What Your Cravings ‘Might’ Be Telling You
Updated: Mar 27
There are many factors that can influence someone's food choices.
People tend to choose foods that taste good and that they enjoy.
People often eat foods that are part of their cultural or religious traditions.
People are more likely to choose foods that are readily available and accessible to them.
People often choose foods that are easy to prepare and require little time or effort.
The cost of food can influence people's choices, as they may choose cheaper options or opt for more expensive foods if they can afford it.
People may choose foods based on their health and nutrition needs, such as avoiding foods high in sugar or choosing foods rich in vitamins and minerals.
People may choose foods based on social situations or emotional needs, such as comfort food during times of stress or celebration foods during special occasions.
Advertising and marketing can influence people's food choices through branding, packaging, and messaging.
People may choose foods based on personal beliefs and values, such as ethical or environmental concerns.
Your circadian rhythm
Research has shown that the circadian rhythm can affect the timing of hunger and satiety signals. For example, your body may release the hunger hormone ghrelin in anticipation of meal times based on your circadian rhythm. This helps you feel hungry at certain times of the day, such as in the morning or early evening.
This can be engrained and trained into our patterns via habit, behaviour and repetition.
One amazing influence is that when hunger strikes, it is a sign of our bodies desire for nourishment and those cravings and flavour preferences may be signs of your unique needs.
For example, if someone craves red meat, it could be a sign that their body needs more iron. If someone craves citrus fruits, it could be a sign that their body needs more vitamin C. This isn't Gospel, please take that information with a pinch of salt. As mentioned before there are MANY factors.
Additionally, if someone has a strong preference for certain flavours, such as sweet or salty, it could be a sign that their body needs more of the nutrients found in those foods.
Some people eating a highly fatty dense salty meal may feel sluggish, tired and wiped, yet others would feel energised, the same is true with high carb or sugary meals.
Cravings and flavour preferences can also be influenced by psychological and emotional factors.
Let me give you this example
Do not jump to a conclusion - this is for highlighting that what we may presume, is actually not the issue - and that we need to support the person in the context of their own life, needs and beliefs.
This person came to me because they wanted to 'lose a few pounds' but when we started to speak; we found that really they were hoping to solve issues with anxiety and stress, lack of control and feeling overwhelmed to a rather critical point.
From discussion and analysing their allostatic load, we highlighted:
Poor home life
Lack of uncertaint future
Long journeys to work to make ends meet
Feeling very lost existentially in spirit
Feeling disconnected from others
Being very aware of others and hypothesising opposing agenda
They had a background of enjoying culture, practicing discipline and ritual but a highly activated nervous system.
When we looked at a food diary we saw a heavy amount of salty items such as soy sauce, broth and vegan umami food items that quoted ad-verbatim "could be licked from the top of the bottle".
They were fasting and taking on caffeine only until around 6pm where they would break the fast with said salty foods following a vegan diet.
Salty cravings can be associated with various issues, including stress, iron deficiencies, dehydration, poor sleep, high levels of sweat, and other health needs.
Stress and anxiety releases the hormone cortisol, which can increase cravings for salty and high-fat foods. Iron deficiencies can also cause cravings for salty foods since the body needs salt to help absorb iron. Dehydration can lead to salt cravings as the body tries to maintain electrolyte balance.
Poor sleep can cause imbalances in the hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, which can increase cravings for salty foods. High levels of sweat can also cause salt cravings since the body loses electrolytes through sweat.
It's important to note that salty cravings can also be influenced by personal taste preferences, cultural factors, or habits.
This person was also not getting much movement daily outside of their normal working life.
It is not uncommon for the need to get iron and b12 into a vegan diet:
Iron is required for the production of red blood cells, and it is found in many animal-based foods. There are plant-based sources of iron that are suitable for vegans, including legumes, tofu, dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.
Iron is utilised with exposure to environmental pollutions (they were commuting via train for three hours per day and living in a city centre), caffeine may also inhibit iron uptake (due to polyphenol content) but also elevates stress hormones. In turn, asking for more vitamin C, magnesium and a balance of acidic salts (I use bicarbonate of soda and sea salt).
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods, but cereals, plant-based milks, and nutritional yeast, can provide an adequate amount of vitamin B12.
Fasting also burns through b vitamins - especially B12 which is again connected to anaemia as it enhances iron uptake.
Compounding all of this, they weren't actually nourishing themselves with enough energy to support their caloric Daily Recommended Values.
We found that they were consuming only about 1200 calories per day while their DRV values suggested much higher.
When calories fall - so do nutrients...
... and this meant that they were not getting enough energy to support their daily activities, feeling drained and fatigued all the time.
By adding more nutrient-dense foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains to their diet we can support energy demands.
So we bargained...
For a few days we’d use an app to look for nutrients:
Just to check that they were getting some of the DRV values in-line with government recommendations.
We also wanted to take note but not be ruled by caloric intake - therefore if they felt sluggish - they had the capacity to eat and still be able to lose a few lbs.
People may overeat because if these factors:
1. Emotional Eating: Many people turn to food as a way to cope with difficult emotions such as stress, anxiety, depression, or boredom.
2. Lack of Awareness: Eating mindlessly or not paying attention to hunger and fullness cues can lead to overeating.
3. Social Pressure: Social situations such as parties, gatherings, or celebrations can trigger overeating due to peer pressure or a desire to fit in.
4. Unhealthy Eating Habits: Eating too quickly, skipping meals, or consuming large portions can lead to overeating and weight gain.
5. Food Addiction: Certain foods with high sugar, fat, or salt content can activate the brain's reward center and lead to compulsive overeating.
The environment plays a significant role in people's eating habits and can contribute to overeating. The availability of food can lead to overconsumption, especially if it's high in sugar, fat, and salt. For example, if unhealthy food options are readily available at home or work, individuals may be more likely to indulge in them, leading to overeating.