There’s a lot of talk about food cravings stemming from nutritional deficiencies, but research has not proved this to be true. So here is the real reason you’re craving those comfort foods.
But first, a little background…If you’ve ever blamed a craving for chocolate on a magnesium deficiency, know that it’s not a valid argument.
➡ Your desire for chocolate (although it’s yummy) and dark chocolate is good for your heart (in moderation) is more than likely comfort-seeking. It probably comes from an emotional place and not a biological one.
However, it IS important to listen to your body and learn to recognize and “feel” which foods you’re drawn to.
The truth is that many common cravings develop from your emotions.
Under stress, people often crave foods with specific textures such as crunchy, soft, creamy, or smooth — and these textures correspond to particular emotions.
There are two types of hunger: “homeostatic hunger,” which is the physical need to eat, and “hedonic (hedonistic) hunger,” which the wish to eat foods for pleasure.
➡ For example, you might be craving salt when your body actually needs it, like after a hard workout during which you lost salt through sweating.
➡ Or you might be craving the salty food as more of a comfort food since salty foods (like chips) are higher in fat, which is what we crave sometimes for pleasure, or “hedonic hunger.”
It’s not hard to understand how we may have been conditioned, from childhood, to want certain foods and want them right now.
Take sweets, for instance. Most of us grew up with sweets being presented as a reward. When we’re anticipating a reward, that anticipation triggers the neurotransmitter named **dopamine in our brain.
**Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards but to take action to move toward them.
➡ A deficiency in Dopamine results in Parkinson’s Disease and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction.
➡ The presence of a certain kind of dopamine receptor is also associated with sensation-seeking people, more commonly known as “risk takers.”
Or, maybe you don’t have an out-of-control sweet tooth but you still find yourself wanting to reach for the carton of cookie dough ice cream.
➡ Our bodies (and minds) crave fatty foods like ice cream and dishes loaded with gravy, during extremely busy or stressful times, when they’re being pulled in different directions.
➡ During those times, fat can feel stabilizing. It’s heavy in your stomach and takes a while to digest, which can make you feel “grounded.”
Different cravings also seem to have different consequences.
A study published in the Journal Of Eating Disorders looked at the relationship between food cravings and addictive eating.
➡ Researchers found that cravings for sweets and other foods high in carbohydrates may be more closely linked with bingeing and other addictive eating behaviors.
➡ Cravings for fats, however, seem to be more closely associated with an increased body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women.
Cravings let themselves be known clearly, but what’s behind them is complex, with several factors coming into play.
While cravings aren’t always tied to emotional eating, before you reach for that piece of cake or bowl of pasta, check to see if your emotions may be to blame — and learn the smart ways to combat the cravings.
Coming Up: How To Satisfy Your Emotionally Based Cravings