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Blog Nutrition Craving Meat: 8 Reasons For This Intense Urge And What You Can Do About It

Craving Meat: 8 Reasons For This Intense Urge And What You Can Do About It

craving meat all the time

Have you been eating meat every meal of every day and still can’t get enough? Do you still crave meat even when you just ate a heavy, satisfying meal? You need not panic; there are some clear reasons why you can’t get enough of those burgers with giant beef patties.

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Food cravings are normal in some instances and are triggered by either psychological or physical factors.  For example, the sight of or smell of certain foods can trigger cravings. Additionally, hormonal changes such as those during your menstrual cycle can cause you to crave certain foods (13).

This may explain why you stuff your face with chocolate when on your menses.  Is your meat craving reaching uncontrollable levels? Here are some possible reasons for this urge and what you can do about it.

Possible Triggers For Meat Craving

Is your need for steak insatiable? Are you wondering why you are craving meat? Well, this may be your body’s way to communicate signals to you since sometimes, our bodies communicate through cravings. 

That said, your meat craving could be triggered by several reasons. Such cravings may get frustrating in some situations since you find yourself eating more meat than you usually do. It is also not unusual to find a vegan craving meat. Here are some possible reasons why you find yourself craving meat all the time.

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Lack Of Protein In Your Diet

Your body will often alert you in case of any shortage of nutrients. A protein deficiency in your body could make you start craving meat. Meat is a rich source of this body-building nutrient. Meat cravings, coupled with other symptoms such as weak and brittle nails, are one of the first signs of protein deficiency.

When your protein intake is low, your body will look for ways to restore the protein level and, in the process, increase your appetite which consequently leads to a meat craving (10). A protein deficiency selectively could increase your appetite for protein-rich foods such as meat (17).

Read More: When To Eat Protein: Answering The Most Commonly Asked Questions About Protein Consumption

You Are Low In Vitamin B12

It is natural for your body to have odd cravings when you have vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin B12, for example, causes not only food (meat) cravings but also mood swings (14). Foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy are excellent sources of these vitamins.

A diet lacking in such foods, such as a vegan diet, puts you at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency. This is why vegans face the greatest risk of this deficiency and sometimes find themselves craving meat (9).

It is therefore not unusual to find a person accustomed to a plant-based diet, craving meat. It could be that they miss it, but much of the time, it could be that their Vitamin B12 batteries are running low.

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Low Iron Status

Are you suddenly craving red meat and other non-food items such as dirt? Your body may be crying out for more iron. Iron is essential for forming red blood cells and transporting oxygen, and the lack of it may make you feel weak and exhausted. Non-red meat-eaters may also find themselves craving a bite of steak if they have an iron deficiency (12). 

The daily upper limits of iron for adults is about 45mg, including intake from all sources like food, beverages and supplements (11). You should be able to get this amount from your daily diet if it is well balanced. Seafood and lean meat are excellent sources of iron. Lack of enough iron in your diet will trigger your body to crave iron-rich foods such as red meat to replenish.

See also  Green Leafy Vegetables: 8 Nutritious Veggies You Should Eat More Often

Zinc Deficiency

Your body needs zinc in trace amounts to boost your immunity and promote good eye health. It also helps create proteins that you need for strong muscles, tissues, and bones ( 21). 

Animal proteins (meat) are rich in zinc. A deficiency of this mineral may lead you to crave meat (22).

There are three causes of zinc deficiency (4): 

  • Chronic conditions such as alcohol addiction
  • Poor diet with no zinc mineral
  • Your body may be unable to absorb zinc

Vegetarians face a higher risk of having a zinc deficiency. This is because the body absorbs and breaks down zinc in meat better than in plants. Plants contain phytates that impair the body’s ability to absorb zinc. Phytates bind themselves to zinc, making it difficult for the body to absorb (23).

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You Are Not Eating Enough Meat

Do you remember the last time you had a fat juicy piece of steak? If not, then your meat cravings are a way for your body to ask for some meat. Your body will naturally crave certain food types if you have gone a long time without eating that food.

For example, a lot of vegans experience serious meat cravings because their bodies are deprived of meat. Their bodies feel restricted and try to fight this restriction off. Even then, many people can switch to a meat-free diet without experiencing extreme meat cravings (7).

Restrictive diets will increase your meat cravings. Here is how it works. The more you restrict a particular food, the more you crave it (20).

