//Root Causes of Craving Certain Foods


About Cravings

Have you ever experienced a food craving so strong that you cannot shake it until you eat that particular food? What causes this? Why does it happen?

There is not only one kind of hunger. There is the kind of hunger that is driven from a physical need to eat, also called homeostatic hunger. There is also a Hedonic hunger that is a desire to eat food for pleasure, which is why we gravitate towards comfort foods. Sometimes we crave foods because our body actually needs it. Other times, it’s more of a self soothing act.

For instance, we may crave salty foods for a physical reason because our body actually needs the salt after a hard workout where a lot of salt was lost through sweating. Or, we might crave it out of a need for comfort since it may be associated with potato chips or the like that we may gravitate toward to satisfy a Hedonic hunger.

Physical Hunger Stems from Homeostasis

Being healthy means being in a state of complete wholeness with physical and emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Health is a state of this wellbeing in which disease is not be present. Biologically speaking, homeostasis is the state of constant internal, physical, and chemical conditions maintained by living systems. This is the optimal functioning condition for all organisms. To maintain homeostasis in the human body, it must sustain a constant body temperature and fluid balance that is within a homeostatic range that has already been pre-determined. Other variables of homeostasis, that together maintain life, include pH levels of extracellular fluid, sodium concentration levels, potassium and calcium ions, and blood sugar levels. All of these need to stay regulated regardless of any changes in the environment, diet, or activity level.

Hedonic Hunger Stems from A Psychological State of Mind

When we are sad, stressed, or feeling uneasy, we might crave foods that we associate with calming or comfort. These foods quite often have no contribution to homeostasis health but rather are associated with happy times. They are often foods laden in saturated fats and come in the form of salty or sweet, such as potato chips, ice cream, or even savory dishes like mac ‘n cheese.

Listen to Your Body

It is important to listen to your body to learn what foods you are naturally drawn to. Sometimes, the craving may indicate a need to balance out something in a physical sense. Typically, however, a lot of food cravings are linked to emotional root causes. A lot of food cravings begin in regions of the brain which are responsible for memory, pleasure, or rewards. We might crave something with a specific texture, for instance, such as something crunchy, soft, creamy, or smooth. These textures tend to correspond to specific emotions. Additionally, we often think we are hungry when really we are dehydrated. The fastest way to know if you are needing water is to drink a glass of water, and wait before eating any food. If the craving goes away, chances are you needed fluids and not food. 


  • If you experience hot flashes, stay away from chocolate. Instead, take some good quality magnesium.
  • Craving chocolate is often an actual cry for love, romance, or intimacy.
  • Craving dairy products is often a cry for an anti-depressant. The soothing choline, calming l-tryptophan, sugar, and lactose provide a temporary surge of energy with a comforting creamy texture.
  • Nuts or crunchy snacks are salty and help with anger, anxiety, and stress.
  • High fat foods fill emptiness.
  • Breads and starches provide calm and comfort.
  • Cookies and cakes provide reassurance and please us.
  • Spicy foods fulfill a drive for excitement.

Root Cause of Cravings

Falling in line right after blood sugar imbalance, the second most frequent root cause of food cravings is linked to our emotional state. Often, we eat to numb or suppress emotional pain, to relieve stress, eliminate or mask sadness, loneliness, or anger. A few signs that hunger is triggered emotionally include:

  • Sudden hunger or an urgency
  • Desire for a specific food
  • Craving accompanied by a negative emotion
  • Absent-minded eating
  • Unable to recognize satiety or a feeling of fullness
  • Eating associated with guilt

Foods to Avoid

Options for Potato Chip Cravings

When you feel a potato chip urge coming on, replace them with a healthier option that is higher in healthy fat and protein, like cashews or walnuts. Exchange them for kale chips, air-popped popcorn, or crunchy produce such as apples, celery, or carrots. Dip the veggies in hummus.

Options for Chocolate Cravings

When a craving for chocolate comes on, your body may be needing magnesium. Some find that they are able to satisfy their chocolate craving by eating magnesium-rich foods, like almonds. If the chocolate craving is intense and nothing else will do, use dark, dairy-free chocolate with no additives. Make sure it contains at least 70 percent cocoa. Dark chocolate’s intensity makes you feel more satisfied.

Options for Soda Cravings

Instead of soda, sparkling water with a spritz of fruit juice or a slice of orange can help. It will provide a similar taste sensation as soda does but with less calories and no caffeine.

Options for Cheese Cravings

Purchase low-fat and low-sodium cheeses for when the craving strikes. Some people like nutritional yeast on their food that offers a savory, cheesy flavor with less calories than cheese. The nutritional yeast is also rich in B-complex vitamins, folic acid, and is often fortified with Vitamin B12.

Options for Candy or Pastries Cravings

Candy or pastries and sugar cravings can be satisfied with whole fruits, like peaches, melon, or cherries. Keep dried fruits, like prunes or raisins, handy to combat these cravings. A lot of times when you crave carbs, it could be nitrogen that you need. A real apple or other fruit should quench these cravings.

Caffeine Cravings

If you find yourself craving caffeine or feeling as though you need it to function, try switching to decaf or trying alternatives like green tea or herbal tea. Caffeine cravings could be attributed to adrenal fatigue, so it’s important to speak to your naturopath to help re-balance your adrenals.

