We all get cravings from time to time but did you know that they are signs that your body is lacking in certain nutritional chemicals?

According to a study by the Monell Chemical Senses Centre women are more likely to have food cravings than men, and the reason we crave certain foods is because our bodies have a nutritional imbalance and our brains know what foods will fix that. Below is a list of common cravings and what they really mean and healthy options to fix those cravings…

When we crave chocolate our bodies are telling us that we need more magnesium. Women, in particular, are more likely to crave chocolate due to their monthly periods. It is believed that some nutrients, including magnesium, are lost through menstruation, which leaves us women more at risk of a deficiency. A healthier natural substitute is to eat nuts, seeds and fruits high in magnesium such as apricots, bananas and figs (but not dipped in chocolate!).

Sweet Things
Craving sweet things can often mean that we need more chromium, phosphorus, sulphur and carbon in our systems. Chromium is essential for releasing insulin and storing carbohydrates, whilst phosphorus helps to keep our bones and teeth strong. Sulphur is an important compound that prevents hair loss, bad skin and also helps to cleanse our livers. The daily requirement of sulphur in our bodies is 10mg per day. Carbon is essential to our health and we can’t survive without it. It is a vital source of energy for all the cells in our bodies. Healthy substitutes for sweet cravings include; broccoli, grapes, chicken, liver, fresh fruit, cranberries, cheese, raisins and sweet potato.

When we crave a slice of bread it’s could be our body’s way of telling us that we need more nitrogen which is essential for the formation of amino acids in proteins. If you crave bread or toast it’s your body telling you that you are not getting enough protein in your diet. So, next time you’ve got your hands in the bread bin, try and reach for a high protein snack instead. Obviously organic meat and wild-caught fish are great sources of protein but if you are vegetarian, opt for combos like hummus and oatcakes or nut butter and banana.

Tea or Coffee
Many of us can’t function until we’ve had our morning coffee or cup of tea, but nutritionally this means that your body could be lacking in phosphorous and iron. There are a number of side effects if you have a phosphorous deficiency including; bone pain, fatigue and anxiety. Phosphorous is essential for creating strong teeth and bones and helps the body absorb vitamin B. A lack of iron in your diet can leave you feeling tired and anaemic. Although tea and coffee will provide these essential chemicals, they also have detrimental effects on your health, including; insomnia and restriction of the flow of oxygen. A much healthier option is to drink cocoa tea or green tea, which contains about 1/5th of caffeine found in tea or coffee.

Fizzy Drinks
Craving fizzy drinks could be a sign that you are lacking in calcium. Fizzy drinks provide a ‘quick fix’ to get some calcium into the body, but they are not so good for our teeth, bones or energy levels. A natural alternative is to drink a glass of milk or add fresh fruit to a glass of natural spring water. If you include plenty of green vegetables, high-quality dairy products and sesame seeds in your diet you will keep your calcium levels topped up and you won’t crave fizzy drinks so much.

Craving curry is a sign that your body could be low in zinc. Zinc helps to heal us quickly, is connected to our sense of taste and helps our skin to glow. Zinc is also necessary for cell division and fertility. When you crave strong or spicy foods it’s a sign that you need to get more zinc into your diet. Natural alternatives are to eat plenty of seafood such as prawns, crab, salmon or tuna. Mixed beans are also excellent foods to increase zinc levels, as well as pumpkin seeds.

If you have a craving for crisps it could be a sign that you are low in sodium and iodine. Sodium is essential to help control our nerves and muscles. It also helps to maintain the fluid in our blood cells and because our bodies cannot produce sodium we have to find it in the foods that we eat. Iodine regulates the thyroid function in our bodies. If we don’t have enough iodine it can lead to hair loss, dry skin and thyroid problems. A natural substitute for crisps is to eat roasted vegetable crisps or introduce more vegetables and fish into your diet. Seafood, and in particular seaweed, is very rich in Iodine, so try to include this in your diet every week.