From cake and candy to chips and bread, many of us have a guilty pleasure.
But why do we get such an intense appetite for food?
The urge to eat chocolate or crack open a packet of chips may be your body’s way of alerting you to something.
Some experts have suggested nutrient deficiencies are to blame for cravings, while others say it’s as simple as associating the snacks you enjoy with pleasure.
Here, MailOnline reveals what your food cravings may and may not mean.
From cake and candy to chips and bread, many of us indulge in guilty pleasures, but why do we get such intense food cravings? (stock image)
Cake or something sweet
Whether it’s cakes, gummy bears or cookies, those with a sweet tooth know the feeling of a sugar craving all too well.
But whatever your vice, your craving for a sweet treat is likely caused by your body’s sugar levels crashing after a spike.
As you eat, your blood sugar rises and insulin is released.
And according to experts, if you eat refined sugar and carbohydrates, they will quickly reach your bloodstream and cause a blood sugar imbalance.
The body will then release more insulin to compensate for the rapid rise in blood sugar.
Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville said: ‘Once it’s treated, blood sugar will drop, but because you’ve generated so much insulin, the levels will drop too low and you’ll soon crave a chocolate bar.
“The more candy you eat, the more you crave it — it’s a catch 22.”
And dr. Duane Mellor, one of the UK’s top nutrition researchers, says: ‘In terms of general drivers to eat, these are linked to calorie density, for example sweet and fat.
“The idea of the pudding belly, in that when we’re full, as our biology has evolved, we’re not sure about the next meal, [so] our bodies will tend to encourage us to eat high-calorie foods, such as desserts at the end of a meal.’
And nutritionist Melissa Snover, founder of vitamin brand Nourished, said the same could be true for fruit cravings.
“This can be one of the healthiest cravings you can have, as long as fruit is eaten in moderation and on a balanced diet so your sugar levels don’t spike,” she added.
To curb your sugar cravings, Dr. Glenville recommends taking a chromium supplement.
Chromium is a trace metal found in the body in the form of trivalent chromium, which may play a role in normal insulin function.
Chips or something salty
Some people prefer a crunchy craving.
And your craving for something salty could mean your electrolytes are low.
Electrolytes potassium and sodium balance body fluids and keep muscles and nerves working smoothly.
And salty foods are high in sodium, so experts suggest that these cravings are your body’s way of telling you it needs sodium — albeit in small amounts.
Mrs Wilkinson said: ‘If you crave salty foods, it could mean that your sodium levels are too low, usually due to dehydration, after exercise, illness or drinking alcohol.’
Sodium is a vital mineral that helps maintain water balance in the body, which helps regulate blood pressure.
“You can quickly replenish your sodium by snacking on dried anchovies or salted popcorn, which are naturally high in minerals,” she added.
“You can also find small amounts of sodium in celery and carrots, which should curb your cravings.”
According to the British Heart Foundation, according to guidelines, adults should eat less than six grams of salt a day — about a teaspoon.
And the NHS says if you’re on a high-salt diet, your body gets used to those levels.
It also warns that if you eat too many of them, common foods can taste bland, encouraging you to add more salt — which fuels the cycle.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Basic meals based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, preferably whole grains
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat muesli biscuits, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread, and a large baked potato with skin
• Provide dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) and choose lower-fat, lower-sugar options
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish per week, one of which is fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small quantities
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water per day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
Eleanor McClelland, head of nutrition at healthy snack company Graze, said cravings for savory foods could also indicate a lack of protein.
“It can often lead to reaching for high-calorie, high-sodium foods and snacks that don’t satisfy the craving,” she added.
“Try foods that are packed with protein and high in fiber, such as nuts or roasted legumes or beans.”
Bread or other carbohydrates
Craving for a hearty meal consisting of solid carbohydrates such as bread or pasta is another common craving.
But when it hits, resist the temptation to load up on refined, white varieties of your favorite carbohydrate — like the body cannot digest them as easily.
There can be many reasons why you crave carbs, including stress.
Licensed dietitian Lindsay Pleskot says, “We are programmed to survive, so if we don’t feel safe, our brains may increase cravings for quick energy (including bread, pasta, pastries, etc.) to store for later use.”
Experts say that other possible causes of carb cravings may include a need to regulate a bad mood, as carb intake is linked to the release of the happiness hormone serotonin.
And restricting food can also be a cause of cravings.
This is because in response to food deprivation, the body increases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin to prompt you to search for food and energy.
You know that one piece of chocolate you went to treat yourself to and suddenly you demolished a whole bar?
We’ve all experienced it.
But your craving for chocolate may be your body crying out for something else.
Experts estimate that about 80 percent of the population lacks magnesium in their daily diet.
The body needs magnesium because it helps regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure, and it makes proteins, bones and DNA.
And some people have suggested that a chocolate craving is actually your body signaling that it lacks the nutrient.
But dr. Mellor said this is a myth.
He said: “Since people have only known cacao for about 1,000 years and chocolate in its current form is a Victorian creation, the (chocolate craving) is more about the pleasure that comes from eating sweet and fatty chocolate than any mineral it may contain in chocolate.” fraction of a gram quantities.’
Despite not being the cause of cravings, dark chocolate can be a source of magnesium.
However, nutritionist Vidushi Binani, co-founder of fitness center and eatery Cafe Volonte, said, “Dark chocolate is popularly known as a source of magnesium, and while it is a good source, about 60mg in a 25g serving, we would have to eat a lot of dark chocolate to reach the optimal daily intake (nearly six servings of chocolate), which is obviously too much sugar for the body.
“Other sources of magnesium include cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, and pumpkin seeds, to name a few, which also help you feel fuller longer and curb sugar cravings.”