It may all feel the same to your body, but there’s a big difference between food cravings and true hunger. When you’re really hungry, a reasonable portion of protein and veggies will suffice.
But a craving? Well that’s a different story.
If you just desperately “need” a cookie, or a plate of fries, or a slice of pizza, then there’s definitely something deeper going on.
Food cravings may seem harmless–but they’re not. In fact, they’re often a red flag that your body is hard pressed for a particular nutrient. And it’s almost always one you can get from a healthier source.
In my experience, most cravings come in the form of an urgent desire for one of eight different foods. Chances are you’ve been hit with a pressing “need” for these (largely unhealthy) snacks before. I’d say most people probably struggle with at least one–if not all–of these cravings on a daily basis.
That’s why I’d like to take some time to decode them for you, one by one. Because once you’re able to interpret the real meaning behind your body’s cries for help, you’ll be able to stop them–once and for all.
So let’s get started, in no particular order…
Common Craving #1: Burgers.
Not that I have any problem with red meat, mind you. But sometimes, people tend to eat more than they need. (And in a form that’s less than ideal–like between a sesame seed bun.) Is it because beef is just so tasty? Partly, I’m sure. But you’re probably also craving the CLA (a fatty acid that helps you burn fat) or iron that red meat has in spades.
To satisfy your need for iron, you can try incorporating more leafy greens–like spinach or kale–into your diet. (Pair them with vitamin C-rich foods–like strawberries or peppers–to really boost absorption.)
CLA, meanwhile, is abundant in butter as well as beef. So don’t be afraid to use it liberally. (And please, throw away the margarine –as if you haven’t heard me say that a million times already.)
Also, always choose grass-fed beef and butter when it’s available and when you can afford it. It will be packed with more of the good fats your body needs, and none of the hormones and antibiotics that make factory-farmed animal products so dangerous.
Common Craving #2: Baked goods.
If you just can’t go another minute without a cupcake, it’s probably because your blood sugar levels are off kilter. This often happens in response to surges of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes insulin to spike and then drop just as quickly.
This roller coaster ride leaves you needing a quick fix to re-regulate your system. But luckily, other foods will do the trick just as well, without continuing the vicious cycle. Reach for a handful of nuts or some low sugar fruit (such as berries or melon) instead.
Common Craving #3: Potato chips.
So many people crave this salty snack. And the reason could be as simple as needing more sodium in your diet.
People are so afraid of sodium they never stop to think that they might not actually be getting enough. Salt helps to regulate every cell in your body. So, yes… you really do need it.
Also, please remember that less than 5 percent of people are salt-sensitive where blood pressure levels are concerned. (If you have hypertension, extra weight and high stress levels are much more likely to blame.)
Next time you get hit with a craving for chips, simply choose kale chips for a healthful alternative. (Salted nuts will also work in this instance.)
Common Craving #4: Chocolate.
Obviously, people crave chocolate for a lot of reasons. But often times, it’s simply due to a deficiency in phenylalanine.
Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that converts into tyrosine in your body. And it plays a critical role in the production of dopamine and serotonin–key transmitters that enhance your mood and reduce pain. So it’s hardly surprising that chocolate is such a popular crutch.
It’s also a vice I encourage you to enjoy–with a few caveats. Rather than gorging on sugar-filled candy bars, look for 100% cacao instead. It’s bitter–but if you melt it and add stevia for sweetness, I promise you, it is awesome. (The same holds true for unsweetened cocoa powder, mixed with unsweetened almond or coconut milk.)
This simple modification guarantees you get all the polyphenols and bioflavanoids that make chocolate so healthy–without all the harmful effects of sugar.
Common Craving #5: French fries.
As with potato chips, this craving could mean that you need more sodium. But it could also point to a deficiency in serotonin (our happy chemical) or blood sugar imbalances (again, caused by that stress hormone, cortisol). Simple carbs break down into glucose easily, which gives you a fast surge of energy–and potatoes in particular can increase serotonin levels.
Luckily, you can achieve the same effect by eating in a healthy manner and keeping your gut in order with a daily probiotic.
Follow my New Hamptons Health Miracle by sticking to a diet comprised mainly of proteins and vegetables. Cook with healthy fats like avocado or macadamia nut oils to keep you full longer. Both steps should eliminate cravings of this type quite rapidly.
Common Craving #6: Hot dogs.
This sounds like a strange one–but in my experience, hot dogs actually are one of the foods people crave most. Maybe it’s their strong cultural association to all-American events like barbecues and baseball games. They’re practically a national food.
But obviously, that doesn’t make hot dogs good for you. And your love for them might actually have more insidious roots. Nitrates can have addictive qualities… as can the spice and sugar combination used in your favorite dog.
Luckily, this is an easy problem to remedy. Just buy organic, nitrate-free, grass-fed hot dogs. If you can’t find those in your town, or they are too expensive, try deli turkey with mustard rolled up lettuce leaves. (My favorite alternative–and quite delicious, too.)
Common Craving #7: Ice cream.
Ahh… a craving after my own heart. Regular ice cream is loaded with sugar and rich in saturated fat–and that fat is probably what your body is really after. So one way to combat those ice cream cravings is to get more heart healthy fats into your body.
Try roasting some salmon or opening up a can of sardines. Order some mackerel or herring from your local sushi joint. And if all else fails, there are always walnuts and almonds–grab a handful when to urge for an ice cream sundae hits.
Common Craving #8: Pizza.
Were you waiting for me to get to this one? I saved this craving for last because it’s just so popular–especially here in my native New York.
So what could account for the siren song of a hot, gooey slice of cheese pizza? Well for one thing, you could be after the calcium in the cheese. And the healthy alternative to this is an awesome one.
I make my own crusts out of shredded Parmesan cheese. Just sprinkle a small pile on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven until it melts. Let it cool, then top with a few tomatoes or vegetables and more cheese. As you can imagine, it is delicious And totally grain-free (not to mention guilt-free) too.