What's Causing These Food Cravings?

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The Pure TheraPro Team

The Pure TheraPro Education Team is comprised of researchers from diverse backgrounds including nutrition, functional medicine, fitness, supplement formulation & food science. All articles have been reviewed for content, accuracy, and compliance by a holistic integrative nutritionist certified by an accredited institution.
Last updated for accuracy

Pickles and ice cream. It’s the stereotype of pregnancy food cravings. Most of us have experienced a strong craving for fried foods or salty potato chips—and definitely chocolate. But have you ever wondered what’s driving these food cravings?

Craving certain foods is extremely common and seems to plague women more than men. One study on food cravings found that 97% of women and 68% of men have experienced food cravings. These usually occur later in the day, averaging two to four cravings a week.  

Many theories try to explain our strong desire for certain foods, including emotional triggers as well as biological ones.

Biological Factors:

Nutritional deficiencies may play a role in the foods you crave.  Wanting chocolate, for example, has been linked to low magnesium levels.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Pica, a strange condition where a person may crave non-food items, such as soil or eating laundry detergent. Most common among pregnant women and children, it’s unknown what the root cause is, but it’s speculated to be linked to nutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, iron and calcium.  

You may notice craving sodium after a strenuous workout. A loss or imbalance in electrolytes may create a craving for salty foods in order to replenish salt lost in sweat.

Sometimes, you might simply feel ravenous because you’re dehydrated. Dehydration leads to loss of energy levels, which may increase your appetite in order to meet energy needs. This is also the case when you’re tired and craving a “pick me up” cappuccino. Drinking a glass of water may be all you need to increase energy levels and put a halt to those food and coffee cravings.  

When certain hormones, such as serotonin and leptin are out of balance, this may also contribute to food cravings. Food can trigger the release of endorphins, similar to a drug addiction.

Studies are also indicating that your microbiome influences what foods you crave. Our gut flora has their own appetites. Good and evil exist even in the microbiome world. Yeast, for example, crave sugar. Bifidobacteria crave fiber, Bacteroidetes love fat. Microbes can even change our taste buds, influencing the foods we like.

Emotional Factors:

It’s also common to eat when your sad or to reward yourself with food, giving food cravings an emotional motivation.

Stressed out? You might want foods that crunch in your mouth and allow you to chomp down, releasing tension in your jaw. Women who experience stress also lean toward sweets.

Stress on its own, even if you aren’t falling into the binge eating trap, can cause weight gain. Chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which can add inches of belly fat.

Lack of sleep can also affect hormone balance, which may contribute to food cravings and weight gain.

Staying satiated throughout the day helps control ravenous food-shoveling later in the day, which may contribute to overeating. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and snacking on lean proteins as well as hydrating throughout the day can help eliminate late-night binges.

Want to help control food cravings?

Finding healthier food options that still satisfy cravings is one solution.

Craving sugar? Reach for dried or fresh fruit.

Want a Coke? Try some sparkling water with a lime in it. Kombucha may also do the trick.

How about a bag of potato chips? Try some sunflower seeds or pistachios.  Kale chips are also easy to make, can be seasoned just right and provide a bit of crispy crunch you’re seeking.

Another option is to produce the same endorphin high with a mood boosting activity. Get out for a hike or bike ride, practice yoga or similar exercise. The increase in endorphins will likely quell the craving.

Support a healthy microbiome with healthy food choices, exercise and taking a probiotic daily.



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