We’ve all had a moment where we’ve found ourselves screaming for a Twix like George Costanza. Whether it’s chocolate bars, potato chips or burgers, we’ve all experienced an overwhelming desire to devour incredibly specific foods and satiate a craving like no other.
Although there are numerous possible meanings behind your late-night fridge raiding, it’s important to understand the basics of what your body is really telling you. Assuming it’s not an emotional craving (pint of Ben & Jerry’s plus crying face emoji—we totally get it), it’s essential to get to the root of your hunger because you could be lacking valuable nutrients and vitamins.
To help you crack the case of your consistent cravings for a more balanced diet, we share what those hunger pangs mean.
We secretly think when we’re crazily craving chocolate, it’s because we’re running into a chocolate deficiency. Sorry to say, that’s not real. Because chocolate is high in magnesium, your body could be indicating a significant drop in the mineral.
That said, more than 80% of people lack dietary magnesium, so it’s nothing to worry about too much. While you could reach for chocolate (dark—preferably 75% or higher), nutritionists advise to eat foods like nuts, seeds, fish and dark, leafy greens to help your body stay on track.
Burgers and steaks? Your body is possibly telling you three things: you're not eating enough protein, you’re running into an iron deficiency and you have great taste! For those with diets rich in vegetables or constantly working out at the gym, dietitians suggest eating about one gram of protein for every pound you weigh to curb those cravings.
Eating more iron-rich vegetables helps too, especially if your period makes its monthly visits. Ideally, keep meat consumption within 15% of your daily diet and eat it alongside Vitamin C-rich foods to help with iron absorption.
With desserts and sugar-laden drinks lurking around every corner, sugar consumption can be hard to kick. While this temptation offers nothing nutritious, it could be an indicator of your body’s need for glucose as it might be experiencing blood sugar fluctuations which can cause spikes in insulin production and put you at risk for diabetes.
Since sugar consumption can become a downward spiral into more cravings, choose smart sweets like fruits, high-fiber foods and complex carbs to give you the added fuel without spiking blood sugars.
What is it about the smell of coffee that drives so many of us wild? If the scent alone makes you crave a cup, you’re likely more than just thirsty. Because it provides us with that much-needed pick-me-up every morning, we’re instinctively reaching for energy. Unfortunately, that energetic boost wears off, leaving us feeling tired and dehydrated.
Instead, drink plenty of water. Try fruit smoothies or even green tea, which uses a natural source of caffeine and promotes weight loss. Moreover, lack of energy could mean a lack of iron--in that case, opt for red meat, beans, chickpeas and fortified cereals.
If you find yourself hankering for pizza or ice cream, chances are you’re suffering a fatty acid deficiency or lacking significant amounts of calcium or vitamin D. Because the milk ingredient found in both pizza and ice cream contains L-tryptophan (an amino acid that triggers the release of serotonin—“feel-good chemicals”), craving these two delicious foods not only indicates a lack of energy, but is an indicator of bodily stress.
To reduce these cravings, engage in endorphin-releasing, mood-boosting exercise. Also reach for foods high in Omega-3 like walnuts, fish and chia seeds.
Whether it’s French fries or potato chips, plain and simple, your body is craving greasy food, which is essentially fat, and you’re probably not giving it enough. If you’re one of those on a mission to cut fat from your diet—stop now. Fat acts as a fuel for our body’s operating system. Consuming healthy fats like fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil is the way to satisfy these cravings. The best part? These types of fats make you feel full and can help with losing any excess weight.