We have become a nutrient deficient society. Somehow on the path to well-being, our food became more and more processed, deteriorating the integrity of nature's abundance. And people are becoming sicker and sicker.
I can picture Mother Nature, sitting above, watching all her children, wanting to claw her eyeballs out as she watches us take whole foods, process them into liquids, chunks, and powders removing all of the goodness, then 'fortifying' it with preservatives, vitamins and minerals, then putting it into boxes, cans, and envelopes and calling it food. Only humans could figure out a way to remove nutrients and then put fake ones back in. Now we even make fake food. We are so gifted.
This got me thinking about cravings. I can't help but wonder if our ancestors (who had no choice but to eat seasonally whole and fresh foods) ever craved chocolate, chips, popcorn, sweets, bread, and pasta? I am sure at one point someone said, “I would really like to have a _________ right now!” However, there is definitely a difference between knowing something would be really yummy versus feeling like you totally need it.
Our bodies tell us when we are out of balance physically in the form of cravings. I learned this first hand. After about 3 months of a sugar-free diet and nutrient dense foods, I no longer drooled around brownies and chocolate. I no longer felt the strong desire to eat a plate of Triscuits with cheese, a big bowl of pasta, or a bunch of gooey garlic rolls. Yes, I still think that a brownie would taste good, and the smell of fresh, warm garlic bread is wonderful. But I don't feel like I need it. This was possible by giving my body what it really needed, balanced insulin levels and more magnesium and B vitamins.
Cravings can be quite complex, especially when related to mental or emotional difficulties. The root of emotional eating (or even when bored) cannot be addressed by simply changing your diet. This topic is deserving of a whole other post, especially when it comes to eating disorders, however, I did briefly choose to cover some common suggested emotional meanings behind cravings for your enlightenment.
|If you crave....||Then you might need...||So try this...|
|dairy||EFA's (essential fatty acids) and/or Omega 3's.||Add flax, chia seeds, and/or walnuts to dishes. You also might be seeking to be calmed or soothed since dairy has some anti-depressant effects.|
|carbs (breads, pasta)||Chromium or Nitrogen||Enjoy some broccoli, onion, tomato, apple, sweet potato, romaine lettuce, protein, and leafy green veggies. You may also need to get some aerobic exercise, or at least get moving, as carbs are often sought out in times of stress, stagnation, and boredom.|
|red meat||Iron||Eat red meat. If you are vegetarian/vegan, go for dried fruit, seaweed, or spinach.|
|salty foods||Chloride||Try celery, olives, tomato, kelp, and fish. Also take some time to meditate or breathe deeply as you may need to relax and reflect. Salt also dehydrates, increasing thirst. Thus, have a glass of water and go with the “flow” of life.|
|chocolate||Magnesium||Eat raw cacao nibs/powder, beans, nuts, and dark leafy greens. Chocolate is related to serotonin production (feel good hormone) and is a known comfort food. You may be looking for love, romance, or intimacy.|
|sweets||Tryptophan, Chromium, Phosphorous, Carbon, or just balanced blood sugar||Enjoy some protein, beans, nuts, cinnamon, seeds (pumpkin, sesame), lamb, liver, sweet potato, spinach, chicken, fish, eggs, broccoli, onion, tomato, and fresh fruit. Try a sugar detox diet. Emotionally, sweets also contribute to serotonin production and are often sought out in times of stress. You may need some more sweet, enjoyable moments in your life.|
|oily/fatty foods||Calcium||Add broccoli, kale, beans, cheese, and mustard/turnip greens to your diet. This is a another serotonin producer, a 'comfort' food, so you may need some emotional soothing.|
|(for the ladies)pre-menstrual cravings||Zinc||Add red meats, liver, leafy veggies, and root veggies to your diet around this time.|
Just a side note, there are some people who crave non-edible foods like dirt, paper, clay, paste, laundry detergent, etc. This is a sign of pica, usually a severe iron deficiency, and the assistance of a qualified medical physician is definitely warranted.
This week, pay attention to your cravings. Are they physical? Emotional? Are you just bored? Try swapping something else for your sweet, salty, oily, carb-ridden desire. Discover if your body is really just craving good 'ol fashion nutrients.