I’m going to avoid any psychological reason for food cravings here. Although I have touched on some reasons before, it is too broad of a subject for this mere blogger to tackle, and I would have a hard time simplifying them. We can talk about the psychological reasons until the cows come home (whatever that means). The countless minute intricacies as to why people associate food cravings with their emotions could fill volumes.
However, none of that matters unless we first look at the fundamental reasons why our physical bodies need and want certain foods. Not our minds.
So here we go with the physiological reasons.
The nutrients needed in the largest quantity by the body are called Macronutrients.
These are mainly what gives our bodies energy to live. Because of this, when we are lacking in them, we feel several effects rather quickly. We get hungry, we get headaches, and we feel weak.
Some Macrominerals we need, but that don’t necessarily provide us with immediate energy, include:
- Salt (sodium)
When we’re hungry and when we have cravings, our bodies are lacking in these nutrients, and it’s telling us we need to replenish them.
When we’ve waited until the point when we’re starving, our bodies are especially depleted in nutrients. We lose energy, and we can’t think straight. We become irritable.
What are bad foods – especially fast foods – known for? Being extremely high in fat, sodium, sugar, and carbs.
It makes sense that when we are most depleted, we crave the foods that have more of what we need. But this shouldn’t be a regular thing.
Once you’re in a habit of eating incredibly unhealthy food on a regular basis, your body functions on the never ending cycle of spiking and plummeting of blood sugar and intake of fat and sugar. When you are on this cycle, you have intense cravings all the time. Your brain is accustomed to that spike.
If you are in the habit of eating healthy, balanced foods, there are no spikes! Energy and nutrient intake is much more balanced. The usual intense cravings go away.
This doesn’t mean your food has to be cardboard.
“Health Food” is seen as bland, or lacking in taste.
What enhances flavor? Salt, sugar, and fat. When everything you eat needs to have it’s flavor enhanced with these things added, then you probably aren’t eating well. Of course “health food” tastes bland if your diet is filled with added sugars, sodium, and fats. However, when your diet is mostly “health food”, you get used to not being bombarded with more of these things than you need, and cravings for bad foods diminish greatly.
Of course those cravings will still be there from time to time, but usually only when you let yourself get extremely hungry. Have you ever gone shopping for groceries when you were hungry and came home with twice as much junk as you had planned on getting?
When the only sources for those macronutrients that you consume are those found naturally in the foods you eat, triple bacon cheeseburgers, soda, ice cream “bad” foods don’t quite have the at-any-time, at-any-meal appeal any longer. Here is an example: If the only source of sugar in your diet is fruit for a long period of time, then if you have a soda, it will taste EXTREMELY sweet. It will taste like pure syrup, rather than a refreshing beverage.
I imagine people that constantly eat terrible foods, like fast food, have a love-hate relationship with food. They may not actually even realize it, but their moods fluctuate wildly because of their diet. It’s a constant cycle of feeling bad, ravenous cravings/hunger, scarfing of food, euphoria, feeling overstuffed, being tired and lethargic, and doing it all over again.
The reason – evolutionarily speaking – that we have taste buds is so we can identify the foods that have what we need. It’s probably to our detriment that today, when most food products are made in factories, that our taste buds still rule our diet choices. We still seek out the foods that are most fulfilling to our needs, even if those needs are met, AND THEN SOME.
There’s no danger of scavenging through a wild grocery store and accidentally eating something poisonous. We’re too educated to let that happen.
Taste buds are a luxury now. Let’s not let that luxury be our downfall.