Food Cravings

Today’s topic is something I believe we can or have related to at some point in our normal lives and training lives. As I entered and am now pushing past recovery, I find I am craving different foods. In fact the other week, I was in desperate need of beans and rice. I’m not kidding. Each day when I got hungry right away I thought “Beans and rice”. Finally, I went to the store and bought several boxes of different types of rice and canned re-fried beans. I informed my sister I was clearly pregnant with a Mexican baby. Honestly, I didn’t know what was going on, but as I was training for a 50K I could only assume it was something my body was lacking. When I trained for my marathon I craved red apples and diet Coke. Anyone who knows me knows I hate any apples except golden delicious…so it counts a weird craving, right? I do not recall craving things with the 50K last fall, but then again I didn’t really “train” for it either. I did want goldfish crackers and M&Ms on race day.

All Day I Dream About…rice and beans?

To share in my annoyance and amazement, I thought I would research common food cravings, what they could mean, and ways to satisfy or avoid them.

First, let’s establish what is meant by the term “food craving”. This doesn’t mean you have a sweet tooth or a salt tooth, it doesn’t mean you have to have cheese on everything. A food craving is a sudden urge/desire for a specific food item, it is intense and it is usually not brought on by anything in particular. So if you’re helping your friend shop for her wedding dress and you suddenly want cake, probably not honestly food craving. Or the last ad on TV makes you want to go to Wendy’s, not a random food craving, although perhaps equally annoying! However if you’re walking down the street, thinking about what bills to pay, and suddenly realize how much you want a ham and cheddar sandwich on wheat with a slice of tomato…that’s a type of food craving.

According to a study byScienceDaily, nearly 100 percent of females and 70 percent of males experienced a food craving in the past year. Often a food craving is triggered by an event, which brings on certain emotions or memories. Scent and taste are two senses we often take for granted and closely tie into our recall process. I know cases of recovering alcoholics who will still get a craving for certain sodas, because their body associates that soda with their alcohol of choice, or a craving for pretzels and peanuts, as those are what were served at the bar. Also, most food cravings are connected to food high in fat or calories, something in our biological make up is trying to seek the “comfort” in these items. Emotional triggers are what many people attempt to avoid when they struggle on diets while watching TV.
Chocolate is the most commonly quoted food craving for American women

Most people are familiar with the connection of chocolate and love, hearing it contains chemicals which induce the emotional response of romantic love. Dark chocolate also contains anti-oxidants, giving many people a “good excuse” for eating some now and again.  An episode of Criminal Minds had Dr Reed mention peas will have a similar effect but I was not able to find any research to back it up. Somehow I doubt many people are going to be willing to stock up on peas. The studies I did find all mentioned the only food with the same properties is a type of algae. While Odwalla does make a superfood smoothie, and it does have spirulina in it (which reminds me of algae) and I personally find it wonderfully delicious, I can’t get past the fact spirulina is the same stuff we fed our fish. Also, I think people would rather eat the peas.

Emotional connection for specific foods is not universal though. For example, women in Egypt prefer meat-stuffed eggplant over chocolate
Curious about the possible emotional connections to our foods?

*Craving sweet foods may mean you need more sweetness in your life or that you do not feel sweet enough.
*Craving smooth or creamy foods could mean that you are feeling like life is very rough and turbulent or there is an area in your life that you wish was easier.
*Craving crunchy, salty foods may mean that you are angry or frustrated at something or someone.
*Cravingwarm foods could mean you are longing for some emotional warmth from someone.
*Craving spicy foods may mean you want more excitement in your life.

As stated earlier, another form of cravings comes when the body is missing something it needs or wants nutrition-wise. This is the type of craving women often talk about when they mention wanting something during “that time of the month”. Many times people who make drastic dietary changes will crash because of these types of desires.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what we’re craving about a particular food. I know I will think “I want fries” and other times I will think “I want salt”. For those times when you can figure out the aspect of the type of food you want, the following list of healthy options may be beneficial.

Craving: Burgers, chips, fast-food

Need: salt

A healthier option: sushi, seaweed and fish, pretzels, nuts/seeds, cottage cheese, hummus, pickles, olives, popcorn, balsamic vinaigrette (add it to your salad).

Craving: Bread or other carbohydrates

Need: May indicate low levels of serotonin and endorphins. Some sources claim it is a cry for protein

A healthier option: meat, fish, chicken, eggs

Craving: Chocolate

Need: Magnesium

A healthier option: nuts, seeds, wholegrain, spinach, oatmeal, baked potato w/ skin, fish (Halibut or tuna).

Craving: Caffeine

Need: Iron

A healthier option: raw broccoli, dried fruit, beef, chicken liver, lentils, ground thyme, ground cinnamon, rosemary (usually spices are consumed in small amounts and you will need additional sources of iron).

I was pleased to learn…although equally displeased…my cravings for beans and rice can easily be explained. As I am on a new diet (not a restriction, but a new way of eating) my body is crying out for a quick sugar rush. Apparently, beans and rice are high glycemic foods which quickly metabolize into sugar and the body is all “yum yum let’s store this and be fat”. Ugg.

Guess my imaginary Mexican baby will have to starve and I will have to spend more time working out to bust past this stage. How many of you have experienced a food craving? Any tips and tricks you’ve picked up along the way?

5 thoughts on “Food Cravings

  1. I thought the beans and rice craving was because you just accomplished a huge goal that used up your muscles and your muscles were crying out for protein to repair and rebuild, in comfort food disguise, of course. Isn't “beans and rice” one of those combinations to get your essential amino acids?

    Love that you researched your cravings!

  2. Pingback: Memories | ROJ Running

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