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Does Your Body Crave Foods That It Needs?

By Beverly Bird

Researchers at Flinders University in Australia determined in 2010 that food cravings are at least partially psychological, but others theorize that they are the result of your body demanding some nutrient. Not many studies have been done on the topic, but some links between what your body needs and what your body is telling you it wants have been established. The source of your cravings could be a vitamin deficiency or a metabolic imbalance.

Brain Chemistry

Your need for chocolate might be your body’s reaction to low serotonin levels. Your brain produces serotonin from tryptophan, and chocolate is high in tryptophan. So are bananas, red meat and peanuts. A binge on any simple carbohydrates can also result in a serotonin rush. Depression or an imbalanced diet can both affect your serotonin levels, and tryptophan-rich foods can lift them again to make you feel better. Adequate levels of serotonin result in a relaxed, pleasant mood. Fatty foods can also affect your brain’s opioids, including serotonin, which lift mood.

Mineral Deficiencies

“Women’s Health” indicates that salt cravings might come from a calcium deficiency. Sodium can raise your calcium levels, although this is a temporary fix and should not take the place of calcium-rich foods in your diet. A sudden craving for salty potato chips or french fries might also be the result of low potassium or iron, according to Dr. Alan Hirsch, author of “What Flavor Is Your Personality?”

Metabolic Disturbances

Metabolic disturbances can also cause a craving for salt, according to the Mayo Clinic. Addison’s disease, an adrenal disorder, can cause your body to demand salt. Insulin resistance affects your body’s ability to absorb glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. This can bring on regular cravings for carb-heavy foods, such as pasta and sweets.

Other Factors

Pregnancy is also renowned for inciting cravings in women and theories exist that a nutritional deficit is the cause, as pregnant women's bodies demand something their babies need. A lack of magnesium might spark a need for chocolate. A voracious need for red meat might be your body’s request for protein. However, BabyCenter indicates that these are just theories and no research has really supported them. Not all food cravings stem from deficiencies either. Hirsch indicates that a need for spicy food might reflect your body’s need to cool down. Exceptionally hot food can make you sweat, and sweat is your body’s defense against overheating.

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