Foods that Help

When we crave chocolate, it could mean we need magnesium. Eating nuts, seeds, veggies and fruits may help.

When we crave bread, pasta or other carbs, we may need nitrogen. Instead, eat high protein foods, meat, fatty fish, nuts, beans, and chia seeds.

When we crave oily foods, we may need calcium. Drink organic milk instead, and eat cheese, or green leafy vegetables.

When we crave salty foods, we may need chloride or silicon. Meet these needs by eating fatty fish, goats milk, cashews, nuts, or seeds.

When we crave sugary foods, we may need chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, or tryptophan. Instead of the sugary food, eat broccoli, grapes, cheese, chicken, fresh fruits, chicken, beef, fatty fish, eggs, dairy, cranberries, horseradish, cabbage, cauliflower, cheese, raisins, sweet potatoes, or spinach.

When we crave sugar, the first thing to do is get more fiber and protein in our diet as well as healthy fats and sour foods.

Protein helps balance out blood sugar which often helps reduce sugar cravings. Some of the best protein-rich foods include grass-fed beef, whey protein, lentils, wild fish like salmon, mackerel, or tuna, organic chicken, black beans, Natto, raw milk, kefir, yogurt, free-range eggs, or raw cheese.

Add fiber to your diet by consuming more high-fiber foods like vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Some great fiber-rich foods include avocados, Asian pears, berries, coconut, figs, artichokes, peas, okra, acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, turnips, black beans, chickpeas, Lima beans, split peas, and quinoa.

Sour foods are often probiotic-rich and include kombucha, Natto, Kvass, raw cheese, miso, tempeh, brine-cured olives, and salted gherkin pickles.

Emotional Component

Since foods can provide a feeling of satisfaction, replacing a negative emotion like loneliness with a positive emotion, like the joy that comes from eating a piece of chocolate cake, is a natural response. When we experience satisfaction, our brain is flooded with dopamine which adds to the motivation to keep eating, since this is the action that our brain understands is making us feel good.

Craving sugar or carbohydrates is one of the top types of food cravings. Salt is another big culprit. Craving salt could be due to a physical need, but is usually something more emotionally triggered. A physical reason to need salt would be after endurance exercise with excessive sweating or if we are becoming dehydrated from excessive workouts or due to a stomach bug when we need our electrolytes balanced and sodium replenished.

Herbs and Vitamins that Help

Sometimes chocolate cravings may mean a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium regulates glucose and insulin levels as well as the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Sugar cravings can be caused by a deficiency in zinc. Zinc helps the body metabolize insulin and glucose.

L-glutamine is an amino acid that balances blood sugar and helps to reduce cravings. It can be taken with meals or as soon as the sugar craving hits. All it takes is a little bit on the tip of a spoon.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid and D-phenylalanine are supplements that soothe the mind and help reduce carbohydrate cravings and emotional binge-eating.

Chromium picolinate is a nutrient that is used in dietary supplements that may help reduce hunger, cravings and binge eating.

Vitamin B complex helps metabolize carbs and improve the use of what carbs you do eat so you don’t feel the need to eat more than necessary.

Resveratrol is in red wine. It improves the body’s ability to absorb glucose into muscle tissue. This helps to store energy, which in turn, reduces the craving for sugar.

Fish oil enhances insulin sensitivity and is good for appetite control to help curb carbohydrate cravings.

Lipase is good for those whose blood sugar tends to fluctuate a great deal. A deficiency could contribute to sugar cravings. It also helps to break down and burn fat.

Lipoic acid helps to stabilize blood sugar and speed up carbohydrate metabolization. It is usually an ingredient in antioxidant supplements. 

Digestion Effect

There are trillions of microorganisms that live in our gut. This is known as microbiota. It is the part of our body that is responsible for digestion of food. When it comes to obesity, these tiny organisms may play a big role by influencing what foods we crave.

Essential Oils that May Help

Grapefruit oil is helpful to use when cravings are out of control, and overeating is a problem. Just the smell of grapefruit oil helps to alleviate cravings and may even help you lose weight.

Peppermint oil boost energy levels and reduces fatigue. It reduces hunger cravings and can help you feel fuller faster.

Lemon oil improves the neurological activity that promotes the breakdown of body fat. This essential oil contains both stimulating and calming properties. It promotes a positive mood and supports healthy digestion.

Ginger essential oil supports digestion and the absorption of nutrients. A key compound in the oil is gingerol that reduces inflammation and boosts antioxidants.

Cinnamon oil helps to balance blood sugar levels.

Stress Effect

High cortisol levels that come from stress can increase food cravings for sugary or fatty foods. Stress is also associated with increased hunger hormones which contribute to cravings for foods that are not always healthy.

Hormones that Affect or are Affected

Pregnant women experience very strong food cravings for specific tastes which could be because of hormonal changes that disrupt the taste and smell receptors. An imbalance of hormones, such as serotonin or leptin, could bring on food cravings. There is also a possibility that food cravings are caused by endorphins that are released into the body after we eat which mirror an addiction response.
















Raya Shanazarian

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