Should you be paying attention to your food cravings? Or could a balanced and well nourished diet diminish your cravings all together?

I share my thoughts with Sarah Berry from The Sydney Morning Herald.

Do you crave chocolate because your body needs more magnesium? Is your sweet-tooth just your body’s way of crying out for chromium?

Is a lack of the essential amino acid, tryptophan the underlying issue when the only thought filling your mind is of fat chunks of bread with butter?

And what about those moments when the thought of a juicy steak makes you salivate? Is that simply a sign you need more iron?

In a new article, the MailOnline asserted that cravings are the body’s way of telling us it is missing out on something.

“Cravings mainly indicate that our body is lacking a specific mineral or nutrient,” Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson told MailOnline.

“Instead of giving into our cravings, it is important to understand them, and give the body exactly what it needs.”

Accredited practicing dietitian Melanie McGrice agrees to an extent.

“Just because we have an obesity problem, doesn’t mean that we can’t be malnourished,” McGrice says.

“Having a high intake of processed foods often leaves people low in micronutrients such as iodine, chromium and iron. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to food cravings. ”

When people are getting the nutrients they need, she says the desires diminish.

“It’s interesting how often I see clients who feel less hungry on a smaller volume of food; as a result of meeting more nutritional requirements, they experience a reduction in physical cravings.”

Accredited practising dietitian Katie Thomsitt agrees that instead of trying to figure out what your cravings indicate, prevent deficiencies in the first place by eating a nutrient-rich diet of fruit, vegetables, lean meat, low fat dairy and whole grains.

Despite anecdotal evidence about comfort food cravings, Thomsitt says there is no science to support the MailOnline’s claims.

“Food cravings are not an indication that your body is lacking certain nutrients or minerals,” she says. “There is no science to support the claim that a link exists.

“We tend to crave energy-dense foods such as chips, chocolate and cakes. Our bodies definitely do not need these foods…

“If you are lacking in magnesium, it would make more sense to crave spinach as it is a far richer dietary source of the mineral than chocolate is.

“If you are craving a packet of chips, it’s unlikely a carrot or celery stick is going to satisfy you.”

Rather, she says, we lust after comfort foods because they taste great and because we often associate them with celebration and socialising and feeling good.

This means we want them to make us feel better when we feel sad.

“Evidence has shown that food cravings are more likely driven by emotions such as stress, anxiety, feeling bored or lonely,” Thomsitt says. “When we experience these emotions, we crave comforting foods to help improve our mood. ”

There is nothing wrong with this and indulging in these cravings is OK.

“In fact this is very much part of a healthy diet when practised in moderation,” Thomsitt says. “It is not a good idea to try to ignore or fight cravings as this can lead to an overconsumption of energy-dense foods down track.

“Eating based on rules and eliminating all energy-dense foods that you enjoy eating from your diet is not helpful long term. This is often why diets fail eventually.”

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