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Blog Nutrition Food Cravings Chart: What Cravings Mean And What To Eat Instead

Food Cravings Chart: What Cravings Mean And What To Eat Instead

food cravings chart

Food cravings are more common than many of us like to admit. Cravings are tough to ignore and present as a yearning for a particular food. Craving for chocolate, salty or sugary foods are among the most common.

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Cravings are usually a sign that something is out of balance. Maybe you are not getting enough nutrients, or you are emotionally stressed. The urge to eat a particular food is twice as common in women than in males. Understanding the food cravings chart can better help you be able to deal with those pesky food cravings.

The Food Cravings Meaning Chart

Cravings are sometimes an indicator that your body is deprived of an essential nutrient. For instance, if you are constantly yearning for chocolate, it might indicate that your body is not getting enough magnesium. The natural response would be to get that chocolate bar when you could substitute it with foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, or fruits.

Note that nutritional deficiency is not the only reason for food cravings. However, if you have ruled out other triggers of cravings such as restriction, stress, pregnancy, fatigue, or lack of sleep, you might have a nutritional deficiency. So, when you are craving soda or salty chips, you can opt for a healthier alternative by taking a quick look at a junk food cravings chart. But, what do food cravings mean chart and how do you use one?

A food cravings and what they mean chart shows the types of food you crave, what nutrient you could be deficient of and types of food rich in that nutrient. But in the case you have never come across such a then you must be wondering how to handle food cravings chart? All you need to do is look through a weird food cravings and what they mean chart then identify which food you crave.

Read More: Weight Loss Rewards: Find Out Healthy Non-Food Options To Keep You Motivated On Your Journey

junk food cravings chart
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This food cravings deficiency chart looks at healthy eating alternatives to cravings for certain types of food.

Craving What it might mean What to eat instead
Chocolate Magnesium deficiency Green leafy vegetables, seeds, raw nuts, beans, fruits
Fatty or oily foods Calcium deficiency Spinach, kale, okra, broccoli, oranges, almonds, milk, sesame seeds
Bread Nitrogen deficiency Oatmeal, leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes such as beans, peas, lentils
Soda and other carbonated drinks Calcium deficiency Mustard greens, broccoli, kale, tulips greens, sesame, legumes, cheese
Salty snacks Chloride deficiency Sea salt, celery, tomatoes, olives
Salty snacks Stress hormones fluctuations Leafy green veggies, B vitamins, vitamin C, breathing exercises, meditation, self-care
Coffee Sodium chloride (salt) deficiency Sea salt, regular table salt, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, seaweed
Coffee Sulphur deficiency Garlic, kale, asparagus, onion, cranberries, cabbage, broccoli
Coffee Phosphorus deficiency Beans, lentils, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, nuts
Coffee Iron deficiency Spinach, legumes, meats, dried fruit, seaweed, cherries, plums, figs
Sugary sweets Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) Quinoa, fruits, legumes, cinnamon, raisins
Sugary sweets Sulphur deficiency Asparagus, garlic, kale, onion, cranberries, carob powder
Sugary sweets Tryptophan deficiency Sweet potato, raisins, oatmeal, spinach, pumpkins seeds, sunflower seeds
Sugary sweets Chromium deficiency Cinnamon, grapes, tomato, onion, apples, lettuce, sweet potato
Sugary sweets Phosphorus deficiency Pinto beans, lentils, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole grains
Cheese Essential fatty acids deficiency Flax oil, Omega 3’s (EPA and DHA), walnuts, chia seeds
Cheese Calcium deficiency Legumes, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, spinach
Alcohol Protein deficiency Legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, beef
Alcohol Calcium deficiency Legumes, mustard greens, kale, turnip greens, tahini, sesame seeds
Alcohol Potassium deficiency Seaweed, tomato, citrus fruits, pineapple, banana, black olives, bitter leafy greens
Alcohol Glutamine deficiency Bone broth, beets, parsley, cabbage, spinach, vegetable juice, beans
Chewing on ice Iron deficiency Legumes, dried fruits, cherries, spinach, unsulphured prunes, seaweed, poultry, fish, beef
Pasta or baked foods Chromium deficiency Cinnamon, grapes, tomato, onion, apples, lettuce, sweet potato
Snacks (junk foods) Unbalanced diet Plenty of water, fruits, vegetables, protein, whole carbs, nuts, and seeds
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Factors That Cause Food Cravings

Several factors cause food cravings. Understanding the causes of cravings is the starting point to managing this condition. When left unmanaged, uncontrolled food cravings can cause weight gain (3). These factors can be grouped into physical and mental (psychological causes) causes. 

Physical Causes

The physical factors that cause cravings include:

Lack Of Good Quality Sleep

Sleep is crucial to the human body, just like diet and physical activity. During sleep, your body and brain rest so that you are re-energized in the morning. Poor or inadequate sleep can cause imbalances in hormones that regulate hunger and satiety hormones, causing an increase in appetite and intensifying food cravings (5). 

Dehydration

Thirst can be easily confused for hunger. Poor hydration may have you mistake thirst for hunger and may intensify food cravings. Research indicates that drinking water before a meal may reduce energy intake (8). 

Gut Microbiota

Recent research shows a link between cravings and your gut flora. The presence of some types of bacteria may influence the type and frequency of cravings you experience (6). 

food cravings deficiency chart
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Pregnancy

Food cravings are very common during pregnancies. The hormonal changes during pregnancy may influence taste and smell receptors and cause intensified food cravings (7). 

Physical Inactivity

An increase in your level of physical activity, be it taking a walk around the walk or a jog in the park, may help reduce cravings. On the other hand, moving less than you usually do may cause you to have more food cravings (3). 

