you’re skipping meals and not eating enough throughout your day, then it can leave a huge “hole” in your stomach. Eating lots of processed foods disrupts your body’s natural satiety hormones and affects your blood sugar levels.

How to manage your food cravings

The best thing to do is to avoid skipping meals and when you do eat, ensure that you get a decent serving of protein and some fat as these are shown to increase satiety.

To discover the best foods to keep you fuller for longer, click here.

How to reduce food cravings

Here are some tips to keep the cookie monster at bay:

Watch your stress levels

When your body is constantly producing stress hormones, it causes confusion. Stress hormones make the body react in fight-or-flight mode and this raises blood pressure, heart rate, and causes rapid breathing.

When people are highly stressed, as mentioned earlier in this read, they tend to “eat their feelings.”

Drink more water

It’s strange how the body can oftentimes interpret dehydration as hunger. But maybe it’s the only way it will get the attention it needs to have something to help ease that thirst. After eating people tend to wash it down with a beverage.

If you drink more H2O, you’ll be lowering the need for foods and you’ll only eat when you’re hungry. You will also be enjoying all the benefits of one of the most important elements of life.

Get sound sleep

It’s not called power naps and “beauty sleep” for nothing. Sleep plays such an important role in our wellbeing and also helps regulate our appetite. Adequate sleep helps the body to function better and that includes producing the correct hormones at the right times.

Closing thoughts on the meaning behind your food cravings

We all experience a wide range of food cravings, but it’s important to understand what is causing them and the consequences of indulging in those types.

Cravings are caused by many factors including hormonal changes, genetics, environmental cues and even emotions. However, there are some ways you can help manage your blood sugar levels through diet choices like eating whole foods that provide fibre at every meal or snacking on an apple instead of chips for example.

These healthier options will keep your brain satisfied longer which may be able to reduce the frequency and intensity of these unwanted thoughts about specific foods.

Have you experienced any intense food cravings lately?