What your food cravings mean

·3-min read

We all get cravings for certain foods from time to time, but for some annoying reason they usually seem to be for the sort of nosh that we know won't do us any good.

Food cravings
Food cravings

Pic: Getty

Now everyone's heard the old military adage to "know thy enemy" - and it applies just as much to rubbish grub as it does to land wars in Asia.

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So we have taken a look at the main kind of food cravings, in order that you have the information you need to defeat them...

Salty foods
While it's generally advisable to limit the amount of salt in your diet, there are several legitimate reasons that you might crave a burger and chips from time to time.

You might be dehydrated or suffering from a mineral deficiency (which salt will probably not fix) - or you may even have a rare medical condition which is causing the cravings.

But we think the most interesting information comes from a scientific study published last year which linked consumption of salty snacks to production by the body of the "empathy" hormone oxytocin - which lowers stress levels.

This is the same hormone that makes mums enjoy breastfeeding and is generated by bonding activities among groups.

So next time you reach for the crisps, be aware that you may be a bit stressed and think about doing some exercise or chilling out instead.

We all know that chocolate tastes pretty damn good (apart from white chocolate of course), but there is also a solid scientific reason that we get cravings for it.

Eating choccies has been shown to stimulate the production of serotonin - which is the same chemical that ecstasy and anti-depressants release in the brain.

Serotonin also plays a key role in the feelings we experience during love and sex.

If you are addicted to chocolate then there's a good chance you might be self-medicating!

We often reach for the sweeties in the same circumstances that we munch chocolate, but the reasons we do it are subtly different.

The sort of refined sugars that we get from sweets are great for giving us an instant lift and helping us to focus our minds - but they also lead to a subsequent crash and are regarded as "empty calories" from a nutritional point of view.

Try snacking on fresh fruit instead of sherbet lemons. It will give a more sustained energy boost as well as being healthier.

Spicy food
This is not such a common craving, but most of us have had days when we really wanted a curry for dinner.
And if it happened to be a hot day then it could have been your body's way of cooling down. We know it's a bit of a paradox, but spicy food makes you sweat. This is thought to be one of the reasons that hot food is popular in very warm places like India and Mexico.

Spicy food can also speed up your metabolism and cause the release of endorphins to counteract the pain it causes, which might explain the woozy feeling a hot curry can sometimes produce.

You don't necessarily need to cut down on curries, but do be aware that take away and restaurant food is often awash with fat. Cook them at home instead so you know exactly what you're getting,

What food cravings do you suffer? How do you deal with them? Comment below...

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