Truth and Myths about Cravings

Food cravings are commonly discussed in relation to pregnant women, diet plans and even in everyday dinner conversations. Cravings are a sometimes misunderstood subject linked with confusing statements: All pregnant women have cravings. Cravings result from nutritional deficiencies. All pregnant women crave pickles and ice cream. Food cravings are limited to sweet and salty foods. Which of these statements are true and which are myths?

Causes of Cravings

Experts agree that most people have food cravings at one point or another. Research shows that nearly all women and half of the male population crave specific foods one or more times each month. The explanation consists of a mix of information related to nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes in women, and emotional associations with food.

One prevalent theory is that the human body senses when it is deficient in vitamins and minerals, and cravings are a healthy mechanism for replenishing the body with essential nutrients. For example, you may crave red meat when low on protein. Or you may be drawn to potato products (e.g., French fries) when your body is deficient in vitamin B6.

However, there is an alternate theory that unhealthy bodies crave unhealthy foods. According to Paul Pitchford in his book, “Healing with Whole Foods”, refined sugar moves quickly through the bloodstream, jolting the stomach and pancreas. This creates an acidic condition that leads to a rapid consumption of the body’s minerals. This may lead to improper digestion and prevent proper assimilation of nutrients in the body.

Unhealthy Cravings

As Pitchford argues, eating large amounts of refined sugar is unhealthy and leads to a blood-sugar imbalance that increases sugar cravings. So, the notion that food cravings are a healthy bodily response is not true in all cases. And in the case of sugar, high amounts of it lead to diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity, high blood pressure, tooth decay and bone loss, to name just a few problems.

Recommendations

Here are some ways to combat sugar cravings:

  • Eat something sour or spicy to lower the craving.
  • Consume complex carbohydrates such as grains and legumes.
  • Avoid excessive consumption of meats, cheeses, and other animal products because they contribute to sugar cravings.
  • Eat sweet vegetables such as sweet potato, squash or carrots. Raw carrots are especially helpful for lowering sugar cravings.
  • Eat more slowly, drink plenty of water and get plenty of exercise to lower acidic conditions.

Pregnant Women and Cravings

Although not all pregnant women experience cravings, many do have them, and they crave a wide range of foods. Cravings may include sweet or salty foods, dairy products, spicy meals or sour foods. It is true that cravings sometimes include unusual food combinations such as pickles and ice cream, or olives and cheesecake. Some pregnant women also suffer from cravings for non-food items, a condition known as “pica.”

Experts offer a range of explanations for the varied cravings of pregnant women. Because not all pregnant women have cravings, there can be no one-size-fits-all explanation. Very likely, it is your physical and emotional make-up that lends itself to such cravings. Explanations include hormonal changes in pregnancy, nutritional deficiencies, emotional needs emerging from being pregnant, as well as the desire to eat to diminish pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and morning sickness.

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