Eating Ultra-Processed Foods

Research suggests that processed foods rich in added fats and sugars may be associated with addiction-like symptoms. These, in turn, may cause an increase in cravings for such foods (10).

Ghrelin And Leptin Dysregulation

Ghrelin, often called the hunger hormone, increases energy intake, stimulates appetite, and promotes fat storage. On the other hand, Leptin sends signals to the brain that the body has stored enough fat, thus inhibiting hunger. An imbalance in these hormones may result in cravings and increased hunger pangs (9). 

A Nutrient-Deficient Diet

Nutrients such as fiber and protein help you stay full for longer. A diet deficient in these nutrients may make you feel hungry and cause increased cravings even when you have eaten enough calories (1). 

Missing crucial nutrients such as sodium chloride or magnesium may cause cravings for salty foods and chocolate, respectively. Looking through a food cravings chart nutrient deficiency might help you identify where your cravings stem. 

Premenstrual Syndrome

Cravings are very common in women just before their periods begin. Changes in the hormones progesterone and estrogen that occur during your period may cause cravings, especially for carbohydrate-rich foods (7). 

Low Blood Sugar Levels

Low blood sugar is a major culprit behind food cravings. When you take sugar, your blood sugar levels spike, and the body releases insulin to bring it down to a safe level. Low blood sugar occurs when there isn’t enough glucose circulating in the bloodstream. This typically happens during long periods of starvation or skipping meals

When your blood glucose is low, the body responds by causing you to crave foods that will raise your sugar levels. Also, if you have a blood sugar imbalance, you are likely to have increased cravings. If insulin lowers your blood sugar way below the normal level, you will crave snacks with a high carbohydrate content (4).

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food cravings chart nutrient deficiency
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Psychological Causes

Food cravings also have a mental aspect behind them. The mental (psychological) factors that cause food cravings include:

Stress

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. Stress can cause an increase in the level of cortisol. Stress, especially chronic stress, disrupts homeostasis, influences food choices, appetite, and eating habits. 

Chronic stress increases wanting and appetite for calorie-dense and high-fat foods. High cortisol levels has been linked to hunger and cravings (9). Stress also results in a phenomenon called stress eating that generally causes an increase in energy intake. 

Mood Fluctuations

Certain mood states can cause cravings for specific types of foods. Particularly so, negative moods trigger cravings for comfort foods (2). 

Personality

Certain personality types have been linked to food addiction. Research suggests that individuals who are more impulsive or score higher on addictive personality scales are more likely to experience food cravings (10). 

Eating Context

You have definitely heard the phrase ‘it is all in your head.’ As it turns out, the brain associates eating some types of foods to a specific context. For example, popcorn and watching a movie. So the next time you are watching a movie, you may crave some popcorn.

Read More: Best Dried Fruit For Weight Loss: Can These Healthy Snacks Keep Hunger At Bay?

food cravings meaning chart
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Food Cravings And Emotions

Food cravings and emotions are strongly connected. You may find that eating a certain type of food when you are sad makes you feel better. Given that both nutrient deficiency and emotions cause cravings for specific foods, you may confuse the two. In fact, it would be easier to think that a nutrient deficiency causes your cravings as it would be easier to manage. 

Emotional eating involves eating particular foods that bring you comfort when you are sad or upset. You may often feel guilty after eating in that manner, causing a cycle of overeating and issues such as weight gain and obesity. Much as emotional eating affects both men and women, it is thought to be more common among females. 

Food is sometimes used as a way to fill a void that may result from negative emotions. Food may also offer comfort since an individual has retreated from social functions. Stress causes an increase in the level of cortisol which, in turn, causes food cravings.

food cravings and emotions chart
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And while you need food to function properly, it is important to differentiate emotional hunger cues from actual hunger cues. There are a few signs that differentiate emotional hunger from physical hunger as shown below:

To be able to better understand cravings and emotions have a look at the food cravings and emotions chart below:

What you crave for Negative emotion you may be experiencing
Sugar Depression
Salty foods Stress
Meat and crunch foods Anger
Soft, sweet foods such as ice cream Anxiety

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Conclusion

We all have at one point experienced a food craving. While giving in to a craving might seem like the easiest way out, it is not. Often, foods we crave are loaded with sugar, salt, and fats, making them unhealthy. So any time you feel like grabbing a bar of chocolate, try an apple or a handful of nuts instead.

The best way to get through food cravings is to refer to a chart on food cravings and what to eat instead, like the one provided above. That way, you can opt for a healthier alternative. Also, reduce stress, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly to keep food cravings at bay.

Check out the 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home below.

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 randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping” late-adolescent girls (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Food craving: new contributions on its assessment, moderators, and consequences (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Food Cravings and Body Weight: A Conditioning Response (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Food cravings during acute hypoglycaemia in adults with Type 1 diabetes (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  8. Pre-meal water consumption reduces meal energy intake in older but not younger subjects (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. What Is the Evidence for “Food Addiction?” A Systematic Review (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
ZindzyGracia

Zindzy is a freelance writer who specializes in creating web content in the health & wellness niche. The articles she writes focus on providing factual information – but never at the expense of providing an entertaining read.
Her interest in health & wellness was sparked by her motherhood journey. She realized just how much damage misinformation could cause, especially when it is targeted at new moms who are keen on postpartum weight loss.
So for years, she has worked hard to demystify the seemingly complex concepts of health & wellness. Eventually, she made one startling discovery that she wishes to share with all – there is no short cut. Consistency and hard work are the keys to a healthy mind and body.
But, writing is not all she does. Being a mother to an energetic toddler means her free time is spent exploring the outdoors, arms laden with cotton candy and toys. Through the daily intrigues of work and play, she continues to discover and share more ways to keep fit and stay healthy!

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

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