Perhaps with the weather getting colder and comfort foods becoming more appealing we’ve had lots of questions at the clinic about food cravings. Here Philip shares some thoughts on why me might crave certain things to eat…
There can be many reasons why people crave chocolate. It contains theobromine which acts like caffeine and is an effective nervous system stimulant and has reputed aphrodisiac qualities. It can have a noticeable affect on the feel good chemicals in the brain such as serotonin.
Chocolate is particularly rich in valuable minerals. Because so many people are short of magnesium many people crave chocolate as a way getting this important mineral. Magnesium is important for a healthy menstrual cycle and your body uses it to enable the relaxation of your muscles. Other sources of Magnesium are almonds, spinach, swiss chard, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds
Bread (wheat products)
Many people crave bread it raises blood sugars quickly. Ironically some with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) sometimes crave wheat containing foods like bread even though they are sensitive to the food. For these people symptoms often reduce when they cease eating the food.
Wheat used to contain a lot of selenium and it could be that cravings are related to a deficiency of this antioxidant mineral. Good sources are brazil nuts, so eating a few a day might be worth trying to see if the craving reduces.
The nation’s favourite drug of choice! Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system resulting in your adrenal glands to excrete the hormone adrenalin. This is part of the body’s flight and fight response which helps to respond in a sudden emergency. It causes a raise in pulse rate, breathing and blood pressure.
The problem is, like any drug, the more you use it the more you need to have the same effect. If you drink coffee regularly you will end of craving and needing it simply to feel normal. There are other ways to stimulate your metabolism in the morning and shrug off the morning gloom. Exercise in the morning or walking. Hot and cold showers can be a very effective way of boosting metabolism.
Caffeine has effect on raising blood sugars, so instead eat a snack such as nuts and seeds which are a slow releasing carbohydrate. If you crave caffeine because you feel tired, then there could be underlying reasons such as iron or B12 deficiency.
Although it might sound bizarre, craving for Ice is not uncommon amongst pregnant women, although anybody can be affected. This craving can be a sign of Iron deficiency (anaemia). If you crave ice it is important to have a blood test with your GP to see what your haemoglobin levels are.
There are many reasons someone is anaemic and it is important that it is thoroughly investigated. Good source of dietary iron are green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, nettles and dried fruits such as prunes, dates and figs.
Salt in food can be addictive and many people get into the habit of adding salt to their food. Salt can contain important minerals such as iodine. So instead of processed table salt try rock or sea salt which is more mineral rich.
If you are exercising regularly and sweating it is important to make sure you are taking electrolytes. Instead of taking sugary sports drinks some athletes have turned to drinking coconut water which is full of minerals and electrolytes. However a sudden cravings for salt normally happens for a reason and should be investigated. It could be because of dehydration or ‘adrenal dysfunction’ such as Addison’s disease.