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Do you crave what you need?

this post by Jetgirly got me thinking about something I'd considered before:

"I try not to drink calories, but yesterday I couldn't get my mind off orange juice. I trekked to the grocery store, in the snow, bought a litre and drank it all within the hour. I guess I needed the Vitamin C (or the acid... could my body be too alkaline?)."

I think that in general, our bodies must crave stuff that we need. So say you're getting low on iron, you start thinking "mmmm, spinach".

So, can anyone give any examples of this?

And let's do an experiment - for those of you craving something right now, can you think of a reason you might be craving it? (Although I expect the #1 reason is reading about it here...)

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  1. Interesting question, but how can you really know the answer? That is, how do you know what your body 'needs,' other than by your craving... and then it's just a circular argument. I mean, maybe you think your body needs vitamin c, but how do you know, other than getting scurvy or by the fact that you crave OJ or strawberries or something?

    You generally crave sugar if your blood sugar is low, so that's an easy one; I guess if you had a blood test that showed low iron and you craved liver or spinach, then that would be some evidence. But in general I don't really know what my body needs, although I suspect that what I crave is filling some need. And also, many food items contain many nutrients, so it may be hard to determine which of the things in, say, canteloupe (which I've had cravings for) is the one thing my body may or may not be needing at the time. It's a hard thing to test really rigorously, is what I'm trying to say.

    1. I do believe that our body knows what it needs/wants to function properly and that one should follow cravings (within reason).

      Two things that I sometimes crave that make me think that it's because my body needs it are orange juice and what I call "bloody" tasting food (raw tuna and rare beef).

      1 Reply
      1. re: viperlush

        I do that with rare beef. And if I'm wiped-out fatigued and get that craving, after having it my energy returns right away - but no other food I've found will do that. (I've wondered if it's the salt for blood pressure, the heme iron or maybe carnitine, carnosine or taurine.)

      2. I definitely believe that our body craves what we need. When I was in Puerto Rico recently, I ate a lot more meat and starch and fried foods than I normally do. Towards the end of my trip I was just craving vegetables and lots of citrus. The idea of eating any more fried food or meat made me really ill.

        Problem with cravings is that they can trip you up. There are a lot of people who have items that aren't the best for them but crave them because of an imbalance. Best example I can think of is sugar. And I'm sure if you're really craving that cigarette, it's not because your body really needs it. The thing about cravings is to see how you feel about an hour or two after eating the item in question. Those who mistakenly crave sugar will feel great 5 minutes after eating it but will probably feel like crap again a couple of hours later.

        And for jetgirly -- your body was probably too acidic if you were craving orange juice as opposed to alkaline. While oranges are acidic, when taken in, they raise the pH.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          Although nicotine is quite a regulator of body processes and nervous energy levels - slows them down when they're a little high and speeds them up when they're a little low. I've often wondered how much of the cigarette craving people get is related to that. (I'm a nonsmoker but have read some science texts on nicotine etc.)

          1. re: Cinnamon

            Nicotinic acid is also known as B3 or Niacin

        2. With me, it's salt during the summer. I run for fitness, and sweat a lot (and sweat out a lot of salt) once the dew points start getting above about 75F. So if I'm craving french fires (salt plus potassium) during the summer, an electrolyte imbalance is frequently the reason.

          3 Replies
          1. re: beachmouse

            my story exactly -- except that i only run because i have to chase my dog. :)

            i'd never made the potassium connection before now, but perhaps that does explain why latkes and french fries and things of that ilk are among my favorite foods. and incidentally, i also crave yogurt (high in potassium), frequently.

            1. re: cimui

              I've been craving salt today which is so unlike me. I don't like salt....I don't cook with it and don't add it to my food. So do I need it? Or is my pregnancy? Or both?

              1. re: rizzo0904

                If it's actually sodium you crave, celery might satisfy you since it's high in sodium.

          2. Don't have any examples that I am feeling right now to add but I totally buy this. Some people are more in tune with their bodies than others, and I have heard it said that women are more in tune than men in general. When I have heavy flow at my time of the month I want me some red meat for sure.

