What Your Food Cravings Secretly Reveal About Your Health

Craving these popular foods may mean your body is trying to tell you something important.

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Close-up of ice cubes
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Craving ice?

Some people really love chewing ice, it’s true. But if you find yourself craving the cold stuff it might be a sign of anemia. A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners concluded that doctors should ask patients if they crave ice as it’s a sign of iron deficiency. Ice cravings are a form of pica—a desire to eat non-food items like dirt and laundry soap—and are linked to low iron levels. The researchers hypothesized it might be because chewing the ice might temporarily increase blood flow to the brain, counteracting the slowdown caused by iron deficiency.

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Close-up of chocolate pieces
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Craving chocolate?

If you find yourself constantly reaching for chocolate—one of the most popular food cravings—you may be depressed and trying to self-medicate with the sweet stuff. A survey of more than 13,000 people found that those who ate dark chocolate during a 24-hour period were 57 per cent less likely to report symptoms of depression. In addition, chocolate contains magnesium and theobromine, two compounds shown to reduce levels of stress hormones and promote muscle relaxation.

Learn to spot the signs of high-functioning depression.

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Donut with colourful sprinkles
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Craving sweets?

Are your dreams, both day and night, filled with visions of sugar plums (and more modern sweets)? If so, you might need to spend more time in dreamland. A 2018 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people increased the number of hours they slept, they significantly decreased their intake of sugar. So skip the candy and opt for some zzz’s instead.

Discover all the ways sugar is making you sick.

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Grilled cheese sandwich
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Craving cheese?

Cheese is a star ingredient in so many comfort foods—and for good reason. The melty treat contains l-tryptophan, a compound that improves mood and promotes relaxation. So if your food cravings revolve around a cheesy deep dish pizza or gooey mac-n-cheese, it may just be that you’re in need of a little TLC. Indulging in a reasonable portion can be a good way to de-stress and feel better. But if you’re constantly craving cheese, it may also be a sign that you’re having issues with concentration and memory. A 2015 study out of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were twice as likely to crave cheese as others.

Woke up in a crummy mood? Don’t let it ruin your day! These quick and easy mood-boosters will put a smile back on your face.

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Soft drinks
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Craving soda?

Many a person swears they can’t go a day without their Coke or Pepsi. While you may love the fizzy sweetness, what you’re most likely craving is the caffeine hit. One serving of Coke provides 30 mg of caffeine—enough to give you a nice wake-up jolt but not enough to make you jittery. A less common reason for soda cravings is a calcium deficiency. According to a 2017 study in Front Endocrinol, the daily consumption of cola can leach calcium and magnesium from your bones, creating a vicious cycle of depletion and craving.

These are the signs you’re drinking too much coffee.

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Potato chips in white bowl
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Craving potato chips?

Potato chips and their hot cousin, French fries, are two of the most commonly reported food cravings, but downing bags of the fatty junk foods may be a signal you’re low on healthy fats, says Taylor Newhouse Leahy, RD, a clinical dietitian at Baylor Scott & White Hospital. Of particular interest are omega-3’s. Our bodies don’t manufacture those fatty acids, so to get our daily requirement we have to eat it in foods like salmon and other fatty fish. Or it may mean you need more healthy fats in general and you’re not getting enough foods like avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

Here’s our quick list of fruits for diabetics to avoid.

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Handsome bearded man drinking from water bottle
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Craving water?

If you’re super thirsty, chances are you’re just dehydrated and your body is telling you to pick up the slack with your water bottle. But if you’re always craving the wet stuff, it could signal a deeper issue like diabetes. Excessive thirst and urination are one of the earliest warning signs that your insulin levels are out of whack, according to the American Diabetes Association. Extra glucose builds up in your blood, making your kidneys go into overtime to process all of it. When they can’t keep up, it gets excreted through your urine which in turn makes you thirsty again.

Check out the surprising benefits of staying hydrated.

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Photo: RickSzczechowski/iStock

Craving pretzels?

Salt cravings can be a sign of can be a sign of Addison’s disease or Bartter’s syndrome, especially if the cravings come with other symptoms like exhaustion, weight loss, and skin discolouration.

These surprisingly unhealthy foods aren’t as nutritious as you think they are.

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Craving kettle corn?

The body needs both sodium and glucose to function properly—two nutrients that are quickly depleted when you exercise, especially if you sweat a lot. So if you are craving a salty-sweet treat, it may be your body telling you it needs to physically recover and replenish its stores, Leahy says. This is why most workout recovery drinks include a hit of both sugar and salt.

Here are the signs you’re eating too much salt.

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Woman drinking water
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Craving… anything?

An intense craving for any food (but usually treats) is often mistaken as hunger when in reality it may mean you’re dehydrated. Just so you know: Thirst is actually the last resort signal for dehydration. “We often misinterpret the signals our body is giving us,” explains Leahy. “As a society, we are chronically dehydrated. The next time you reach for something sweet or salty, try quelling the craving with a tall glass of water. You may be surprised at the result.”

Next, don’t dismiss these symptoms that could signal huge health problems.

The Healthy
Originally Published on The Healthy

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