Cravings are defined as a powerful or intense desire for something. Food cravings are incredibly common and arguably one of the most intense feelings you can experience when it comes to food.
So many of us experience food cravings but is there a reason we feel these desires? There is a train of thought that cravings are a result of nutrient deficiencies and it’s your body’s way to correct these deficiencies however the evidence to support this is still unclear. The other theory is that cravings are about what your brain wants as opposed to what it needs.
Is there a link between cravings and nutrient deficiencies?
There is a growing belief that a specific craving is linked to what your body is lacking in. The assumption behind the “nutrient deficiency” theory is that those with low intakes of certain nutrients are more likely to crave foods containing those nutrients . However, there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that this is not always the case and perhaps it’s largely a psychological response rather than a physiological one.
One example that proves this is in pregnancy where a woman’s nutrient needs increase, especially in the last trimester and in the post partum period when breastfeeding. The ‘nutrient deficiency’ hypothesis would predict that these women would crave nutrient rich foods however studies have found that a vast majority of pregnant women will crave the opposite to nutrient rich foods such as foods high in fat, carbohydrates and fast foods.
So what could be other reasons for these intense cravings we feel so often? Here are 6 of the most common links:
- Mood: Your mood can certainly influence and trigger the cravings you feel. One example is “comfort foods,” which are often craved when wanting to get over a negative mood. Stress can also be a trigger with many people reporting that they eat more or crave more when feeling stressed.
- Hydration: Poor hydration or drinking too little water or other fluids can impact cravings or even induce hunger in some people
- Suppressed thoughts: Viewing certain foods as “forbidden” or actively trying to suppress your desire to eat them often intensifies cravings for them
- Context associations: Occasionally people may relate food with a certain context such as eating fast food when drinking alcohol or eating popcorn at the movies. So the next time that context appears, the same craving may be triggered.
- Insufficient sleep: Not sleeping enough may disrupt hormone levels which could possibly trigger cravings
- Insufficient protein or fibre: Protein and fibre help you feel full and satisfied. Eating too little of either fibre or protein rich foods may increase hunger and cravings
So in summary, cravings are generally a result of a number of external factors that have nothing to do with your body’s needs for certain nutrients.