            1. No, I don't believe that. If that were the case, most Americans would crave more fresh vegetables and not cookies and french fries. And, people, pregnant women, have pica cravings for non food, non nutritional items, like chalk.

              28 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                But who is to say that they aren't craving fresh veggies, fruit, etc. but either aren't as in tune to their bodies or just ignoring the healthy cravings. No one is saying that all cravings are healthy, sometimes I'll crave a Big Mac but I seriously doubt its because my body needs one.

                1. re: viperlush

                  It seems that if you have a craving, you'd know it. If you didn't know you had it, it wouldn't be a craving. Even if they're ignoring the craving, they still have the craving. I've rarely heard someone say they crave a big bowl of broccoli--not to say it doesn't happen but if people craved foods they need, there would be a lot of people saying that.

                  1. re: chowser

                    I address a part of the whole craving issue in my post above. And givemecarbs is totally correct that some people are more in tune with their bodies than others. And I also think so many people are on different things (eg. pain-killers, coffee, alcohol) that it creates this "noise" and makes it more difficult to be in tune with your own body. For example, for most people coffee creates this "burst of energy" and may mask that your body really needs to rest some more.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      With the example for coffee, people might crave coffee because they need the energy when they need sleep but the craving is for coffee and not for sleep. The need is for sleep. Cravings to me are not something hidden--it's a desire for something that's not subconcious. Maybe it's a difference in definition but to me cravings are the top level. People who are in tune with their bodies can better decipher what that craving is a need for but the craving itself might not be the need. It's like going through psychotherapy to determine what the person really wants when they go for the gut instinct. The craving is the gut instinct.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I think we just have a difference in definitions. Cravings to you are very conscious -- "I just need that cigarette now," or "I really need some steak." In my eyes, cravings can be obvious or more subtle.

                        I think that cravings are more complex than basic urges. With my coffee example, if you're at work at 2P, one may be craving coffee (instead of sleep) because there's no way you can take a cat nap in the office. So your mind could say, "I need some coffee" instead of thinking that you need sleep because sleep is not even in your realm of possibilities. And, of course, your body can also just be craving coffee for many other reasons other than sleep -- eg. I hate my job; coffee makes me feel better, hence I want a cup of coffee at 2P to help me get through the work day -- or it could be just a plain simple "I like the taste of coffee."

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Yes, to me cravings are immediate desires. You think on a deeper scale. On a more basic level, a teen might crave sex. To me, the craving would be sex but for you, it would be to a need to procreate.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            Cravings can be caused by different mechanisms. While you may crave orange juice you may think that you need vitamin C, but OJ in fact has very little vit C, about 80 mg.. It may be an allergic addiction to citrus. Addiction is craving to the extreme. If there is something that you seem to have to eat every day, you may be allergic to it. You can experiment by not having this for a week or so and then see if you still crave. The main purpose of all metabolism is to provide glucose to the brain. Carbs are the fastest route to blood sugar, nothing quicker than sugar in the mouth. As to iron in spinach, some lab tech misplaced a decimal point, and spinach became a high iron food.
                            While some cravings can be caused by nutritional need. It has been theorized that pickles and milk craved by a pregnant woman is seen that the acid of pickles facilitate calcium absorption from the milk.
                            We all have cravings, but it can be difficult to get to the true cause.

                      2. re: chowser

                        Makes sense. I'm approaching it as a craving due to the body needing a specific nutrient/vitamin, not a specific food. I'm thinking that some people might have a craving for something healthy, but don't satisfy it in a healthy way. For an extreme example: I sometimes crave "bloody" foods (rare meat, raw tuna),maybe for the iron. Eating either is reasonably healthy. A Jeffrey Dahmer out there might get the same craving and find a less healthy (and legal) way to satisfy the craving. Jetgirl satisfied her craving for vitamin C/acidity/whatever with orange juice, others might have chosen Orange Mountain Dew (because after all if it's orange it has orange juice in it).

