Are Your Cravings A Sign Of A Nutrient Deficiency?
Do you constantly crave certain foods while dieting? Could these cravings point towards a nutrient deficiency that needs addressing?
Chocolate, crisps, pizza, or one of many other delicious foods could be your weakness when it comes to cravings. Is your body calling out for these specific foods because you lack some vital macro and micro nutrients?
It seems an odd logic. After all, they're not the most nutrient-dense of food choices.
Weirdly, you never crave broccoli, carrots, and sugar snap peas. All of which have an abundance of nutrients.
Hmmmmm. Does this point to the answer of the question?
Let's explore this a little more and see if those cravings are hinting at an underlying nutrient deficiency.
And if you'd prefer to listen to the audio version of "Are Your Cravings A Sign Of Nutrient Deficiency?", click the play button below.
The Logic Of Cravings And A Nutrient Deficiency
In most real world scenarios, a craving is not a direct indication of a nutrient deficiency.
Think it through logically and you'll see what I mean.
Most of the time, your craving leads you to eat something calorie, not nutrient, dense. As great as cupcakes and donuts are, they're not going to satisfy your body's urges for Vitamin D and Iron. So it doesn't make sense that a food with limited nutrients would be the go-to option.
And what are the chances of you being deficient, anyway?
Of course, there's always the possibility you might be. But a craving is never the best indicator. You're probably (read definitely) better off seeing your doctor and getting tested.
Take sodium, for example. You could be deficient. But it's highly unlikely. With the prevalence of salt in the many everyday foods, you're likely to get the relatively small amount your body needs without really thinking about it. So unless you specifically restrict it, a sodium deficiency is unlikely.
Likewise, the minimum amount of protein and fat need fo a base-level of health is not that much. And the typical western diet will provide what you need without much effort.
And besides, carbohydrate is not essential to the human diet. So a carbohydrate/sugar deficiency isn't even a thing.
So if your cravings aren't an indication of a nutrient deficiency, what's actually going on.
The Reason You Crave Certain Foods
To answer this question, I'm going to summarise the research of Dr. Stephan Guyenet, author of the book, 'The Hungry Brain'.
In most instances, cravings are developed, not due to nutrient deficiency but through behaviours that are reinforced over time. Each time you eat or drink something containing calories, your brain receives a dopamine response. Think of this as a small signal of pleasure. Whether you eat broccoli, bacon, or burgers, a dopamine response is sent to the brain. Foods with high amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, salt, and glutamine provide the largest dopamine hit.
And the bigger the dopamine hit, the stronger the potential craving. Simply put, your brain wants that big dollop of pleasure as much as possible.
So if you consume these foods frequently enough, you might find strong cravings begin to develop, which you find hard to break.
Therefore, it's not a nutrient deficiency that drives cravings. It's more so that the body wants more of that tasty food!
How To Combat Your Cravings
This is the hard part.
Breaking your cravings and ingrained behaviours can be a tough challenge. Especially, in the modern world where temptation is at every turn.
With that said, here's 6 ways to combat cravings.
- Limit highly palatable foods. Your cravings are driven by the pleasure received from foods rich in the aforementioned nutrients. So it makes sense to limit (not eliminate) these foods as much as possible.
- Opt for nutrient dense foods most of the time. Choose foods such as low calorie fruits, vegetables, and lean meats can help you feel full and limit cravings and urges to eat.
- Control your food environment. If you can, remove temptations. Only by these foods when you want them. Don't make them easy access at all times of the day.
- Exercise frequently. Staying more active can help you burn calories, become more health conscious, and limit the effect of calorie-dense foods.
- Reduce stress. Emotional and stress eating is a real thing and can be hard to manage. So try to reduce, or find ways of coping with, stress.
- Optimise your sleep. A lack of sleep can increase your hunger drive and cravings. So make sure you're getting enough high quality sleep each night (6-9 hours).
Are Your Cravings A Sign Of Nutrient Deficiency? The Bottom Line On The Debate
It's possible, but cravings are unlikely to be an indicator of a nutrient deficiency.
A true nutrient deficiency is not going to manifest itself in a craving for foods with low nutritional value. Your cravings are more likely to be linked to the pleasure response provided by highly palatable foods.
So apply the 6 steps to combat cravings if they are proving to be a problem. And if you suspect a genuine nutrient deficiency, speak to your doctor.
Has this article helped you make sense of your cravings? Let me know in the comments below.
Here's The Next Step In Achieving Your Fitness Goals
Managing hunger and cravings is an important skill in successfully losing weight. But what about the other pieces of the puzzle? Are you confident in managing all aspects of your training and nutrition? And can you keep yourself accountable to ensure you maintain consistency?
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But for now, all I’ll say is, thanks so much for reading, keep living the Lean Life. And I’ll see you soon.
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