Most of us have, at one point in our lives, experienced intense cravings for unhealthy foods. Whether it be for chocolate, donuts, salty snacks or refined carbs, our bodies appear to want them — and we’re often all too happy to submit. There’s just one problem: Eating these foods doesn’t seem to end the cravings. What is going on here? Are our bodies playing a cruel joke on us? Well, not quite.
Science now understands that these cravings are a sign that your body needs certain minerals that can be found in unhealthy foods but are best acquired from whole foods. Indeed, only by acquiring minerals from natural sources, in which all nutrients are optimized for superior absorption, can we hope to finally end the cravings that plague our lives.
Chocolate is the most commonly-reported craving in the Western world, so it shouldn’t surprise us that it is linked to a nutrient in which a huge number of us are unknowingly deficient: magnesium. According to recent statistics, up to 80 percent of Americans are lacking in this essential macromineral, which is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including reactions that relate to relaxation. In fact, magnesium is nicknamed the “relaxation mineral,” since anxiety, irritability, insomnia and high blood pressure are its main deficiency symptoms. This is the reason why magnesium-deficient people temporarily feel better after eating a chocolate bar: the small amounts of magnesium in it (derived from its cacao content) relaxes them. But, of course, there are far healthier sources of magnesium than processed chocolate. Dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, fish, beans and blackstrap molasses are all excellent sources of magnesium and will help end chocolate cravings.
Sugary foods: chromium, phosphorus, sulfur and/or tryptophan
The second most commonly reported craving in the West is high-sugar foods. This is the most complex craving to pin down, since deficiencies in no less than five nutrients could be causing it: chromium (helps to regulate blood sugar levels), phosphorus (helps the body produce energy), sulfur (helps remove toxins) and tryptophan (a serotonin regulator). Therefore, the best way to end incessant sugar cravings is to simply improve your diet, which will help remineralize your body in all areas.
Refined carbohydrates: nitrogen
A craving for refined carbs like pasta and bread signals a deficiency in nitrogen. Nitrogen compounds are an essential component of nucleic acids and protein, and deficiencies in them can result in malnutrition due to a related protein deficiency. Therefore, if you find that you’re craving a lot of refined carbohydrates, add more nitrogen-rich foods to your diet. Most foods contain nitrogen in organic or non-organic form, but fruits and vegetables are especially rich in it.
The following cravings are less common than those detailed above, but are still regularly reported in today’s society:
Oily and fatty foods: You are deficient in calcium. Good sources of calcium include raw milk, cheese, turnip greens and broccoli.
Ice: You are deficient in iron. Eat more iron-rich foods like leafy greens, meat, blackstrap molasses and sea vegetables.
Salty foods: You are deficient in chloride and/or silicon. Try adding more fish, nuts and seeds to your diet.
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world’s healthiest foods.
Sources for this article include: