Are Food Cravings Signs of A Nutrient Deficiency?

Dr Elisabeth
Dr Elisabeth

Are food cravings a sign of a nutrient deficiency and if so what can you do about it?

Most people put cravings down to being psychological. That chocolate you reached for last night, was probably out of some night time boredom for example.

A lot of cravings, however, especially cravings that seem different to normal, can be the result of nutrient deficiencies. Your body is an incredibly complex system that is always trying to achieve a state of perfect balance or homeostasis, and because of this, it provides you with a wide range of subtle signals that are designed to incentivise you to undergo proper bodily maintenance.

Food cravings are one example of a type of signal that your body uses to tell you that it’s out of balance. We’re going to talk about how to decode common cravings and provide your body with what it really needs below.

So nutrient deficiencies can cause food cravings?

When your body is deficient in a particular nutrient, it can send a signal to your brain to pass along this info. Your conscious mind then decodes this signal as the urge to eat a certain type of food. But in reality, the signal that your body sent simply indicates that you should consume a certain nutrient, not an entire unbalanced meal. Think about pregnancy cravings. Tthis is often the baby and your body telling you that you need more of a nutrient – that’s why milk and cereal are so common, because calcium is vital for the development of a healthy little baby!

For instance, if your body is deficient in magnesium, your brain will receive a signal that more is needed to maintain homeostasis. Since chocolate is an excellent (if somewhat unhealthy) source of magnesium, your mind converts this biochemical nudge into the craving for chocolate. But if you were taking a multivitamin – you may not get as many cravings for chocolate.

But, as well as magnesium, chocolate also contains sugar, so it’s not the most ideal source of this magnesium. By learning what common food cravings really mean, you can avoid unhealthy, compulsive eating choices and boost your health by specifically targeting certain nutrients instead.

Why do you get food cravings?

Food cravings can be the result of a wide variety of psychological and physiological reasons. It’s natural to want foods that you like and enjoy binging on. This type of food craving is benign even if it has a tendency to get out of control. Psychological disturbances like depression and anxiety can also cause food cravings, and food cravings related to poor mental health usually stem from the dopamine rush that eating can provide. It’s important to look at your supplements with an open approach, CBD could also help you with easing the stressful factors that would cause you to overeat and crave too.

How do you work out your nutrient deficiency and curb your cravings?

To determine if your food craving is the result of a nutrient deficiency, ask yourself:

  • Is the craving persistent? (does a craving last more than a few hours?)
  • Is the craving independent of your mood? (are you craving when you’re feeling happy as well as sad/comfort eating?)
  • Is the craving outside of your usual food preferences? (nutrient deficiencies can sometimes cause us to crave foods we already like, but craving unusual foods is just as common)

Are food cravings a sign of a nutrient deficiency – if you answered YES to all three of these questions, you should look to your nutritional intake to help to solve your cravings.

How to replace food cravings

  • Curb cravings for cake, chocolate, or sweets with fresh fruit
  • Replace cravings for meat with sources of plant protein like legumes, peas, or tofu
  • Curb cravings for dairy with leafy greens
  • Replace cravings for crisps with pickles or salted nuts
  • Curb cravings for ice cream with greek yoghurt
  • Take vitamin supplements to help curb the need for more nutrients

Are food cravings a sign of a nutrient deficiency?

In conclusion, although there are many factors that affect your cravings including hormones, mood, stress levels as well as depression. There can also be some super simple supplement switches to make to help you achieve a better balance. More body balance means less cravings and a healthier well-balanced approach to life.