When I first read about the concept of certain food cravings being a sign that your body was lacking a certain vitamin or mineral, I thought to myself, “usually my body wanting a cookie means that my body is low on cookies.”
Food cravings have nothing to do with hunger
Food cravings are an interesting topic of research, actually. For one thing, they have nothing to do with actual hunger. Rather, these are powerful signals of our brain that the body is running low of an important nutrient or chemical compound. That being said, the connection between the brain and the gut is the vagus nerve, which tells us when it’s time to grab a snack or have a three-course meal.
Hunger is a survival mechanism whereby the brain signals that it’s time we put something in the stomach in the interest of our own survival. A craving, on the other hand, is a signal that you are being stressed up and need something to comfort you.
Chocolate is the most craved food
One of the most common examples I have found is the craving for chocolate. Supposedly, a craving for chocolate is a sign that your body is low on magnesium (see the table below). As it turns out, raw cacao is one of the most naturally magnesium-rich foods there is. Now, I mention this example because I have some personal experience to share.
I do not have a sweet tooth, but I sometimes get intense cravings for chocolate completely out of the blue. They are so strong that sometimes I drive to a convenience store at 3 in the morning for a bag of M&M’s.
Read your body’s signals right
Some time ago I had blood tests as part of a routine medical checkup and found that the level of magnesium in my body had been very low. I didn’t make the connection at the time, but when I saw the chart below, it clicked.
Now, I am not a medical doctor, but I think that our body’s natural signals should not be neglected. It’s almost like a conditioned response that our bodies develop over time. When you eat a certain food, your body gets certain nutrients it has been lacking. Then, when need arises, it urges you to replenish the depot of that nutrient.
BUT, the brain being the weird little animal it is, would rather crave chocolate instead of another natural source of magnesium like broccoli. I think there hardly is anybody out there who’s been having cravings for broccoli. I do hope that this article will help you read the craving signals right and make healthier food choices.
The table says it all
The chart below has been taken from PreventDisease.com. It provides healthy alternatives to some of the most common food cravings. Coming back to my midnight M&Ms trips to the convenience store, I am thinking of how much I could have saved on gas, if I had known about this table back then!