What You Are Craving May Not Be What Your Body Needs

Craving and body needs for weight loss

You’ve had a stressful day and all you can think about is diving into a bowl of ice cream. You know that is probably not a good idea, but what to do about it? A Texas A&M Dietitian has the answer.


For most of us, food cravings are especially bad during stressful or anxious times. We especially often crave carbohydrates because it boosts levels of serotonin, which has a calming effect. Unfortunately, it often also leads to excess calorie intake and, in the end, may not really be what your body needs.

Taylor Newhouse, an RD with the Texas A&M School of Public Health suggests that what we crave may actually signal another issue.

For example, if you develop an intense desire for something salty, like chips or pretzels, you may actually be deficient in another mineral, such as iron. Newhouse suggests eating foods high in calcium, potassium, and iron may help combat these cravings. Try drinking a glass of low-fat milk, eating yogurt, snacking on a banana, or making a salad with dark leafy greens.

If you are craving chocolate, Newhouse says you may actually be in need of magnesium (chocolate has high levels.) Try eating dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, or dried fruit instead.

Sometimes, the body misguides us a little, and we interpret thirst as hunger. Try drinking a glass of water when a craving hits and you may just “hit the spot.”


Obviously, if you binge-eat out of stress, the best course of action is to do something to relieve that stress. Tackle those problems that get in the way of your happiness. Do some deep-breathing or meditation. Of course, you could get two birds with one stone with exercise (ie: stress reduction plus calorie burning).

Knowing that we all will get bored or overwhelmed at some point in our lives, have a plan in advance on how you can handle the situation. For example, if you are craving something fatty, such as French Fries, try “feeding” the fat craving with an unsaturated fat, such as avocado or nuts. If you are craving sugar, try a fruit rather than a candy bar.

Also, remember that trying to go too long between meals often leaves you feeling fatigued as your body tries to keep blood glucose levels stable. Eat small healthy meals every couple of hours and you are less likely to reach for something convenient (fast food, junk food) for energy.

"Eating a recommended, balanced diet will cover most of your cravings," says Newhouse. “However, as a society, we tend to avoid the green things on our plate and we miss out on key nutrients our body needs."

Texas A&M University. "What do my cravings say about my health?" ScienceDaily, 14 June 2016. .

Photo Credit:
By David Shankbone - Own work, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons