Eat well. Be well.

Health News

Do Cravings Mean You are Deficient in Something?

The science doesn’t support that thought but there are some nutrients where this could be true.

People want to believe that a chocolate craving means you need magnesium.
If that were the case, we would crave kelp, blackstrap molasses and Brewer’s yeast which are very high in magnesium.

Salt Craving

We can crave salt when we are deficient, just like animals seek out salt licks. Our need for electrolytes like sodium can increase with exercise, stress, migraines, PMS and changing to a low-carb diet. Be sure to salt your food to taste with mineral salt and consider adding an electrolyte powder to your water. I use ReLyte, unflavored, but if you don’t like the salty, bland flavor, try one of their flavors, like lemon lime.

Fat Craving

When people eat a low-fat diet, they may be drawn to things that are high fat.
When I was pregnant 30y ago, I CRAVED a tuna melt, and would leave work daily, drive home 20 minutes to make it and eat it. Later, as I thought about that time, I came to believe that it was my body’s way of getting Omega3 DHA that my baby’s brain needed. I didn’t know about Omega3’s at the time.

There was another time, long ago, when I decided to follow a raw food vegan way of eating for 30 days (I don’t know why! I believed all the propaganda that this was the pinnacle of health diet.). It took about 3 or 4 weeks before I was seriously craving eggs cooked in butter—my brain must have really needed that nutrient dense food.

We need to listen to our brain and body’s cry for fat and make sure that we are eating healthy fat. For those transitioning to a ketogenic lifestyle, your body will begin to prefer to run on ketones instead of glucose, and you will need to adjust your intake of healthy fat.

Choose healthy animal protein, fish, eggs, olives, avocados, olive oil, and avocado oil, coconuts, coconut oil. If you tolerate dairy, high quality heavy cream, crème fraîche and cheese can be added.

What is the Difference between Hunger and a Craving?

I do believe that there are two separate pathways to recognize.

Hunger. True hunger is a physical need to eat food, and not just one particular food like cookies. Hunger brain signals come from the hormone, grehlin. It makes your stomach growl so you’ll go find nutrition. True hunger will eventually pass, as there is a rhythm to grehlin.

Cravings. Cravings are often tied to emotions like boredom, stress, sadness and anger. The craving is for certain foods like chocolate, crackers, cookies and chips. At first you feel good while you satisfy the craving but then you feel guilty later.

Here’s a quick test, ask yourself to determine if you are truly hungry, “Would I eat a tin of sardines? Or a bowl of vegetables?”

If the answer is, “No, I don’t want that. I want candy, (or chips, or bread, or icecream, etc.) then you are not experiencing true hunger.

Your craving is probably due to a dopamine trigger. Dopamine is the pleasure hormone that floods our brain when we eat a treat. We reach for an easy hit of dopamine-triggering food to make ourselves feel better when we are sad, stressed, tired.

When we eat candy or ultraprocessed foods like chips we get a dopamine rush. The dopamine rush is not triggered from foods found in nature like an apple.

Ultraprocessed foods trigger the craving and rewards pathway. Processed foods and sugar trigger the dopamine pathway and addiction in the same way that dopamine is triggered by other addictions like alcohol, drugs and sex.

We need modest amounts of dopamine in our everyday lives, and we can get a healthy amount of dopamine simply by exposing ourselves to sunshine, talking with friends, or moving our bodies. But when we fry our pleasure receptors by dumping excessive amounts of dopamine after consuming hyperpalatable foods, we crave more of these dopamine-releasing foods.”

Psychology Today

Triggers – Your Brain Wants a Hit of Dopamine

  • You’ve had a stressful day, your brain wants that hit of dopamine and you feel compelled to hit the candy or soda or chips.
  • Another trigger can be eating a high carb meal or snack that causes a spike in glucose, followed by a big drop in glucose. It is the drop that triggers you to go find food, usually sugar or starchy carbs.

We need to eat to keep blood sugar levels steady.

  • Protein and fat do not spike your glucose so be mindful of grains, bread, dessert, chips, pasta, rice.
  • If you want to eat chocolate, skip the candy and have a square of dark chocolate. Have this at the end of a meal, and not as a stand-alone snack.
  • Also, taking 2-3 tsp of raw apple cider vinegar in a few ounces of water before meals really helps steady blood sugar.
  • Quick tip when cravings hit: put a pinch of salt on your tongue and drink a glass of water. Try to get outside in the sunshine for a quick walk.
  • Have a goal of eating only at mealtime. Eat enough fat and protein along with non-starchy veg to hold you until the next meal. Max: Three meals per day.
  • Remove all ultraprocessed frood from your home/work environment.

Learn more: Get The Reclaim Diet book here.