Meat Cravings Among Vegans And Vegetarians

For vegans and vegetarians, meat cravings are particularly in common. Here are additional triggers for meat cravings among this group of people. 

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Missing Nutrients Such As Omega-3

Fish is rich in omega-3 fats. Let’s consider fish as meat. A vegan diet is primarily plant-based. Therefore there is a higher chance of omega-3 deficiency. (walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, edamame, seaweed, and algae all contain Omega-3 fatty acids).

Plant sources contain Omega-3 fatty acids, but only in one form; the alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). The body converts ALA into long-chain omega-3 acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) during digestion. Fish has these two nutrients ( DHA and EPA) readily available form (15).

Note that ALA has a different set of benefits from the long-chain DHA and EPA omega-3 fats. A diet devoid of fish means they have no access to these nutrients, hence the craving (3).

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Prolonged And Repeated Exposure To Meat

Imagine being vegan and living next to a steakhouse. Every day the aroma of sizzling beef hits your nose as you munch your spinach and apple salad.. The more you think about the steak, the stronger the cravings could get (1).

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Salts And Fat

A well-done steak dripping with oil straight out of the barbecue rack is enough to make your mouth water, vegan or not. This trigger is more about your taste buds than the overall nutritional benefits of meat. 

When you switch to a plant-based diet, you are likely to miss  salt and fats. A vegan diet has significantly less salt and fat than an omnivorous diet. It is easy to add salt to your food but is quite hard to substitute for animal fats. Your taste buds could start craving these fats.

Side Effects Of Overeating Meat

You should understand that too much of anything can be unhealthy, and that applies to meat as well. Overeating meat, especially red meat, may have some effects on your body. Here are some of these effects. 

  • Constipation

Meat has no fiber whatsoever; therefore, you are likely to suffer from constipation if you consume too much. 

  • Heart Issues And Diabetes

Processed meats are high in saturated fats that take a toll on your heart muscles and increase your chances of developing diabetes (6).

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  • Kidney Stones

Overeating meat may cause an overload of proteins in your system. Animal-based proteins contain purine which the body breaks down to uric acid. 

Too much uric acid may lead to kidney stone development (16).

 Luckily, there are healthier substitutes that are more beneficial to your body.

Read More: Is Chicken Better Than Beef: Upping Your Protein Intake The Healthy Way

How To Satisfy Meat Cravings

It is not wrong to indulge once in a while (apart from vegans, of course as they need to stay committed). Before we get to the food substitutes, consider the following tips to help you stop craving meat. 

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself For Craving Meat

Accept that sometimes, certain food cravings are normal. Your body is simply trying to do its job by telling you that something is amiss. Acceptance will make it easier for you to look for healthier alternatives. It will also help you appreciate your body more.

Understand your cravings. Not all cravings are physical. Our psychological makeup causes some of these cravings. Eating meat or any other kind of food comes with memories, traditions, and associations. 

Sometimes, you may think you are craving meat when in reality, what you long for is a barbeque get-together. Luckily psychological cravings usually pass within a few minutes, saving you the need to eat meat.

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Drink More Water

Drinking water helps keep your tummy full and also helps in digestion. Sometimes, your body confuses thirst signals with hunger signals. Having a bottle of water within reach will help you avoid cravings. Instead of binging on burgers and hot dogs, drink water. If the plain taste of water becomes too dull for you, squeeze in some lemon.

Add Proteins And Foods Rich In Fiber To Your Diet

A protein deficiency is one of the reasons why you crave meat. So why don’t you incorporate more protein into your diet? Plus, fiber and protein keep you satisfied for longer, which means you won’t have to eat all the time. 

Foods that are filling and loaded with nutrients should be your go tos. Protein is the most filling macronutrient; therefore, eat more to curb meat cravings (18). Moreover, high protein foods can help reduce the activation of areas in the brain that associate with cravings and late-night snacking (2). 

To enhance fullness, make sure you pair your protein-rich foods with fiber-rich carbs and healthy fats. Always see to it that you have access to such meals. If possible, plan ahead and have a meal timetable. 

Eat Your Meals At Shorter Intervals

Three meals per day with snacks in between is a great place to start. Starving yourself will only send signals to your brains that you need instant gratification, such as a salty or fatty snack (meat). 

Eat small, frequent meals to activate your metabolism and also keep cravings in check (19). Skipping meals is a no-no. When you skip a meal, say breakfast, your blood sugar drops, making you start craving foods high in sugar, salt and fats. Make sure you have breakfast within an hour of waking up and subsequent meals every 2 to 3 hours. A regular eating pattern helps keep your blood sugar level stable. 