                        1. re: viperlush

                          How can we really tell, when you come down to it, unless you're tested? Jetgirl might think she needs vitamin C because she's deficient but has it been tested? I'm frequently anemic but have never charted my cravings for red meat with my iron levels. I wonder if people make the assumption sometimes that they're craving something because they have a deficiency. There are a lot of people who claim that after exercising, they need to eat more. Is it psychological or physical? Or, because I'm anemic, I might think I should crave red meat and so I do. But, part of that comes down to knowledge of what foods have iron. If you didn't know that molasses is a good source of iron, you might not crave it. We don't know. Rereading the thread, that's BatGauno's question up top. I wouldn't rule out cravings but at the same time, I'd think if that were true, we'd all be healthy and eat right.

                          1. re: chowser

                            Right, you can't be certain unless you tested (but then again maybe there studies out there?), but I do think that our bodies are programmed to want to be healthy and eat right (both expressed w/cravings) but there are those who ignore it. After all people make stupid decisions all the time sometimes knowing it's stupid and sometimes not.

                            1. re: viperlush

                              We've moved so far from our natural instincts that it's hard to tell. Our basic urges should be to move but we're a nation of couch potatoes. Are we ignoring our natural urges or have they disappeared?

                            2. re: chowser

                              I think cravings can be psychological (eg. like in smoking), but not always the case. A couple of years ago I was craving a lot of protein -- whether it was in the form of meat or eggs. I was eating meat twice a day (and larger portions of it than I usually eat). Turns out that I did have a condition that caused my unusual cravings. But I do agree with you that there definitely could be a psychological component to it.

                              In respect to your anemia and red meat/versus molasses cravings, it would be a psychological thing of a lot of people knowing that red meat is a good source of iron. But, then again, food is complex, and the iron from the red meat can be different than the iron in the molasses when you take it into the entire context of the food.

                              I also think another thing that shapes our cravings is advertisements/media. They do work. I'm sure a lot of you guys have seen some ad for some food or watched some cooking show and say, "Hey, I need some Mexican food after seeing Bourdain in Mexico." I know I did.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                I've been craving Indian food ever since I read the post on inexpensive spicy food.

                                1. re: Caralien

                                  Maybe you have a deficiency in cumin.;-) I've been craving indian food since goodhealthgourmet posted her chana masala recipe which I finally just made.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    we had chili a few nights ago, but Indian is what I was craving. We headed to Palace of Asia and had the best Indian meal we've had in months. YUM! Craving taken care of.

                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                  when i crave a lot of protein it usually turns out i've grown an inch! three weeks ago i got one of these protein cravings and whalla i just measured 5'6 and a half !

                                  i'm also agreeing with fellow posters that some people are more in touch than others, i take my cravings seriously because i crave certain healthy foods at different times, orange apples broccoli brussel sprouts pumkin kangaroo chocken fish salad the list could go on and its usually pretty accurate with me, oranges when i have a cold (could be phschological too ;-) ) etc.

                                  1. re: umbushi plum

                                    I've been craving salt lately, which is normal during the summer due to dehydration.

                            3. re: chowser

                              Chowser: I regularly crave steamed broccoli and other roasted vegetable (I eat these all the time). I rarely have any other cravings except vegetable. I know a lot of people who get a veggie craving when they haven't had some in a while--their bodies are telling them something. I also occasionally crave grilled or roasted chicken. I think my most "unique" craving is cottage cheese, though. This is almost a "super food" because it's high amount of calcium and protein and not being an animal source. I eat it on an almost daily basis, and I'm very happy my cravings are for that and veggies and not for things like cheese and meat!

                              1. re: Jacey

                                Cottage cheese is not from a plant source...

                                1. re: Jacey

                                  <I think my most "unique" craving is cottage cheese, though...and I'm very happy my cravings are for that and veggies and not for things like cheese and meat!>

                                  Cottage cheese is not a cheese? News to me.

                                  I don't doubt that some cravings are due to a dietary "need." But "need" obviously isn't the only thing prompting cravings. Otherwise few people would crave desserts.

