NUTRITION&FOOD Published February11, 2015 By Staff Reporter

What Do Your Food Cravings Say About Your Health?

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(Photo : John Pryke / Getty Images News) Craving for chocolate? It might mean something else.

A new report reveals that having cravings signal us that the body is missing something. The body is sending messages and signals to the brain in order to keep a balance among all the vitamins and minerals in the body. However, what do specific cravings for different foods mean?

A nutritionist, Shona Wilkinson, from the NutriCentre, London, said that when someone has cravings, it means that the body lacks something, may it be a vitamin, mineral or other compounds needed by the body.

She told Mail Online, "Cravings mainly indicate that our body is lacking a specific mineral or nutrient. As descendants from cave men - when the aim was to survive a day on one meal - we are craving food that is either high in fat or high in calories to provide us enough energy."

She added, "However, these days, we eat five times a day and we no longer need that additional energy or extra calories."

However, today, people still have cravings because the food available are mostly processed thus we lack many nutrients that are essential to the body. She reiterated that instead of giving in to cravings, it is always better to understand them and be aware of what message they are trying to tell us.

What if you crave something sweet? She explained to Mail Online that when we eat, the blood sugar rises and to be able to control this, insulin is also secreted by the pancreas. However, when carbohydrates and refined sugars are ingested, it will hit the bloodstream fast that is why more insulin is released to compensate on this surge.

Once the body goes back to normal, sugar levels go down. But because the body released much insulin, the sugar level will be very low signaling the body that it needs more sugar. Hence, you will crave for more sweets. The bottom line is, the more sweets and carbohydrates you eat, the more cravings you will have for sweets. This is called being a sweet tooth.

Hence, she advises foods that will keep a steady flow of insulin and sugar in the body. Eating a hearty breakfast and vegetables throughout the day will be helpful. Eating foods rich in chromium helps in maintaining insulin levels and suppressing cravings. It can be found in liver, kidney, beef, chicken, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, whole grains and eggs.

What if you crave chocolate bars? Ms. Wilkinson said that if you are craving for chocolate, it might be a sign that the body needs magnesium. It is an important mineral that helps support the immune system by preventing inflammation. It can help ease anxiety and is crucial for bone health. Dark chocolates with contain cocoa can be taken to ease this craving.

Other sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, spinach, kale, flaxseed, and nuts.

If you are craving for pasta, pizza, bread or potatoes, you might lack tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, as described by Medline Plus, which means the body cannot produce it and it can only be taken from the food we eat.

Tryptophan is important in the synthesis of niacin and serotonin which are needed to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood.

If you crave for meat, you might be lacking zinc and iron. Ms. Wilkinson said, "Iron plays a vital role in supporting the immune system, as it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body. Without it, we become fatigued and tired."

Eating red meat at least once a week may help curb this craving.

Lastly, if you crave for salt or salty foods, you lack sodium. Sometimes, certain conditions cause depletion of sodium in the body. Dehydration is one of the culprits in this scenario. To combat this, you can eat something salty like anchovies and salted popcorn.

With all the information presented, it can be concluded that having cravings is the same as being thirsty, which signals the body lacks water. 

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