Food Cravings Why Do You Crave Certain Foods?


Food Cravings: Why Do You Crave Certain Foods?

Have you ever experienced specific food cravings? I don’t mean when you are hungry; I mean when that desire begins to take control and it seems that resistance is futile. I think most of us do. In fact, WebMD tells us that surveys indicate that nearly 100% of younger women and almost 70% of young men experienced food cravings.

These cravings may seem mysterious but quite a bit of research has been done and it turns out there are many possible reasons, any number of which can apply to a specific individual. Knowing what these reasons are can help you satisfy your curiosity about your specific craving profile and make it easier to manage.

Food Cravings Can Be Genetic

Genetic concepts can be very basic or very complex and some are related to a specific set of individuals and others relate to all of us. One basic concept is that is universal is that humans are geared to gain and carry excess calories. Although we have eateries on every corner today, it wasn’t always that way. Our ancestors did not always know where their next meal was coming from so they loaded up when they could as a guard against the lean times.

It seems we still carry that motive and eating the foods we enjoy are the obvious way to satisfy it. It is no surprise that most craved foods are either calorie dense or nutrient dense. The genetic factor can be further explained by a article that tells us about the findings of the European Society of Human Genetics conference. It turns out that a preference for certain foods such as dark chocolate, artichokes, blue cheese, and coffee among others are linked to individuals with a specific genetic makeup.

Stress Reduction

There are several ways that certain foods can de-stress us. Let’s start with the tongue. It is fitted taste cells containing hormone receptors called glucocorticoids. It turns out they are activated during stressful times. These cells prefer some foods to others. The logic is that if we can please these cells we will perceive less stress.

For those of us who crave carbohydrates, it is notable that ingesting them increases the level of the serotonin hormone. This hormone is known to lower stress levels. There has been some evidence that eating a combination of sugar and fat can reduce the production of hormones that are linked to rising stress levels.

Sensory Temptations

Other than vision, cravings can be brought on by our other senses smell and sound (think of the sound of someone crunching away on potato chips). Smell is a very powerful crave-inducer. For example there is a fried chicken restaurant next to the grocery store where I shop. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the exhaust fan from their kitchen points out towards the grocery store parking lot.

A grocery store study conducted by Diayan Biswas, Ph.D., a University of South Florida assistant professor of marketing determined that people in general are drawn to unhealthy food products when lighting is dimmer. He also found that certain kinds of music cause people to desire buying sweeter foods.

Do You Have a Sweet Tooth?

Yes, craving sugar is such a popular one that it even has its own nickname. What makes a sweet tooth a bit different than other more specific cravings is that almost any sugar-laden treat will do. One reason you might have it is the way sugar affects the brain. Much like alcohol and some other drugs it can effect an addictive habit.

The desire for it can be triggered by many things; as a habit (the obligatory dessert), as a means of relaxation, or as a stress reduction technique. One of the dangers of too much refined sugar is obesity. Although sugar consumed immediately after a workout can be a good thing (it replenishes glycogen in the muscles and liver), at other times it is stored as fat.

Food Cravings During Pregnancy

It’s a safe bet that almost every family has a story about this. Pregnant women tend to not only avoid certain foods but develop cravings for others. Researchers haven’t reached any positive conclusion just yet about what triggers the cravings but strongly tend towards the logical conclusion, that it is to make up for mineral or vitamin deficiencies in the mother and the baby.

A few of these that seem to be common are:

  • fish
  • ice cream
  • potato chips
  • fruits such as pineapples, strawberries, and oranges
  • pickles

Rumor has it that Jane Seymour, wife of King Henry VIII, frequently demanded quail.

A related non-food craving that many expectant mothers experience is a condition known as pica. The desire may be for something as normal as ice or corn starch. On the other hand, it can include a bit more bizarre substances such as:

  • clay
  • ashes
  • plants
  • paper
  • soil
  • laundry detergent

Please don’t eat these; instead consult with your doctor to try to determine any mineral deficiency.

The Bottom Line

The best answer is not total abstinence from the foods you crave; that wouldn’t be any fun obviously. Just follow some simple guidelines. Don’t overdo it. Don’t substitute cravings for regular meals. Recognize that there is a reason for your craving and make adjustments in your lifestyle. Finally, avoid stressful situations as much as possible.


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