Post from the Past: What Do You Crave?

Ever wonder why you crave pickles or coconut or a ham sandwich? Chocolate and ice cream cravings make sense to many of us because they taste so good. But that’s not the only reason!

We all experience cravings, some more than others. If you start to pay attention and maybe even keep a food diary, you can sometimes recognize patterns. Cravings can be emotional, but a lot of times they are your body’s way of demanding a certain nutrient. That’s why it’s important not to deny your cravings, but to figure out what they mean and how to meet them in a healthy way.

First, Try These Simple Steps

1. Drink water. A large percentage of all cravings can be satisfied by hydrating your body.

2. Use a tongue scraper. Clearing your palate of sensation will reduce cravings and prevent eating something to get rid of a “bad taste.”

Craving dairy?

A craving for dairy, whether cheese, milk, ice cream, or something more specific, can mean that your body is in the market for fat. Healthy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not make you fat. In fact, it’s essential to losing weight, as well as brain function and absorption of nutrients (which makes you feel satisfied and full sooner).

Try these healthy fats.

They key here is to avoid polyunsaturated, omega-6 rich vegetable oils (soy, corn, safflower, and canola) at all costs and go for saturated fats. If you don’t use fat to cook with, now is a good time to start. Cooking with olive oil at medium temperatures and coconut oil at any temperature does adds taste and nutritional benefit to your food that makes the additional calories negligible. Try it, and you’ll find that it’s easier to lose weight and keep it off.

Animal fats are also incredibly beneficial, despite popular belief that saturated fat is bad for you. Actually, saturated fat is the most stable fat, meaning that it does not break down and become rancid at high temperatures, like polyunsaturated fats do. It also contains vitamin D and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Do make sure that you are eating organic meat, and that it has been pasture raised and grass fed (cows) or caught wild (fish). Organic butter from grass-fed cows is also highly beneficial. If you eat dairy, be sure to eat full-fat products, in which the nutrients and minerals (including calcium) are more absorbable, and which satiate you more. Raw dairy contains many health benefits.

Finally, monounsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, avocado) are also highly stable and beneficial, though nuts can be high in copper and are best soaked overnight before consuming.

Craving sugar?

Sugar is addictive, so it’s easy to fall into a cycle of needing more and more of it. Using sugar-free products containing aspartame is not a solution; it’s a gamble with your health, as calorie-free sugar substitutes have been linked to nervous system dysfunction, among other things. And while new-fad sweeteners like agave nectar claim to be healthy, their processing makes these supposed benefits are highly controversial.

Try sweet vegetables, fruits, and natural sugars.

To satisfy the sweet urge, sweet vegetables such as winter squashes (acorn, delicata, spaghetti, butternut), sweet potatoes, beets, rutabegas, turnips, radishes, cabbage, corn, carrots, onions, beets, parsnips, daikon radish, and burdock root.

Fruit can also be beneficial, though stay away from fruit juices because the natural fiber in fruit helps balance out blood sugar.

Also consider natural sugars such as raw honey (try to buy local if possible), date sugar, Rapadura (dehydrated sugar cane juice that still contains B vitamins and other nutrients to help regulate blood sugar), and maple syrup (buy organic and make sure it has not been processed using formaldehyde).

Craving potato chips?

Craving a salty snack can indicate a nutrient deficiency, so nutrient-dense foods are your best bet.

Try dark, leafy greens.

This may not sound very satisfying at first, but kale, collards, broccoli, arugula and other dark leafy greens are packed with vitamins, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, potasand phosophorus. Not only that, but these minerals are much more absorbable than those found in pasteurized dairy products. In addition, greens require a lot of chewing, even when cooked, so this will satisfy the texture craving for crunchy foods like potato chips and pretzels.

Craving coffee, chocolate, or beer?

Cravings for these foods indicate a stressed liver. When the liver is blocked and overloaded, it may cause cravings for these bitter flavors that cause temporary movement and relief; however, alcohol and caffeine only cause more blockage in the long run.

Try foods that support the liver.

There’s nothing your liver loves more than raw foods, so organic vegetables and fruits are your number one friend here, especially garlic and onions, apples, lemon, cruciferous vegtables, and dark leafy greens. A lemon juice and olive oil dressing further promotes liver support and maximum absorption of nutrients. Dandelion and milk thistle tea can also be beneficial to the liver, and if you need a caffeine fix, green tea is a great substitute that still provides energy along with antioxidants.

I wouldn’t dream of asking you to give up chocolate, but try organic dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate or conventional candies, which are usually laden with sugar and preservatives. If you can find it, raw cacao is actually a superfood with many health benefits.

Craving your favorite creamy beverage?

Vanilla or chocolate soymilk may seem like a healthy treat, but think again. Non-fermented and genetically modified soy have serious side effects, among them links to reproductive issues, sterility, and breast cancer. By the same token, lattes are usually made with non-organic dairy, which means antibiotics and added hormones.

Try coconut smoothies and rooibos tea.

If you’re looking for a cold, creamy drink, a smoothie made with coconut milk, natural vanilla flavor, and a frozen banana is a surprisingly delicious, healthy sweet treat. (Add a tablespoon of raw cacao if you want chocolate.) If you need something hot and comforting, rooibos tea is full of antioxidents with a rich flavor. It’s caffeine-free, and many varieties are naturally sweet. My favorite is Yogi Chai Rooibos.

Craving entertainment, comfort, or movement?

Many times when we are bored, stressed, or lonely, we fill the void with food. Becoming aware of what we are really wanting can help reduce emotional eating. If you are lonely, call a friend, attend a local cultural function, or take yourself on a date to a movie you’ve been wanting to see or dinner with a good book. Go out for a walk or sign up for an exercise class you’ve never tried before, or treat yourself to a few sessions with a personal trainer. Fulfill a creative passion from your past: maybe you used to play an instrument, paint, or hike.

Also, when we are dissatisfied with a certain area of our life, such as a job or relationship, we turn to food to “feed” us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This can never create satiation, for while food can create a sense of emotional well-being, it is physical sustenance. Create balance by journaling, meditating, practicing yoga, attending a place of worship, or developing a spiritual practice. Evaluate your career and passions, and try to match them up. Let go of unhealthy relationships, or agree to work on them together. This takes time, so be patient with yourself.

What do you crave?

Post your craving and I’ll help you deconstruct it!

Originally posted 11/2/10 on

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