Cravings are not quite the same as hunger. Hunger is controlled by the stomach, but cravings are controlled by the brain and are the body’s way of communicating with you.
Paul Lutaakome, a nutritionist at Jinja Referral Hospital, says hankering for sweet foods such as cakes, cookies and sugary drinks may indicate blood sugar imbalances and mineral deficiencies. You are also likely to get a sugar craving if you are dehydrated, which can be fixed by drinking enough water.
Sodium helps in maintaining the body’s fluid balance and is necessary for survival. For this reason, cravings for high-sodium, salty foods are often thought to mean that the body requires more sodium.
Lutaakome says, “In some cases, craving for salt may be the result of stress hormone fluctuations and low levels of electrolytes. Foods rich in the B-vitamin are essential in preventing stress. Nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables can be helpful.”
Craving for oily foods may be a sign that you have an essential fatty acid deficiency such as Omega 3 fatty acid. Eat more good quality fats and oils, avocado, nuts, olive oil, coconut milk, coconut oil and flax seed.
Bridget Kezaabu, a freelance nutritionist, says saturated and trans-fats present in foods such as chips and margarine among others, increase the amount of harmful cholesterol in the bloodstream which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Often times, the craving for red meat is an indication that you have an iron deficiency, which is common in vegetarians and pregnant women.
Consume more beans, legumes, spinach and dried fruit when this type of craving hits. Lutaakome also advises that you eat iron rich foods with a food rich in vitamin C for better absorption of the iron mineral.
Coffee or tea
There are some people that cannot go without coffee or tea. This incessant desire may mean a sulfur or iron deficiency. Iron can easily be replenished by eating leafy greens such as kale, spinach and cabbage. “Consuming more vitamin C makes way for better iron absorption. You need a calcium booster if you crave for carbonated drinks such as soda,” Kezaabu says.
Craving for a bar of chocolate may be a sign that you are in need of magnesium, chromium, B-vitamins or essential fatty acids according to Kezaabu. It may also be the result of an emotional need, as it is metabolised to serotonin that is responsible for emotions.
Cravings tend to crop up when there’s a sense of depletion. However, if you can pinpoint what you lack, it is easier to make healthier choices instead of going for something sugar-coated.
“Cravings for ice, clay, charcoal and chalk are absolutely unusual in the everyday world but they happen. Such cravings are linked to an iron deficiency or mineral deficiency in general,” says Bridget Kezaabu, a freelance nutritionist,
Adding dark leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds to your meals can prevent this type of craving, referred to as pica.