                                  1. re: Jacey

                                    When did cottage cheese not come from animal source?

                                    "I think my most "unique" craving is cottage cheese, though. This is almost a "super food" because it's high amount of calcium and protein and not being an animal source."

                                    1. re: Jacey

                                      Cottage cheese also has less calcium, relatively speaking, than e.g., yogurt and milk. If cravings were prompted by the specific nutrients you need, and calcium and protein were your needs, it is likely your cravings would be for foods other than cottage cheese. It sounds as if you crave cottage cheese because you enjoy it.

                                2. re: chowser

                                  From: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/preg...

                                  " The reason that some women develop pica cravings during pregnancy is not known for certain. There is currently no identified cause; however, according to the Journal of American Dietetic Association there may be a connection to an iron deficiency.
                                  Some speculate that pica cravings are the body's attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing through normal food consumption."

                                  1. re: Cinnamon

                                    "Some speculate that pica cravings are the body's attempt to obtain vitamins or minerals that are missing through normal food consumption."

                                    Some speculate, just as they speculate in this thread. But, if you have a craving for chalk because you're missing some odd mineral or vitamin, that must mean that you inherently know there is something in that item that your body is missing. Does mankind have an inherent knowledge of that (because I'd guess most people have no clue what nutrients are in chalk or laundry detergent)? I'm asking, not challenging. Do our bodies/minds know about micronutrients, eg. lycopene or even ones undiscovered as yet, and what foods contain them to crave them?

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      If chalk really is calcium carbonate, ie Tums, and pregnancy has a tendency to cause nausea and heatburn, it might makes sense. A lot of people don't consume enough calcium either.

                                      1. re: Caralien

                                        Many people with autism will eat only gluten- and diary-based food and then are found out to have gluten and casein issues. Many begin eating a wider assortment of foods when put on the GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) diet. In the case of gluten-sensitivity the gluten causes a opiate affect so they are on a gluten high and don't like the feeling of coming down.

                                      2. re: chowser

                                        From an evolutionary biology perspective it would make a lot of sense. Scientists are studying the case for an actual calcium appetite (not just the sense) in humans, and there's a sodium appetite, etc. I'd expect researchers have a ton more to find out in this whole general area.

                                        1. re: Cinnamon

                                          "From an evolutionary biology perspective it would make a lot of sense."

                                          That's what I was thinking. In the past, people, like animals now, just ate, there was no food pyramid, no eating every color of the rainbow, no watching sat fats or whatever. I wonder if people who had scurvy craved oranges.

                                  2. this is a nice follow-up to the "healthy foods you crave" post, earlier. i do believe we crave what our bodies need. the clearest example i can think of off the top of my head is that i have always been prone to anemia (low iron) and often crave foods like liver and spinach.

                                    1. Another wrinkle: I've heard that often people crave things they are allergic to; not sure if it's a real craving in my case, but I'm allergic to corn, and I love corn chips. And consequently feel lousy afterward. So I really like them, and will often eat them despite the consequences, but it's not something that I crave in the sense that it's something I think about and then go out and get them and scarf them down....

                                      1. When I'm really craving ice cream, yogurt, or dairy, it's usually after realising I haven't had any in a few days, so it could be calcium (or at least that's what I tell myself).

                                        Kumquats made coffee undrinkable--I was so shaky from whatever it is in kumquats (and grapefruit, if I remember), that anything more stimulating energy-wise was too much.

                                        Raw vegetables during visits to the south, lots of juicy fruits during the summer (dehydration), potatoes in the winter.

                                        Then again, when I'm totally stressed it's really salty food, pizza (throwback to college, although I can no longer eat an entire 18" pie), or my mother's cooking.

                                        1. our body craves what a million years of evolution have taught us to crave due to scarcity.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: thew

                                            Yep, that is exactly what I was thinking as I read through the answers. I do think it's maybe possible to crave healthy foods when you're severely lacking certain nutrients, but it seems like it has more of a psychological component (I know oranges have Vitamin C, I think I need Vitamin C, therefore oranges sound good) than the more deeply entrenched proclivity to cravings for carbs and fat.

