Can Food Cravings Be A Sign Of Nutrient Deficiency?

Can Food Cravings Be A Sign Of Nutrient Deficiency?

We all know what it’s like to experience a food craving suddenly. One minute we’re feeling fantastic, and the next, we’re thinking, “Wow, I could go for some ice cream right now.” While food cravings are a normal part of life, we should notice how often we’re experiencing them and which foods we’re craving specifically. 

But you may be wondering: why bother to give these sudden urges a second thought?

Food cravings may be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. When the body is missing out on critical nutrients, it sends signals to the brain that may result in craving a specific type of food.

So if you’re curious about what your cravings mean, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to explain how a nutrient deficiency can give us the urge to eat certain foods and provide insight into how we can minimize these cravings.

The link between cravings and nutrient deficiencies

Some evidence may suggest a connection between the foods we crave and the nutrients we lack. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering our bodies often send us prompts that indicate we need to take action somehow.

For example, when we are dehydrated, we feel thirsty. When our stomachs are empty, they rumble. In the same way, we get signals from our bodies to eat or drink; we may receive signals in food cravings that indicate a need to consume specific nutrients or vitamins.

For example, studies show that 50–90% of U.S. women experience cravings for specific foods during pregnancy. 

Because pregnant women are more susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, this can be used as evidence that the relationship between food cravings and nutrition deficiencies is real and vital.

What do my cravings mean?

To determine whether or not a food craving results from nutritional deficiency, we should consider exactly what we’re craving. But how do we know which food desires, in particular, may indicate a nutrient deficiency?


Chocolate is an incredibly common food craving, and research has found that greater chocolate craving has been reported among women than among men, particularly during the premenstrual period.

This could result from a magnesium deficiency, as one study found that magnesium levels were significantly lower in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) patients than in the average population. 

But how can a chocolate craving explain a magnesium deficiency? Well, studies show that dark chocolates are confirmed as an excellent source of magnesium, which could explain why a craving for chocolate could indicate we aren’t getting enough of this important mineral.

However, it’s important to note that solely eating chocolate isn’t the most effective or healthy method of satisfying a magnesium deficiency. Instead, we should eat healthy foods rich in magnesium, such as:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Leafy greens
  • Whole grains

Sugary foods

Craving sugary foods may be the sign of an imbalanced gut. Research shows that exerting self-control over eating choices may be partly a matter of suppressing microbial signals that originate in the gut. 

So what is our body lacking that causes both an imbalance of the gut and a craving for sugary foods?

We may need more probiotics in our diet if we’re craving sugar, which have been studied extensively for their use in restoring gut health and reducing the urge to consume sugar.

Luckily, FuelOrganics offers a high-quality vegan probiotics for anyone who thinks poor gut health may be the reason behind their sugar cravings.

For more information on vegan probiotics be sure to read about probiotics and weight loss.

Ice cubes or iced drinks

We know it may sound strange, but studies show that the urge to chew ice is often associated with an iron deficiency. This is because of a condition called pica, which is characterized by the desire to consume substances with no nutritional value. 

Because this condition is not considered psychological, and instead is the result of a nutritional deficiency, it’s important we make sure our iron levels are adequate if we begin to experience a craving like this.

Other causes of food cravings

However, not all food cravings are linked to nutrient deficiencies. There are other factors that can contribute to cravings, one of the most common ones being stress.

Many studies indicate that chronic stress may potentiate motivation for rewarding substances, such as the junk foods we so often crave. This means that even if our bodies are getting enough of the nutrients we need, stress can send signals to our mind that cause us to develop unhealthy food cravings.

Because the mind can play such a big role in cravings, it should come as no surprise that depression and anxiety can also play a role. 

One study found that emotional eating is often used as a coping mechanism when dealing with depression and anxiety, and could therefore cause us to crave sweet or salty food.

How to avoid food cravings

Luckily, we don’t have to be victims to our food cravings - there are many steps we can take to curb cravings, and we’re here to show you how. 

1. Eat a balanced diet

If food cravings can be the result of nutritional deficiencies, then eating a balanced diet consisting of all the vitamins and nutrients we need can be one way to fight cravings. Luckily, we can achieve more balance in our diet by increasing our intake of plant based, whole foods. 

2. Minimize stress

As we’ve discussed, emotional distress can be a contributing factor to food cravings. While it isn’t always easy to avoid stress in our busy lives, finding ways to do so can help us fight cravings and experience better overall health.

A few ways we can minimize stress and feel good without eating junk food include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Connecting with friends and family
  • Meditating
  • Making time for leisure

3. Drink more water

Sometimes we may feel hungry, but we’re actually just dehydrated. 

That’s why drinking more water can help to mitigate food cravings, while simultaneously offering the many health benefits that staying hydrated provides.

If you’re someone who regularly struggles with craving junk food, drinking more water can be an effective method of keeping your stomach full and reducing these urges.

Final thoughts

While a food craving may not seem particularly consequential, it can be a sign of a lack of proper nutrition. That’s why if we’re craving certain foods, we should make an effort to break the conditioning response and satisfy these cravings in a way that’s beneficial to our health.

Trusted sources

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