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Student Life

Craving Chocolate, Spicy Foods, or Salt? Here's What Your Body Might Be Trying to Tell You

The truth behind your cravings and realistic, healthier options (not just salad).

a thinking female college student surrounded by junk food

Let me be the first to say I am not a doctor. That being said, I am a girl who has a lot of cravings. Scientists say our bodies crave food for different reasons. Sometimes we're stressed or looking for gratification to the pleasure centers of our brain, but other times our bodies are trying to tell us something. Whenever I crave food, I've found its usually my body trying to tell me that it needs something (unless I have two papers due and a midterm the next day, then I know I'm stressed).

Next time you're craving something -- unless you're just stressed -- try listening to what your body is trying to tell you.

When you crave chocolate...

chocolate bar on white plate

Photo by Nathana Rebouças on Unsplash

Why do you crave it?

When you crave chocolate often times your body needs magnesium. If you drink lots of soda, the phosphorus in it binds with the magnesium in your diet and flushes it out of your system. Similarly, eating lots of desserts and sweet food containing refined sugar causes your body to flush magnesium out of your body. You need magnesium for over 300 chemical reactions in your body including reactions involved in cardiovascular health, bone health, and energy.

What to eat instead of chocolate...
Instead of eating sugary, fatty milk chocolate, try dark chocolate. It has the magnesium you're craving without the refined sugar that is making you magnesium deficient. Other high magnesium foods include dark, leafy greens, beans, avocados, and bananas.

When you crave spicy foods...

pile of chiliPhoto by Timothy L Brock on Unsplash

Why do you crave it?

If you've ever noticed, the cultures that have spicy foods as part of their cuisines are generally from warmer climates (India, Mexico, South Africa, the Caribbean, etc.). Some think this is because eating spicy foods actually gets your body to cool down. This happens because your body sweats as a reaction to eating spicy food which ultimately cools you down. Sometimes we also crave spicy food when we're sick to clear our sinuses or because they release endorphins which can relieve pain and enhance your mood. Spicy food can also increase your metabolism (but craving it could indicate a thyroid imbalance).

What to eat instead of spicy foods...
Instead of eating Hot Cheetos that have little to no nutritional value (which is what I tend to grab), there a plenty of low-calorie options. Many taco sauces have little to no calories and are a great way to add some spice to your food.

When you crave salt...

woman holding blue and white labeled can saltPhoto by Fedor on Unsplash

Why do you crave it?
Craving salt often indicates an electrolyte imbalance. If you're not drinking enough water, or too much, your body can get confused and crave salt. I have this problem a lot because I always forget to drink enough water when I'm at work or in class and by the end of the day I'm craving salt. Salt cravings can also be a sign of adrenal stress (prolonged stress puts pressure on adrenal glands).

What to eat instead of salt...

Drink water! Making sure you're hydrated will help not only your salt cravings but will help keep you full and less tempted to indulge other cravings.

When you crave ice...

tall cup filled with iceStableDiffusion

Why do you crave it?

According to many health professionals, craving ice could indicate anemia or iron deficiency but the reasoning is unclear. It could also mean you're dehydrated or need to cool down, but if you're craving ice frequently, you should see a doctor to make sure it's not anemia.

What to eat instead...
There is no harm in eating ice, but if it indicates anemia it could be serious. If eating red meat, spinach, leafy greens, beans, or other high-iron foods reduces your cravings for ice, then you definitely need to see a doctor.

When you crave vinegary food (pickles, salt and vinegar chips, sauerkraut)...

pickles salt and vinegar chips sauerkrautStableDiffusion

Why do you crave it?

Craving vinegary, acidic foods can indicate something is up with your stomach acid. If your stomach doesn't have enough acid, eating vinegary foods can trigger it to produce more. Low stomach acid can be caused my many things (including stress) and causes a variety of health problems like hair loss.

What to eat instead...
Eating unprocessed, wholesome food helps your stomach produce the proper amount of acid. Combining meat with citrus or vinegar can help make digestion easier on your stomach, reducing the imbalance of stomach acid.

When you crave carbs...

pasta pizza rice and noodlesStableDiffusion

Why do you crave it?

When you're craving carbs, it can be your body's way of telling you that you need a quick energy source. Your blood sugar could be low and carbs are a quick way of raising it.

What to eat instead...
Eating more fiber can help stabilize your blood sugar so there are less fluctuations. Triscuits are a good carb that can satisfy your craving but also have lots of fiber. Nuts are another snack that help raise your blood sugar but aren't full of "empty calories" like white bread or pasta. I'll admit I indulge in carbs from time to time, but it isn't all bad as long as you have a balanced meal (i.e. pasta with vegetables and lean protein).

When you crave oily or fatty foods...

burgers fries hot dogs fried chicken tendersStableDiffusion

Why are you craving it?

Craving oily or fatty foods can be your body's way of telling you that you need more calcium. Your body does need fat to be able to function properly so it is important to not deprive it of that. Oily and fatty foods smell and taste good so the pleasure center of our brain is rewarded every time we eat them.

What to eat instead...
The last thing I want to eat when I'm craving oily, fatty food is dark, leafy greens. Everyone will tell you to eat foods high in calcium like that, but a more realistic option is to eat something like yogurt or cheese. There are plenty of dairy products that will give you calcium and other nutrients your body wants and are still healthy options.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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