A women looking at a number of cakes and tarts

What do your cravings mean?

Food cravings usually mean your body is trying to tell you something. Here’s how to listen.

Are you craving certain foods on your diet? There could be a physical reason for your cravings. Here are some of the most common cravings explained.

A need for energy

One of the main reasons the body craves extra food on a diet is that it wants more energy. Calories are a unit of energy. So when you diet and start losing body fat, your body will do everything in its power to maintain balance. This includes sending out powerful signals to make you want to eat. But this isn’t helpful if you are overweight and need to reduce your weight for health reasons. Don’t forget we have another powerful source of energy available to us, and it’s calorie-free. Extra sleep and rest are very useful when you are on a diet.

If you are having cravings on your diet, look at what you have been eating. Choose foods which replace key missing vitamins, minerals, or micronutrients. When you are in a calorie deficit, you need to be careful about nourishing your body and making good food choices.

Craving fatty foods

If you are craving cheese, fried foods, or other high-fat options, you could need more essential fatty acids. Introduce oily fish, whole eggs, avocado, or take a good quality fish oil supplement.

Chocolate cravings

Chocolate is a combination of fats and sugars (carbohydrates) but it also contains significant vitamins and minerals. So your body might be asking for magnesium, chromium, or B vitamins as well as essential fats. Try 90% chocolate or 100% cacao. Buy a small bar, or better still try cacao nibs which are pure chocolate. Raw chocolate can be useful because it has more minerals than normal chocolate. Chocolate cravings can indicate a need for happy hormones like seratonin. Consider a non-food treat like an early night, a cuddle with your pet, or some quality time with a loved one.

Craving starch and carbohydrates

If you are cravings savoury carbs, it’s a sign that you are low on energy. To an extent, this is to be expected. An energy imbalance is the only way to lose unwanted weight. But carb cravings can also indicate blood sugar fluctuations. Fill up on fibre-rich carbohydrate foods like fruit (apples and bananas are a good choice), root vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables.

 Cravings for sugar

Sugar is a difficult craving to manage. Sugar is totally lacking in essential nutrients, so in this example your body is not crying out for nutrition. It’s more likely that your body is asking for fast energy, or that it is replaying an old habit loop. Giving in to sugar cravings will make dieting much more difficult. Don’t get back onto the sugar spiral. Try fruit or berries, ideally combined with some protein to fill you up. Real Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese, with frozen berries and some 90%+ dark chocolate, is a great idea. And drink some water. Experts think we crave sugar more often when we are slightly dehydrated.

Salt cravings

Some people crave salty foods like crisps, chips, and savoury snacks. This is linked to low levels of electrolytes, dehydration, and stress. Add electrolyte drops or tablets to your water. And eat more Vitamin B foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables.

Unusual cravings

Are you craving things like ice, clay, chalk, or dirt? It’s not as unusual as you might think. These types of non-food cravings point to a mineral deficiency. Make sure you’re eating lots of dark leafy greens, green vegetables, nuts, and seeds.