All of Your Food Cravings Explained

Food cravings decoded. Food cravings: one of the great mysteries of life. Fried chicken, salty potato chips, sugary sweet cereal, juicy watermelon — you’ve probably craved all of these foods at some point. But why does your sweet tooth come into full swing on some days, and your salty desires on others? Ahem, science.

The reasons for your food cravings

Whatever you’re yearning for, it may be your body’s way of telling you that you actually need something else. Yes, you heard that right: Potato chips might not be the cure-all.

Why am I craving chocolate?

There’s a reason why people say chocolate is medicine for a bad day — science says it actually boosts your mood. If you’re constantly hitting up the local convenience store for another Hershey’s bar, try thinking about what is driving you to the store in the first place. A study by the American Chemical Society found that chocolate boosted levels of serotonin and dopamine — ya know, the feel-good stuff. Chocolate also contains magnesium and theobromine, which are known to reduce stress levels and relax tense muscles. This might also explain why our body craves chocolate during the height of our menstrual cycle.

Why am I craving cheese?

And we’re talking more than just queso and chips. Ooey gooey Cheese — and other types of dairy — cravings may mean that your body is in need of more Vitamin A or D (most of us have a Vitamin D deficiency, after all). But it’s more likely that you just need a mood boost. Cheese — no matter how you slice it — contains l-tryptophan, a compound that improves mood and promotes relaxation. So maybe take a bath instead of indulging in a massive cheese plate?! Or do both. We won’t judge.

Why am I craving salt?

Whether you’re scouring the pantry for a bag of chips or loading up the salt on your french fries, salt is a major indicator of a mineral deficiency. Salty urges are linked to low levels of calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Some experts even think that our salty cravings are actually crunchy cravings in disguise. So maybe instead of a bag of chips, try a bag of carrots and see if that does it for ya.

Why am I craving carbs?

The real question is when are we not craving carbs?! Pasta, rice and bread are three of the world’s finest foods (we may be biased here). Regardless, Elizabeth DeRobertis, R.D. told Shape that carbohydrate cravings typically indicates low blood sugar levels. Like a lot of other foods, carbohydrates are also consumed for their mood-boosting properties. “Once a starchy food gets past the back of your tongue, your body treats it the same way as sugary sweets,” said Joseph Colella, MD in an interview with Cosmopolitan.That means that both carbs and sweets are signs that you need a mental break, emotional release or better yet, some overdue “me time.”

Why am I craving caffeine?

For starters, it could mean that you’re addicted. Or that you crave the feeling of a warm cup of joe. Both are highly likely. But caffeine’s energy boosting power could be a result of a lack of H20. “Picture a wilted plant that needs water,” DeRobertis says. “Shortly after you water it, it will perk back up. With people, it’s the same thing!” Moral of the story: If you’ve already had your latte in the morning, try balancing it with a big ol’ glass of water and see if you get a little more pep in your step that way.

Pay attention to your body — and your cravings — because it may have serious implications. Your body is constantly talking to you, so it’s time that you listen. Trust us: You’ll be better for it.

If you’re craving these foods, here are the vitamins you need

Your body’s always in need of key vitamins and nutrients that provide energy and circulation, boost your immune system, and strengthen your bones and muscles. But this is particularly true during the winter months, when the air is stripped of humidity and when certain fruits and veggies become less abundant in nutrients. That’s when you have to put a little extra effort into making sure you’re getting what your body needs.

Enter: These seven super minerals that help treat some of the top side effects of the season.

If you’re craving yogurt, spinach or beets, you need more calcium.

If you’re keeping up with your workout routine during the colder season (good for you!), you’ll want to amp up your calcium intake known for building and maintaining strong bones. Even if we’ve been spoiled with unusually warm weather lately, don’t forget that the snow and ice are sure to come, making you more prone to slips and falls. 

If you’re craving eggs or fish, you need more Vitamin D

Did you know that almost half of American adults are deficient in vitamin D? One of the main sources of this nutrient is sun exposure, yet we’ve been told time and time again to stay out of the sun. So how can you get your fill, especially during the winter months? Take supplements in the form of a pill, gelcap or even liquid, or load up on foods that are high in vitamin D, like milk, yogurt, eggs, fish and certain cereals.

If you’re craving avocados or red meat, you need more iron

Starting to feel so worn out you can hardly make it through the fitness classes you aced during the summer and fall? That very well might be your body’s response to a lack of iron, a mineral that helps boost energy levels and keeps you going even when the sun’s already set. Try taking supplements, or load up your plate with foods like spinach, avocados, lima and navy beans, lentils and red meat.

If you’re craving oranges or are feeling under the weather, you need more Vitamin C

You know to load up on this vitamin when you feel like you’re coming down with a cold, but it’s important to have your fill in the wintertime whether or not you’re sick. That’s because in most cases, there’s less vitamin C in the fruits and vegetables you’re eating from November through March, meaning you’ll need to eat even more of these superfoods—or rely on supplements—to support your body and avoid illness.

If you’re craving nuts or asparagus, you need more Vitamin E

If you’re prone to dry skin, hair and nails, you’re already probably lacking in this important vitamin. (The freezing temps and low humidity stripping away your body’s moisture don’t help, either.) To help bring back some much-needed moisture, stick with lukewarm showers and fill fill your plate with nuts like sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanuts, and veggies like asparagus, mustard greens and Swiss chard.

If you’re craving breads or leafy greens, you need more B vitamins

Feel down in the dumps when fall transitions into winter? You’re far from alone. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real thing, affecting 15% of the U.S. population. To combat depression and moodiness, load up on B vitamins, which are known to fight these symptoms and boost energy levels. Get your fill from whole grain cereals, bread, dark leafy greens, red meat and brown rice. See ya, stress!

If you’re craving lentils or raw spinach, you need more magnesium

Not having enough of this critical mineral can make you more susceptible to SAD symptoms by decreasing your body’s production of mood-stabilizing chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Magnesium also works to maintain your muscle and nerve function so you’re better capable of crushing it through squat thrusts and burpees in bootcamp class. The best way to boost your intake of the big M is to eat raw spinach, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, and avocados.

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