Food Cravings and What They Mean

There is no scientific explanation for food cravings. Some say they mean you are low in some facet of nutrition. Others say they are created in the brain by suggestion and are not connected to any nutritional needs. Sometimes it is your body trying to tell you you are nutritionally deficient in some area and is trying to correct itself.

According to new research by Adam Drewnowski, PhD, of the University of Washington, blocking the opiate receptors in the brain, which sense pleasure, can blunt a person's desire to eat foods rich in fat and sugar, which seem to be the most common. 

Seven Categories Of Food Cravings

Food can be broken down into 7 categories when trying to analyse food cravings and what they mean.

  1. Sweet Cravings
  2. Chocolate Cravings
  3. Craving Salty Foods
  4. Craving Fats
  5. Craving Meat
  6. Pica Cravings* (crazy, and/or harmful cravings)
  7. Chewing ice

Craving red meat may mean you need more protein.

Craving fatty foods seem to be connected to emotions. Anxiety, hormone changes and eating disorders all seem to be associated with fatty food cravings.

Weird cravings (pica cravings) such as laundry starch, cigarette butts, potting soil and chewing ice may have a linked to an iron deficiency. I had a daughter who craved chalk when she was pregnant. She was low in iron and vitamin B.

Chocolateis a common craving, and may be associated with a lack of magnesium.

The popular website, Women to Women, says food cravings may mean you have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin

Pica Cravings

*Pica cravings are the most concerning.

If you have one of these weird food cravings, like craving

  • cigarette butts or alcohol or eating chalk,

and want to try and solve the mystery of what it means ---good luck. There doesn't seem to be anything specific that they are tied too.

The best advice I can give it to just try different things.

  • Try Omega rich food or supplements (like flax seeds, walnuts or fish oil with no mercury)
  • Try Dark Chocolate (make sure it is 70% dark)
  • Try Whole Food Vitamins
  • Try Trace Minerals Check into the possibility of food allergies.

Often, the foods that we are allergic to are the ones we crave. 

Who Has Food Cravings?

The Journal of Nutrition, Mar 2003 published these statistics: 68% of men and 97% of women reportedly have food cravings. What does that mean? Nothing more than we all have them.

Do men crave different foods than women? Yes. Women are more likely to crave high fat, sweet things. Men crave high fat meats and salty things.

Monell Chemical Senses Center has done research on the subject of what causes food cravings. They found three regions of the brain that seem to be activated when you are experiencing food cravings --- the hippocampus, insula, and caudate. Their research brain tests suggest that the memory areas of the brain,  which are responsible for associating a specific food with a reward, (thus, creating a craving for a particular food), are actually more important than the brain's reward center.

Still, if you have ever had a food craving, you might wonder what it means. Some cravings just don't make any sense, others do.

When You Are Balanced

People who have done a whole body cleanse often say their cravings disappear after the cleanse.

Eating too much refined sugar or refined flour usually bring cravings back.

All in all, food cravings are not an indication of a serious health threat. They are mostly just annoying and are often hard to satifiy.

Like everything else in life, it takes self control not to eat too much.

Possible Solution To Food Cravings 

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Ellie Kriege is the author of several cook books about healthy eating and a weekly host for the Food Network's Healthy Appetite. Her book, So Easy, featured in this video, is a collection of light and healthy dishes that taste great and are easy enough for the busiest people to prepare. Ellie has put together a collection of meal solutions for those of us who love food and want to eat well but struggle to make it happen given life's hectic pace.  In this video, she talks about foods that are good for you and may you make sense of some of the weird food cravings you may have.


Pica Cravings is a good source for information on Pica. The following is found there:

Pica is most common in people with developmental disabilities, including autism and mental retardation, and in children between the ages of 2 and 3. Pica also may surface in children who've had a brain injury affecting their development. It can also be a problem for some pregnant women, as well as people with epilepsy.

People with pica frequently crave and consume nonfood items such as:

  • dirt
  • clay
  • paint chips
  • plaster
  • chalk
  • cornstarch
  • laundry starch
  • baking soda
  • coffee grounds
  • cigarette ashes
  • burnt match heads
  • cigarette butts
  • feces
  • ice
  • glue
  • hair
  • buttons
  • paper
  • sand
  • toothpaste
  • soap

Kids Health

The word pica comes from the Latin word for magpie, a bird known for its large and indiscriminate appetite.