                                          2. I think so, I feel like I need to eat some protein, and I haven't had fish in ages. So I totally believe that.

                                            1. I have noticed after a very long (18hrs +) and wearing day I crave red meat & spinach. I have always thought it was because I was low on Iron. And after a night of too much to drink I crave milk, cheese or anything with calcium.

                                              1. The latest science research says we don't crave what we need.

                                                Mostly, we crave foods with fat and calories, not foods that have the nutrients that we need or lack. In fact, the foods we crave are often not good for us, according to a 2007 study by Tufts.

                                                Examples of cravings not good for us: Most cravings are for energy-dense foods, and for those trying to lose weight, managing those cravings (everyone gets them) is key to weight loss. Pica or unusual cravings can be terrible for the body. We may think we are craving a food with something we need, but other available foods often supply the "nutrient" we think our body wants in far greater degree that the craved foods. So, no, cravings aren't "guiding" us to eat properly.

                                                Peter Pressman of the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. and Roger Clemens of the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy wrote about food cravings in Scientific American in 2005. They said "a hankering for particular foods is not linked to any obvious nutrient insufficiency."

                                                The article, titled "Are food cravings the body's way of telling us that we are lacking certain nutrients?", concludes by saying: ""Cravings" undoubtedly represent a true bio-psycho-social paradigm in which sociocultural factors, stressful environments and hormonal fluctuation participate in a complex drama performed on a neurological stage and the result has varied--and as yet incompletely understood--implications for nutrition and health."

                                                More here as well:

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  Cravings also respond to cultural and social factors. I mean, if you associate the need for iron with eating spinach - then you're not helping yourself get iron at all. While spinach has iron in it - most of it can not be digested by the body. Foods that are rich in iron (and easy to digest) include liver and other offal that are not commonly craved. Also, while I am personally aware that liver is very high in iron - I've never craved it. However, I have a diet that doesn't have a lot of meat and I definitely get meat cravings. But that could also easily be linked to my daily pattern of having meat two to three times a week. When it's more than that - I get kinda grossed out by the idea of eating it, and when I notice the difference in my diet. So associating "I really want spinach" to "my body needs iron" is completely flawed.

                                                  The other missed identified craving is the one for water. A lot of the time being thirsty displays itself as hunger. Unless we're raised as very young kids to properly identify cravings - they're usually get heavily tied into cultural and social experiences.

                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                    The iron in spinach is readily absorbed when eaten in conjunction with foods that enhance absorption. Fruits high in vitamin C enhance it.

                                                    1. re: irishnyc

                                                      funny that. I usually add lemon juice to my cooked spinach

                                                      1. re: irishnyc

                                                        plus, spinach isn't nearly as high in iron as people used to think. it was a decimal typo.

                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                          <<<plus, spinach isn't nearly as high in iron as people used to think. it was a decimal typo.>>>

                                                          Yes, it was this decimal point error that gave birth to Popeye eating spinach for iron and "strength." By the time the error was discovered, the myth of abundant iron in spinach had already been propagated. By the way, I love Popeye chugs the can of spinach in the cartoons, and it immediately results in enormous bicep bulges!

                                                        2. re: irishnyc

                                                          I'm wondering about the connection between Vitamin C and iron absorption.

                                                          It's not that I have the answer, it's just that I wonder...

                                                          --Is Vitamin C added to spinach because it is an acid, and acids are used to break chemical bonds?

                                                          --Is ascorbic acid a strong enough acid to break the iron-oxalate bond -- it's a tough bond to break.

                                                          --If ascorbic acid can break the bond to free the iron for absorption, how much Vitamin C (in milligrams) is required for four ounces of raw spinach?

                                                          --Is a simple squeeze of lemon juice enough, for example? Or does one have to ingest copious quantities of Vitamin C when eating spinach? (The latter is what I sense from my reading. If so, is that really feasible?)

                                                          --Would another, more powerful, acid be better for breaking the bond?

                                                          --How come your stomach's hydrochloric acid, a very powerful acid that is much, much stronger than ascorbic acid, isn't strong enough?