Have A Meal Plan

Planning your meals provides you with a meal timetable to work with. It’s easier this way to keep your cravings in check since you will only eat what’s available in your plan. When shopping for your food, sometimes it’s okay to reduce the amount of meat you purchase deliberately.  This also includes processed meat like bacon and sausages.

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Food Substitutes You Can Use

You don’t have to give in to your meat cravings every time. Here are some healthier substitutes you can choose from. These substitutes are high in protein and also plant-based. 

  • Eggplant

This versatile vegetable has a meaty texture and can be prepared in various ways. You can choose to bake, grill, or even fry it. It tastes fantastic and can serve as an excellent substitute for meat. 

  • Tofu

Tofu is soy-based vegan protein. It is similar to chicken, although it takes on the flavor with which you cook it; therefore, you can have a field day with your spices here. 

  • Mushrooms

Mushrooms are very similar to meat in texture and even flavor. You can choose to have portobello mushrooms in your burger instead of a beef pattie. Plus, creamed button mushrooms go well with rice. 

  • Lentils

These legumes are impressively high in protein, maybe even more than meat is. Imagine them as a substitute for ground beef. They come in several colors, such as black, red, brown, and green. Try out some red lentil soup today. 

  • Beans

Similar to lentils, beans can make for delicious substitutes for meat. You can use them in salads or pack them in tacos in place of meat.

Weight Loss According To The Age

Conclusion

Eating meat can be part of a healthy diet. However, excessive consumption of it may lead to health issues, and some people avoid it for a variety of reasons. Cravings can be lessened, albeit with a bit of self-control. Sometimes, you have to actively work on a healthier lifestyle for the sake of your well-being.

If you want your weight loss plan to be efficient, don’t forget to do some exercise on the regular basis. Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.

See also  Benefits Of Eating Slowly: Here's Why You Need To Embrace This Smart Eating Approach

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. A cognitive Experimental Approach to Understanding and Reducing Food Cravings (2010, journals.sagepub.com)
  2. A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein Vs a high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight adolescent girls. (2014, ncbonlm.nih.gov)
  3. Alpha-Linoleic and linoleic fatty acids in the vegan diet: Do they Require Dietary Reference Intake/Adequate special Consideration? (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Causes of Iron and Zinc Deficiencies and their effects on brain (2000, academic.oup.com)
  5. Dietary factors influencing zinc absorption (2000, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Eating processed meats, may raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes (2010, hsph.harvad.edu)
  7. Frequency of consuming foods predicts changes in cravings for those foods during weight loss: The Pounds Lost Study (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  8. Health benefits of plant derived a linoleic acid (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. How prevalent is vitamin B12 deficiency among vegetarians (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Inadequate dietary protein increases hunger and desire to eat in younger and older men. (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  11. Iron (2021, ods.od.nih.gov)
  12. Iron, meat and Health (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  13. Menstrual cycle hormones, food intake, and cravings (2016,faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
  14. Mood disorder with mixed, psychotic features due to vitamin B12 deficiency in an adolescent (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  15. Omega-3 fatty acids; Comparison of plant and seafood sources in human nutrition (1991, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  16. Preventing kidney stones (2016, ncbi.nnlm.nih.gov)
  17. Protein status elicits compensatory changes in food intake and food preferences (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  18.   The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  19. The effects of meal composition on subsequent craving and binge eating (1999, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  20. The psychology of food craving (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  21. Zinc (2021, ods.od.nih.nih.gov)
  22. Zinc Deficiency (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  23. Zinc status of vegetarians (1980, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Nderitu Munuhe
Nderitu Munuhe

Nderitu Munuhe is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. He has written for three years – advising people on how to eat healthy and stay on top of their fitness plan. This, he believes, is the first step in having a healthy body and mind.
Munuhe is passionate about football and is an avid Chelsea supporter. When he's not writing or watching the game, you can find him with his dog Lucky, taking time out from his desk for some much-needed R&R.

K. Fleming
K. Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

S. Ziou
S. Ziou

Hi everyone! I am a Canadian Registered Dietitian (RD) who graduated from the University of Ottawa, Canada. I worked at the Montreal Pediatric University Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute before joining the International Clinic of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. With a strong interest in community nutrition, I worked in Haiti and in Syrian refugee camps affected by the scourge of malnutrition. I am passionate about food and its science!

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