From chocolate to chips, cravings can sometimes get the best of us. Although cravings typically get a bad rap, knowing more about them can actually help you eat more nutritiously.
How is this possible? It’s simple. Not all cravings are created equal. Although some result from straight up hunger, other cravings arise because you smell something wonderful cooking in the kitchen or see a delicious looking meal. Other times cravings may exist because of a nutritional deficiency or because of a hormonal shift. Therefore, knowing which type of craving you are experiencing is key and can actually help you make good food choices if you are able to identify which craving you are experiencing and why.
Know Your Craving
Cravings can be described in two different ways: physiological or psychological. Physiological cravings are the result of actual hunger and mean that your body needs nourishment. If the body is well nourished overall, it probably won’t be a specific craving. These types of cravings don’t go away and instead often get worse over time. Psychological cravings, on the other hand, do pass as time goes on. A psychological food craving happens when you see something tasty online, on television, or even just smell the aroma of a food. Sometimes even boredom can cause these types of cravings and it’s important to not let these types take control of your eating decisions.
Although food cravings for specific foods could be related to a nutritional deficiency, the scientific research isn’t all that clear. Some studies have shown links between chocolate and magnesium deficiencies; however, even these fail to identify why individuals may crave chocolate as opposed to other foods even higher in magnesium. Low levels of iron have also been associated with a condition called pica in which individuals crave non-food items such as dirt, paint, ice, and paper. Yet, the jury is still out. Much more research is needed before we can truly pinpoint the actual culprits behind our cravings.
Whether a true relationship between cravings and nutritional deficiencies exists or not, getting adequate amounts of nutrients each day is still important. Before you go and start eating A LOT of chocolate to get adequate amounts of magnesium though, you should know that this probably isn’t the best way to go about it. Giving in to your cravings once in a while is okay, but don’t let your cravings rule your decision-making process. Instead, keep your cravings in check by doing the following:
Eating a Well-Balanced Diet. If you are consuming a varied diet, chances are you are getting a wide range of nutrients. Most people skimp on fruits and veggies, but this is where a lot of your essential nutrients are. Make sure you make room for all food groups on your plate.
Take Your Time. When your craving strikes, don’t give in right away. Take a few moments to identify where the craving is originating from. Are you truly hungry or are you simply bored? If you are really hungry, eat something. If not, find something fun to do until the craving passes.
Know Your Nutrients. Again, it never hurts to know what foods are nutrient powerhouses and which aren’t. When planning your meals, knowing your nutrient-rich foods can help ensure that you are getting enough of the essential nutrients your body needs to work at an optimum level.
Realize Cravings are Real. Although the exact cause of cravings can vary, they definitely do exist and it’s important to acknowledge that. Once you acknowledge that they are there, you can set up a game plan for when they hit. Being able to healthfully handle food cravings can help you better manage your meal plan guilt-free.
Give in a Little. Although cravings can get you into trouble if you let them control you, allowing yourself to have something you crave is okay! In fact, making room in your diet for a favorite treat once in a while may actually help you resist the urge to overindulge on them if you deprive yourself over an extended period of time.
Cravings are real and can occur for many reasons. Whether nutritional deficiencies play a part in the development of cravings or not, it is never a bad idea to incorporate a wide array of foods to help your body get all the nutrients it needs to function properly. By keeping your body well nourished, often times cravings will diminish; however, if you still get the urge to munch on something, remember to identify where the craving is coming from and plan accordingly. Take the time to think about what and how much of something you are going to eat and make the decision as to whether this snack is worth giving in to. Cravings may be real, but they don’t have to make you stumble.
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