                                                          --Does the ascorbic acid also break the calcium-oxalate bond to free up the calcium? That's a much easier bond to break.

                                                          I've just read a bunch of recent scientific articles, and I'm not so sure about spinach's iron absoption period, or the ability of Vitamin C to release the iron for absorption.

                                                          If any of you have recent scientific evidence about all this -- not just something stated in an article or on Wikipedia -- about making the non-heme iron in spinach available for absorption by humans, please post it. The information in a lot of the old studies has been superceded, so new stuff is preferable. I'm just trying to find out along with you.

                                                    2. Beachmouses post was the kind of idea I had. And regarding the last post by Maria Lorraine (and touched on by others) I totally agree that sometimes you crave things that aren't good for you, but this might be misplaced due to bad diet.

                                                      I for one, have the privilege of having a supermarket very close, so I don't often buy food in. This means I get to wander around and pick what I want to eat there and then. I have my favorites of course, but I love walking around Thinkng "mmmm, onions... what can I make with onions" or something like that.

                                                      Another factor is that I like to cook. For a while now, I've decided it will be ok to make mac and cheese again (bad for you) but I haven't really had the craving for it. Yesterday I wanted steak and spinach, but compromised on a delicious pizza (goats cheese ham and pepperoni) and some xmas pud.

                                                      But I have to say, someimes I see orange juice and think "man, I could do a gallon of that", or find myself going for things that I usually don't like (beetroot? bleagh)

                                                      1. I definitely think so. I'm not normally much of a beef eater, but every few weeks I would get an insane craving for a nice bloody steak. It was to the point where I would call the husband at work and tell him that if we didn't go out for steak that night, he could sleep in the car. I would get homicidal over it. I've also craved - and bought and cooked - chicken livers. It turned out I was extremely anemic. Since I began iron therapy 6 months ago I've barely touched beef or any kind of liver and have almost no interest in it.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: irishnyc

                                                          Excellent response - I realise for the most part it's hard to prove the link, but I'd say that's pretty damn good evidence!

                                                          1. re: Soop

                                                            Since this popped back up tonight, I thought I'd update my own "diagnosis"...

                                                            I'm currently 5 months pregnant, and my anemia has returned despite continuing iron therapy. Along with that my insane craving for bloody beef as returned with a vengeance. Alas, I can't choke down much in the way of beef, so I continue to crave it.

                                                            1. re: irishnyc

                                                              My girlfriend was talking about something similar. She said she was probably iron deficient, as she was eating a lot of ice lollies. She was making a parallel to pika, where people with an iron deficiency eat ice or charcoal.

                                                              I don't know if ice lollies count, but she probably is a tad iron deficient at the moment. I cooked her some spinach that she bought so that might help.

                                                        2. I craved spinach when I was pregnant...and every once in awhile I still crave it. I buy fresh or frozen and just eat bowls of it. I crave grilled onions sometimes too.

                                                          I have craved salmon and oysters too..big time. Raw oysters. I never crave fruit, sweets, or bread. I do crave pasta sometimes..and potatoes!

                                                          1. When I was prone to anemia, I regularly had violent cravings for red meat and spinach. It was a remarkably visceral feeling that I went well out of my way to satisfy. I've cleared up the anemia and now when I crave a steak, it's because I want a nice steak.

                                                            I periodically crave OJ and apple cider vinegar in water, but not at the same time. I figure it's some kind of a tuneup of my chemistry. I mean, I adore rose petal tea and coffee, and always have them on hand, but I never crave them, per se.

                                                            1. I crave grapefruit juice ONLY when I am about to get a cold.

                                                              1. I'd be interested to see a scientific correlation, but it seems to me that most cravings are not the conscious response to unconscious, internal signals. A lot of people say they crave Vitamin C when they're sick, but if their body was serious about getting Vitamin C, they'd be drawn more to red peppers, broccoli or even parsley, all of which have more Vitamin C than an orange.

