Research suggests that craving high-fat foods triggers the production of uplifting brain chemicals. Peanut butter, while delicious, happens to be rich in beta-sitosterol, a plant compound that eases anxiety and enhances wellbeing. Research has shown that beta-sitosterol significantly increased levels of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. Peanuts are also high in calming magnesium and tryptophan, an amino acid that is crucial to the production of serotonin.
“These pretzels are making me thirsty!” It’s a line immortalised by the hit show Seinfeld, but for some the craving for pretzels can be a sign of tension. Research indicates that higher blood levels of sodium thwarted the release of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. So, crunching some pretzels can help release frustration and ease stress-induced tension in the jaw. Other studies indicate that people with low levels of sodium crave things like pretzels which are considered a salty snack, as sodium depletion dramatically increases our desire for such foods and drinks.
Other things to note are your menstrual cycle. Some studies suggest that fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone levels can boost one’s desire for sodium, often seen in women in the last two weeks of their menstrual cycle who had much higher cravings for salt.
If you find yourself craving bread, pasta, rice, and other refined, simple carbs, it can be an indication of blood sugar imbalances. That, or you’re suffering from lack of sleep. Research has shown that sleep deprivation disrupts hunger-regulating hormones, prompting the body to eat more while also triggering a craving for carbs, specifically those of the refined variety. It’s often the case that those who are sleep deprived reach for high-carb snacks, rather than protein-rich foods.
Who doesn’t love chocolate? But if you’re doing multiple trips to the shops just for a block of Lindt, then it might be an indication that you’re lacking magnesium. Cocoa is an excellent source of this mineral which plays an important role in everything from hydration to mental health. Other studies have found that mood can be associated with chocolate cravings, with one report suggesting those with depression had a significantly higher intake of chocolate.
If you’re craving a burger or juicy steak, it might be a sign you’re lacking iron in your diet, particularly if you’re frequently fatigued. Iron is essential for healthy red blood cell production. Deficiencies of iron can lead to anemia, low energy, weakness and fatigue. Many find that craving meat is also associated with the vitamin B12 which is found in meat, and plays an important role in red blood cell production.
Cravings for sugar-saturated snacks like cookies and other lollies could indicate blood sugar imbalances and early insulin resistance. If untreated, these two concerns could significantly increase your risk for diabetes. Other studies suggest craving cookies and sweets is a sign of mineral deficiencies like zinc and magnesium, while others put it down to stress.
Cravings for spicy food often prompt the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that interact with opiate receptions int he brain and promote feel-good feelings. Some research even suggests that capsaicin - the compound that gives peppers their kick - can have antidepressant-like effects.