What Your Food Cravings Actually Mean

Did you know that your cravings can actually have a meaning behind them? Knowing what your cravings mean will help you identify what your body needs to help kick those cravings away!

What Your Food Cravings Actually Mean
María Rubio María Rubio
6 min read

Craving specific foods is something we all go through from time to time, and sometimes it happens more frequently than we’d like. If you’re trying to keep up with your fitness goals, like weight loss or muscle building, giving in to your cravings can feel like you’re hindering your progress, and it can be very frustrating, but that’s just how your body communicates with you!

When you find yourself craving something a lot, that’s probably your brain sending you signals because there’s something off with your body. It could be that you have some nutrient deficiencies, or maybe it’s an emotional issue, like stress. Your brain knows exactly what your body needs in order to function correctly, you just need to learn what those signals mean! Here we’ll explain everything about your specific cravings, why you get them, and how you can fix them.

Sweet cravings

Getting a sweet tooth in the middle of the day happens to the best of us. You’re going about your day as you usually do and suddenly get the urge to eat some sweet foods or snacks, like candy, or maybe a cup of ice cream. Sweet cravings are very common, and you probably think that’s just your mind trying to sabotage your body, but in reality it’s just that signal that we talked about earlier! When it comes to craving a big piece of chocolate cake or maybe your favorite chocolate bar, for example, it could be because you have a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium plays an important role in regulating your blood sugar levels, and it’s found in cocoa, which is probably why your body is looking to raise those levels with a good piece of chocolate.

Sugar cravings have also been linked to negative emotions like stress or sadness. Research shows that stress can increase the consumption of comfort foods, which are usually high in sugar and fats, such as cake and cookies. [1]

How to tackle this craving: If you’re experiencing chocolate cravings, then dark chocolate is your best option because it’s healthier and contains more cocoa, hence more magnesium, than a regular chocolate bar. They’re also a powerful source of antioxidants, but to get a truly beneficial piece of dark chocolate with minimal sugar, look for at least 80% cocoa. If you want to avoid chocolate altogether, there are many foods that are rich in magnesium that you can try! Bananas and nuts are two examples of magnesium-rich foods that work perfectly as a midday snack. Other sources of magnesium include leafy greens, whole grains, and lentils. Or you could also try going out for a walk to clear your mind if you’re feeling anxious or stressed!

Salty cravings

Feeling a sudden craving for some salty snacks, like a bag of chips or some popcorn, possibly right after you finished your workout? Don’t worry, it’s not your body acting up, you’re just probably low on electrolytes! When you sweat a lot, you lose important electrolytes such as sodium and chloride, which help balance the amount of water and other fluids in your body and keeps it running in tip-top shape. Basically, you lose salt through sweat, and your body is just looking to get that salt back in through salty foods. If you’re an avid gym-goer or have very intense workouts, you need to be careful and avoid dehydration when exercising in order for your muscles to perform well and be able to finish your workout smoothly.

How to tackle this craving: Hydration! Drinking water is always important, but if you’re suddenly craving something salty then a healthy amount of water can make that craving go away. Having electrolyte supplements for your workouts is also a good idea in order to support your gym efforts and replenish those missing electrolytes that your body needs. If you want to eat something instead of drinking it, aim for foods that are naturally higher in salts, such as carrots and beets, or add a dash of pink Himalayan salt to your food to get those minerals in. But remember to prioritize water, it’s your best friend!

Spicy cravings

Spicy foods are a staple in many cuisines, but casually enjoying red chili peppers and hot sauces is not the same as actively craving them. This may come as a shock to you, but if you suddenly feel the urge to eat spicy foods, it could be because you’re overheated. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? After all, spicy food feels hot in your mouth. The science behind this is that chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which plays a role in your body’s thermoregulation, opening pathways for heat loss and helping regulate your body temperature. [2] A lack of variety in your regular diet can also be the cause of your sudden spicy craving. It’s your body telling you to get a little bit bolder with your foods in order to get additional nutrients that you may not be getting from a monotonous diet.

You could also find yourself craving spicy food if you’re experiencing congestion due to allergies or the flu, since it helps to clear up your sinuses, even if it is for a short while.

How to tackle this craving: Just like with salty cravings, having a glass of water can do so much for your body! It can help you cool down and refresh your body, along with taking a moment to relax and wind down. Changing up your diet a little bit can also help you calm down those cravings by entertaining your palate with new and different foods. If you feel like you absolutely need to have something spicy, try cutting up your favorite veggies and pairing them with some healthy spicy hummus or make a stir fry with some jalapeno peppers!

Carb heavy cravings

Your body uses carbohydrates as its primary source of energy in order to properly function and gets you through the day. When you’re low on carbs, your energy decreases, and your brain sends the signal that you need to replenish those energy levels, which is why you may get a sudden craving for carbs like a plate of pasta or some of your favorite rice. This can happen often to people who follow a low-carb diet like the keto diet, because depriving yourself of a certain kind of food can lead you to crave it even more, even if you’re getting your nutrients and energy from other sources, like fats.

How to tackle this craving: Carbs are an important macronutrient, and you need to make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet. If you want to tackle this craving in a healthy way rather than just giving in to whatever you find in your way, we suggest that you prioritize complex carbs! Complex carbs are more nutritious and have less impact on your blood sugar, and you can find them in whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal, as well as in sweet potatoes, legumes like chickpeas, and lentils, quinoa, and zucchini, to name a few sources.

High fat cravings

This one is pretty straightforward. Have you been craving fatty or oily foods recently, like some french fries or fried chicken? Then that’s probably because you’re in need of… fats. No, fat is not your enemy like some may make it seem, and yes, your body needs fats to correctly function! Healthy fats are important because, when broken down into fatty acids, they provide your body with energy, support cell growth, and help absorb certain nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you’re following a low-fat diet, your body is going to naturally crave those fats that it needs, and even if you’re not following any particular diet, you could still be neglecting some foods that contain those much-needed fats.

How to tackle this craving: When you think about fatty foods, your brain probably goes to fast food and junk food in general. And while you may be craving those specific foods, try to keep these heavily processed foods to a minimum and make some clever food swaps with nutrient-rich whole foods instead! One of our favorite food swaps is replacing your regular french fries or potato chips with sweet potatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, which is a healthy fat that you can totally use to tackle that craving! Other healthy high-fat foods that you can try are avocados, nut butters, chia seeds, and fatty fishes.

As you can now see, your brain knows what’s best for your overall wellness, and it’ll let you know in no time! What’s actually important when dealing with these different food cravings is understanding that the issue may be deeper than just hunger. Keeping your body in optimal health should be your number one priority, so keeping a balanced diet that includes all of the necessary micro and macronutrients is key to avoid any deficiencies. And if you don’t know exactly how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming, you can try our Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator! We’ll ask you a few quick questions, like your age, body type, and activity level in order to calculate the macros and calories that you should be consuming daily so that you can keep a track of your diet and overall lifestyle!