The Secret Behind Your Cravings for Unhealthy Snacks

Most people associate cravings with pregnant women…you know, pickles dipped in peanut butter or cookie dough and mustard.  However, we all tend to have cravings from time to time and research suggests that these cravings are caused by a mineral or vitamin deficiency within our bodies.  In other words, it’s your body “talking” to you like this, “Hey Lucy, I just checked our magnesium level and it’s awfully low, so why don’t you go scarf about 300 M & Ms because, you know, M & Ms are chocolate and chocolate is chock full of magnesium and never mind all those empty calories that come along with 300 M & Ms because we’re getting the magnesium that we’re lacking so it’s all good.” (our bodies tend to talk to us in long, run-on sentences…a little known fact).

Well, guess what?  There are other sources of magnesium aside from high calorie chocolate.  Wait, hold up, why do we need magnesium in the first place?  I’ll tell you…we need it as it helps with blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control, and protein synthesis and a prolonged deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, tension, migraine headaches and anxiety and depression.  So the next time you find yourself craving chocolate, it could be your body telling you something.  In that case, reach for some almonds, a banana, black beans, spinach or chard rather than the high calorie chocolate.

Your cravings for sugary snacks follow the same rule as above with the only difference being what your body is lacking and hence, craving.  This time it could be low levels of chromium, phosphorus, sulfur and/or tryptophan.  Chromium supports insulin function which helps regulate blood sugar levels and a lack of it has been linked to glucose intolerance which can lead to type 2 diabetes.  Instead of feeding your chromium craving with jelly beans, keep some pears or Brazil nuts on hand, or hit up a raw bar for some mussels or oysters.

Phosphorus is essential for skeletal and organ health and a deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, joint and muscle aches and anxiety.  So put away the Skittles and instead nosh on some sunflower seeds, almonds, brown rice or tuna.

As for sulfur, it’s essential for liver metabolism, anti-oxidant defense and joint health and a shortage is linked to fatigue, depression and degenerative diseases.  As good as Mikes and Ikes are, put ‘em away and grab an avocado or make a salad with tomatoes, cabbage and onions.

Lastly, tryptophan is an amino acid that assists in the production of niacin and serotonin which is tied to healthy sleep and stable mood.  And yes, turkey is a good source of tryptophan as explored in episode six, season nine of Seinfeld in which Jerry drugs his girlfriend with turkey, heavy gravy and wine to induce sleep so that he can play with her vintage toy collection.  Anyway, lack of tryptophan is, as one would expect, tied to sleep and mood disorders.  That being the case, lose the Sweet Tarts and enjoy some pumpkin and chia seeds, pistachios, eggs, or tuna instead.

Finally, if you’re craving salty snacks like chips or pretzels your chloride tank might be a little low usually from excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhea or from the consumption of diuretics like caffeine.  We usually get plenty of chloride in our diet as it’s present in salt and most processed foods contain plenty of sodium chloride…aka salt.  However, that doesn’t preclude our salty snack cravings.  That being the case, hide the chips and enjoy some lettuce and tomatoes or slather some celery with peanut butter and then pop some olives.

If you’re anything like me, if unhealthy snacks are in the house I WILL eat them.  Therefore, the solution is easy, I keep them out of the house despite the eternal and vocal complaints of my family.  As Socrates liked to say, “know thyself,” and I know if it’s in the house it will get eaten.  I now consistently snack on nuts, seeds, and just about every type of fruit I can find and if my boys come home with excessive amounts of Halloween candy…well, you know the rest of the story.

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