What Are Our Cravings Telling Us?

July 20, 2014

What Are Our Cravings Telling Us?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a craving for something.

I’m going to say it’s a very safe bet that your hand is up right now.  If I didn’t need mine for typing, they’d both be up in the air waving like I just don’t care.

Except that I do care.  And you should care too.

Cravings, while sometimes arbitrary, are more often than not a signal that the body is missing something. In some cases, it’s an overconsumption of other foods that leaves us wanting the opposite. Sometimes we are lacking certain vitamins and minerals. Other times, cravings are haunting us because we are tired, stressed, bored, lonely, or even just thirsty. In fact, dehydration is often the number one cause of cravings.

One of the first things I recommend to clients who are dealing with cravings is to look at their water consumption. Drinking a glass of water is also one of the first things I do myself when I am suddenly struck with a strong desire to eat an entire chocolate bar. (I have mentioned that I have a weakness for chocolate, yes?)

Next time you have a craving, think about what is really going on. For starters, if you get a sugar craving around the same time every day, that could be a tell tale sign of something deeper than just the food. It’s a good idea to try to get a true sense of where the craving is coming from and if it is truly nutrient related or something else. The first step I’d like to encourage you to do is to keep a food journal, not only documenting what you are eating throughout the day, and what you are craving, but also the times of day certain cravings are coming up, the emotions or atmosphere you’re experiencing at the time, and so on. Bring a bit of awareness to your cravings.

What Are Our Cravings Telling Us?

Pungent  (i.e. heavy, saucy, Chinese food)

Body is asking for healing properties of pungent food, like ginger, cayenne, scallion, leek, onion, garlic and pepper.

Sweets (i.e. pastries, cakes)

Eating a lot of sugar builds up a tolerance for sweetness that increases cravings for the taste. Physical fatigue often triggers sugar cravings to kick up energy levels quickly. Since sugar also stimulates reward centers of the brain, it is triggered by emotional stress.

Fruits like blueberries and strawberries satisfy the need for sweet taste. Dates, banana, cashew butter, almond butter are all sweet foods that contain mood-enhancing nutrients like magnesium and tryptophan, while providing a good dose of plant-based energy.


Eating chocolate releases feel-good hormone dopamine–and so it is most associated with stress cravings. High quality dark chocolate is actually a great source of key nutrients like iron, magnesium, and mood-stabilizing zinc–just make sure to watch your serving size.

Also try eating pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and cashews. Make these gluten-free, sugar-free black bean brownies (which provide additional iron and magnesium boost from the beans) for a feel-good treat.

Spicy  (i.e. curry, hot Mexican spices)

Blood is thickened, circulation slowed, organs and extremities are cool.

Try soba noodles mixed with green veggies, marinara with herbs and chili flakes, garlic, celery, onion, cayenne, hot pepper sesame oil, chopped jalapeno.

Creamy  (i.e. ice cream, milk, cheese, oily foods)

Too much baked flour/ dry products creates dryness and stagnation, irritability.

Try whole grain porridge, pureed broccoli soup, use oatmeal instead of cream.

Crunchy (i.e. pretzels, chips)

Probably not chewing enough; chewing enhances digestion.

Try raw carrots or celery, organic rice crackers, and chew well.

Moist or Liquid (i.e. soups, tea, yogurt)

Too many dry, salty foods. Try to drink water at least three times per day.

Crispy and Dry (i.e. corn chips, crackers, nuts)

Too many liquids, avoid fat laden chips, highly processed crackers.

Try rice cakes, high quality crackers, sesame sticks, homemade potato chips.

Heavy  (i.e. comfort foods)

An abundance of raw foods; hands and feet may be cold.

Try trail mix, avocado, fruit smoothie.

Light (ie air popped chips)

Too many heavy foods and sugary snacks.

Try salads, fruit, raw foods.

what do cravings mean

Related: How to Eliminate Your Cravings for Good

Also by Christine: Vegan Almond Joy

5 Healthy Eating Tips for Travel

Vegan Chickpea Tuna Salad


Photo: Dixie Belle Cupcake Cafe via Flickr; livelovefruit.com

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Christine Oppenheim is a natural foods chef, trained through Bauman College. Residing in Santa Monica, CA, she offers vegan personal chef services, cooking instruction, and holistic wellness coaching. Christine prepares meals that are centered on whole grains and organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables, with a focus on utilizing alternative ingredients to convert classic recipes into versions that are compatible for restricted diets (i.e. gluten free, soy free, no refined sugar). She teaches people how to easily incorporate delicious, healthy, plant based foods into their diets and make simple lifestyle changes to increase energy, control weight, reduce stress and regulate digestion. Follow Christine on Instagram @veggiefixation.


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