Most, if not all, of us have been there before. It’s eleven o’clock at night, you’re in your pajamas, and all of a sudden you just can’t live without a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. Meanwhile, it’s pitch black and -30 outside, but you don’t care, you drive to the store for that quick fix anyway – you just have to have it.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what on Earth it is that is driving these insanely powerful cravings?
If you’re a woman, you might chalk it up to PMS (no matter what time of the month it is). If you’re pregnant, you’ve been told that cravings are expected and normal, and somewhat comedic.
Generally, they are not considered very much at all – just mere quirks and eccentricities that make us who we are.
But what if your body is trying to tell you something?
What if those cravings are really signals that can give you valuable insight into what is going on inside, and what your body really needs?
Maybe, before giving in to our cravings, we could take a moment to consider what else might be going on, and what messages our bodies are trying to get across.
There are many reasons why we may crave certain foods, and the reasons may be different for everyone.
Low blood sugar, dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, and hormone or chemical imbalances can all play a part in food cravings – which explains very well why pregnant women are most famous for absurd and intense cravings.
For example, if you constantly crave chocolate, this may either signal an imbalance in your blood sugar, a lack of magnesium (very common), or perhaps a lack of serotonin – the happy hormone.
The trick to figuring out your cravings is to consider what specific food or type of food you are craving, what time of day your cravings normally occur, and what else you have eaten that day.
Say you normally have an average breakfast of eggs and toast at 7am, a light lunch at 11:30, and then nothing until dinner at 7pm. And every evening you have overwhelming sugar cravings. This could be a symptom of low blood sugar brought on by 7 hours of not eating anything. Adding a nutrient-dense snack to your afternoon, like nuts or an avocado, will most likely curb those late-night munchies.
Perhaps you are someone who craves salty food all the time, no matter the time of day or what else you have eaten. This could be a sign of adrenal or thyroid imbalances, or mineral deficiencies. Don’t be afraid of the salt in this case – just make sure you are adding it wisely. In other words, don’t reach for the potato chips. Instead, salt your real food with healthy, unrefined sea salt.
Maybe you have been craving oranges lately – you may be low in vitamin C.
If you are a woman experiencing hormone fluctuations, try to take steps to support a healthy hormone balance by forgoing sugary foods, alcohol, caffeine, and soy.
As mentioned earlier, pregnancy can be an especially tricky time for dealing with food cravings. Pregnancy depletes the body rapidly of essential nutrients, throws hormones into overdrive, and can wreak havoc with blood sugar. This is a crucial time for the health of your baby and yourself, and it is important to eat real, nutrient-dense food as much as you can. Skip the filler foods and emphasize foods rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fat. Be sure to take a high quality prenatal supplement if you feel your diet is lacking or if you just want extra nutrients. This type of diet will help stave off most food cravings that are nutrition-related during pregnancy.
Here are some general guidelines for dealing with food cravings:
- Eat a balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods
- Drink plenty of fresh water
- Avoid nutrient-depleting and blood sugar-damaging foods such as caffeine, alcohol, sweets, and processed food
- Get lots of sleep!
- Take steps to rebalance your hormones
If your cravings are tricky or you just can’t seem to get rid of them, you may want to work with a knowledgeable professional to help you figure them out and bring your body back into balance.