Healthy Living

Aug 13, 2014 1:20 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY News

What do food cravings mean?

Most of us have cravings -- from salty snacks to decadent chocolates. Dieticians say there are some food swaps for something we want but isn't heathy, and there's a difference between being hungry and having a craving.

So what do our cravings mean?

Diane Gran said she craves, "Milky Way candy bars. And in the morning, toast with peanut butter and bananas sliced on them."

Gran has made her cravings habitual.

"It's a comfort food," she explained. "I wake up ready for the day and ready to go."

A Central Coast registered dietician would agree.

"A lot of cravings have to do with the pleasure part of the brain," said Susan Swadener, PHD, RD.

So why is chocolate a common craving?

"Chocolate makes you feel better because it has sugar, so it makes serotonin. And it has the fat, so it releases endorphins," explained Dr. Swadener.

But British doctors claim craving chocolate could mean a deficiency in magnesium, a mineral vital for healthy skin and hair. Nuts and seeds, which are high in magnesium are a good food swap for chocolate.

"I'm craving beets in particular right now," said Stephanie Young, before heading into Whole Foods to grab lunch.

Young just got done with a workout, so she's hungry for protein. Doctors say this could mean she is low on zinc.

Beets have zinc, iron and protein. Young could also turn to these healthy foods for zinc: lentils, shell fish, and spinach.

"To be honest, I always crave bread and salt, but I try not to eat those things very often," explained Young.

Craving salt and carbohydrates could mean she is low in the amino acid tryptophan. So she could grab a banana or some cashews to get her fix.

"But you know cravings are cravings, sometimes you just got to have a little bit," she said.

Another common craving is cheese. Doctors say this could mean a calcium deficiency. A food swap to get calcium: broccoli, salmon or almonds.

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