                                                                1. I deffinitally crave what I need..
                                                                  my mother & I always put outragous amount of salt on our food, my friends always tell me that I am going to have a lot of health issues... but we have both gone to the doctor to make sure that we are ok, and everytime our bloodwork comes out perfect & the doctor always says that "It's just what our bodies need."

                                                                  1. Typcially, I've only craved items during restrictive diets, such as Atkins or South Beach. I can remember fantasizing about eating yogurt, which was pretty random for me...Not because I don't like it, but because it's not my first snack choice. But clearly, I was not getting enough calcium due to the lack of milk in my diet.

                                                                    These days, my cravings simply have to do with whatever it is I'm in to at the moment, i.e: bubble tea, avocado slices topped with fresh cilantro, lemon cupcakes from Buttercup Bakeshop, and the long/rectangular glazed donut sticks from the coffee carts.


                                                                    1. I have to avoid greens for now due to vitamin K content (and meds). I'm vegan so I generally eat lots of greens and they are my primary source of calcium. Today I was craving almond mylk which is my current primary source of calcium.

                                                                      Not necessarily a craving, but more of an interest in recipes containing blackstrap molasses (contains iron and b12), and lab tests which show a little (iatragenic) anemia.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: lgss

                                                                        blackstrap molasses: as syrup, blended with milk, added to cookies, mixed with soy and ginger for a grilling glaze, drizzled over fruit, spread on muffins...

                                                                        1. re: Caralien

                                                                          Made gingerbread (w/1 c of molasses) and Full Meal Muffins (w/3 Tbsp molasses) from "Vegan Lunchbox" recently. Have to buy more blackstrap.

                                                                      2. Yes, absolutely. I crave the following on a regular basis: Whataburger double meat and cheese, a large ribeye steak, medium rare; pizza with pepperoni and Italian sausage.
                                                                        Other than that, few cravings.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: steakman55

                                                                          When I crave a large rib steak. It is because I like it. There may be some primordial reptile brain in my central cortex that knows this is good.
                                                                          And I like the pics.

                                                                        2. Our dog has been ill, so I have been boiling chicken and steaming rice for her (the leftover stock is for me). For some reason, even with a refrigerator full of wonderful food and a counter overflowing with fresh produce from the farmer's market, I'm craving chicken and rice. In other words, I'm craving dog food.

                                                                          1. I totally get the rare beef cravings -- be it a nice bloody steak or rare roast beef.

                                                                            I also crave ma po tofu, and I think those Sichuan peppercorns are addictive. Frankly, I crave anything with those. Just the thought of it can make me salivate.

                                                                            1. When I'm stressed i crave alcohol.
                                                                              There is NO WAY this is what my body needs.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Peg

                                                                                Yeah, I have cravings for things that have no nutritional value, eg margaritas on the rocks. No one needs Doritos or buffalo wings but most Americans are short of vegetables--if cravings=needs, we'd all be craving broccoli.

                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                  Chowser, maybe you and your friends have a lot of unhealthy cravings but I know a lot of people who have healthy ones. You already mentioned the broccoli comment before, which I responded to, but I think part of the reason why you might have those cravings are possibly due to growing up on unhealthy foods. I grew up in a very healthy household and if I don't get 8 servings of veggies a day, my body feels it.

                                                                                  1. re: Jacey

                                                                                    The fact is most Americans (60% and growing) are overweight/obese and yet nutrionally malnourished, even those who are at a healthy weight. It's great that you crave broccoli (though, it sounds like you crave it because you were raised with it, just as my mom has to have white rice every day because it's how she was brought up) but most Americans apparently don't. If you never crave junk food, I'd have to guess that you're the exception, even reading this thread. FWIW, I easily eat 7-9 servings of vegetables a day but that doesn't mean I don't ever crave buffalo wings.

                                                                                    My comments, btw, were not anecdotal but based on the fact about the increasing health problems of Americans. This morning, my friends and I got up at the crack of dawn and did a nice long run. If I don't, I don't feel good. But, I don't think that's the case for most people.

