Whether it’s salty foods like chips and pretzels, sweets like chocolate and ice cream, or sour tart tastes like pickles and sour candy, most of us have some type of regular food craving.
But what is your body trying to tell you when you get those urges? Chances are it’s not that it needs some chips, chocolate or candy!
Your body is an incredible machine that never makes mistakes. It keeps functioning day after day, always maintaining a constant internal environment called homeostasis. Your heart never misses a beat. Your lungs inhale and exhale consistently. You know when to wake up and go to sleep. You are an expertly-programmed, super computer.
Since nothing your body does is random or without meaning, when you receive a message or signal that you interpret as a craving, it must mean your body is trying to tell you something. The tricky part is really listening to discover what your body wants and why.
Here are eight possible causes of your food cravings:
1. Lack of primary food
I call “primary food” all the things that nourish us, that aren’t actually food. This includes things like relationships, career, physical activity, and spirituality. If one of these areas is out of balance, uninspired, boring, stressful or not working for you then chances are it can show up as a food craving and can cause emotional eating. If you truly aren’t hungry when a food craving shows up, have a look at one of these primary food areas to see what’s missing.
Lack of water can send the message that you’re thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. This can show up as a slight hunger. So when you get a craving, the first thing to do is drink a big glass of water and see if that does the trick.
3. Yin/yang imbalance
According to Chinese medicine, certain foods have more yin or expansive qualities while other foods have more yang or contractive qualities. If you eat extremely yin or yang foods, then you’ll experience an imbalance between the two and have cravings. Eating too much sugar which is yin, can cause a craving for meat which is more yang. Eating too many raw foods which are yin may cause cravings for well cooked yang foods.
4. Cultural influences
Often times, cravings come from comfort foods that we associate with our heritage or culture. These are long standing tastes that run through our ancestry and upbringing. If you crave these types of comfort foods, a good way to satisfy yourself is to eat a healthier version of your ancestral or childhood foods.
Since we are natural beings, our bodies crave foods that connect to the natural world and the seasons. You’ll notice that as the seasons change so do your tastes and cravings. In the spring, we lean toward detoxifying light foods like leafy greens or citrus fruits. In the summer, it’s cooling foods like fruit and raw foods. The fall is all about grounding root vegetables and nuts. During winter, its more warming, oily, heavy foods we crave like meat and fat.
6. Nutrient deficiency
If your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, it’ll start craving certain foods. If you are eating a calorie rich but nutrient low diet chances are you body is lacking many things and will simply crave all foods because it’s so depleted. More specifically, if you have low levels of minerals you may start to crave salty foods.
We’re all impacted by fluctuating hormones, but women especially can be impacted by testosterone and estrogen levels. Food cravings can appear at various times throughout women’s lives especially during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause.
When life seems to be going along just fine, you may notice a tendency to self-sabotage all your good efforts. This especially happens with food. If you’re eating cleanly you may all of a sudden start to crave foods that throw you off. This creates more cravings to balance yourself out and ends up in a vicious cycle. Typically this happens as a result of a sugar addiction and can lead to a whole host of negative symptoms.
Stopping to take note of your cravings and considering what might be at the root of them, can help to bring balance in many areas of your life. What will you do the next time you’re craving those crispy, salty potato chips?
* This post was originally published in the Herald Community on April 9, 2014