                                                                              2. people DO NOT crave what they need. As said a long time ago in this thread, they crave what evolution programmed them to crave, they crave what we needed as savannah dwelling hominids, where fats and salts and sugars were rare. This anecdotal sort of belief ignores all teh people who crave what is unhealthy for them, as if that was outsider the equation, or all the people who do not crave things they are lacking.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                  < "people DO NOT crave what they need....[this] ignores all the people who crave what is unhealthy for them..." >

                                                                                  Hmm. What if - just IF - some people fail to recognize what it is that they crave?
                                                                                  Those people who are raised on healthy, varied diets may be able to recognize when their bodies are lacking certain things and they have a wide variety to chose among to satisfy those specific cravings.

                                                                                  Other people grow up eating very limited diets. Maybe pizza, burgers, fries, packaged processed foods, with few fruits and vegetables.
                                                                                  When their bodies signal that they need something, they misunderstand the "craving" as hunger.
                                                                                  They eat what they always eat - junk.
                                                                                  When they're not satisfied because the craving doesn't go away, they think they're still hungry and eat more.
                                                                                  Their bodies are still not getting what they need, they crave it more, keep eating junk, get fatter, and they are unhealthy.
                                                                                  Could failure to recognize cravings properly lead to obesity?

                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                    I *think* I *might* recall having read that someone was studying this idea or something along these lines.

                                                                                    Here's a description of one study somewhat related:
                                                                                    "Dopamine levels affect how much pleasure we get out of tasty food. Low dopamine levels make us less satisfied with appetizing food so we need more food to achieve the sense of pleasure, which increases the chance of becoming obese, the scientists from University of Oregon say."

                                                                                    And I know people can change what they're craving by what they're exposed to - for instance after a lot of healthier eating craving things like (for me) arugula, cilantro, etc.

                                                                                    1. re: Cinnamon

                                                                                      Maybe we all do this sometime.
                                                                                      We know we *want* something. Not sure what it is. But we want *something*.
                                                                                      Walk to the kitchen. If there's ice cream, cookies, Doritos, etc. That's what we grab.
                                                                                      Sometimes, I'll open the fridge and see a container of leftover broccoli and that just hits the spot. I'm happier than if I had found brownies. And I'm satisfied.

                                                                                      But if you never have nutritious food on hand? You're going to grab the junk.
                                                                                      And after you finish off the cookies, you're still craving *something* so you eat more....

                                                                                    2. re: MakingSense

                                                                                      Making Sense,

                                                                                      Cravings seem more likely based on embedded reward pathways in the brain, IMO
                                                                                      Yum, that tastes good, we think, and our brains take notice.

                                                                                      Once the food reward circuits have been established, the brain "reminds" us
                                                                                      that we liked the reward from eating THIS thing

                                                                                      This is not a wise brain, an intelligent brain that has determined a nutritional deficit and is then directing us to foods that erase that deficit. This is an addict's brain telling you it needs a fix.

                                                                                      Our eating history creates these reward pathways, and that's usually what determines a craving. At least that's the sense I get after reading David Kessler's
                                                                                      new book, "The End of Overeating."

                                                                                      Kessler, the doctor/lawyer who headed the FDA for some time (and actually made some progress there, incredibly), says that food manufacturers have learned how to overexcite our brains with studied combos of fat, sugar and salt.

                                                                                      So, IMO, it's not a failure to recognize cravings that causes obesity, but an overabundance of food reward pathways that need a fix. Some folks with cravings are like addicts just trying to excite a reward pathway that's paid off in the past with a flavor party and dopamine rush.

                                                                                      And, just so you know, I'm no angel in this department. I feel craven cravings calling me too. I eat pretty healthfully with lots of vegetables and fruit, so my cravings are usually for something like chips, bread, ice cream, chocolate, etc.

                                                                                      Read more about Kessler, his new book in the New York Times here:

                                                                                  2. I have a lot of cravings and it doesn't have a thing to do with what my body needs. It's from reading all these posts in at CH

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: scubadoo97


                                                                                      I read about new foods, dishes, ingredients here and "cravings" are created!