6 Underlying Reasons for Food Cravings

foods you crave: cookies, cakes and sweets

Food cravings are difficult to control. Sometimes it takes all your willpower to abstain from tempting treats. 

Cravings are intense or urgent desires for specific foods. These foods are often high in salt, sugar and fat — the good stuff you’re trying to avoid. Understanding why cravings occur can help you curb them. Here are six underlying reasons for food cravings and how you can curb them.  


Your body reacts to dehydration and hunger in the same way. As a result, your body can easily mistake dehydration for hunger, causing you to feel fatigued. 

When you’re feeling this way, your initial instinct may be to reach for chips, cookies or other quick fixes. Instead, try a glass of water the next time you feel an uncontrollable craving coming on and see if it subsides. 


Food cravings can also be an emotional response. You may turn to food for comfort or to help you feel a certain way.   

You begin associating food with comfort at infancy with breastfeeding. Babies instantly associate food with safety and being cared for. From this moment on, you associate certain foods with feelings. This causes you to seek comfort in food as an adult. 

A craving may be the symptom of something deeper. Before you head to the pantry, ask yourself if you’re sad, stressed or frustrated. Even feeling relaxed or happy can elicit food cravings.  

If you think your emotions are affecting your eating habits, it’s important to know your triggers. Instead of turning to food when in need of comfort, do something else to make your body feel good. Exercise, meditation, reading your favorite book or calling a friend are all great ways to decompress after a long day. 


Some foods are just plain addicting. Sugar and carbohydrates trigger the same brain receptors as drugs and alcohol, making you feel happy. 

Studies show that sugar is more addicting than cocaine. If you can’t go a day without eating something sweet or starchy, you probably have a chemical dependency. Sugar and carbs also inhibit your ability to feel full, causing constant cravings. 

Unfortunately, the only way to fight these types of cravings is to stop eating addicting foods. Just like a drug, you will initially go through withdrawals and want to give in, but over time your cravings will go away. 

Blood Sugar 

Low blood sugar is another culprit of cravings. If you don’t eat enough nutrient and fiber rich foods, your blood sugar levels drop and you lose the ability to control what you eat. 

As a result, you quickly eat foods high in calories or sugar. These are empty calories that will cause you to crash later. The cycle of binging and crashing leads you to constantly crave “quick fixes.” To solve this problem, eat a balanced diet that is high in fiber. 

Nutrient Deficiencies 

Junk food cravings can also be a sign that you are deficient in certain nutrients. 

Do you crave chocolate on a regular basis? You could be deficient in magnesium. 

Craving salty snacks? Could be a chloride or silicon deficiency. 

Take a look at this chart to find out what deficiencies you may have according to the foods you crave. You can also see what foods you should eat instead to satisfy cravings and stay healthy at the same time.   


Certain environments can trigger certain food cravings. It might be a hot dog at a baseball game, popcorn and soda at the movies, or potato chips while sitting on your couch.  

Pay attention to where you are when cravings strike. If you know you are going to crave junk food at certain events, pack your own snacks to avoid giving in. 

If you crave food while you are sitting on your couch at home, try moving to a different chair or another room altogether, or prepare healthy snacks to have on hand.  


You may eat just because you want something to do. This is an extremely common and difficult habit to kick. 

If you’re a bored snacker, try getting up and doing an activity. Distract yourself — drink a glass of water, chew gum, or call a friend to avoid pointless snacking. 

Hopefully this article has helped you understand the underlying reasons for food cravings and what you can do to fight them. For more nutrition and fitness related information, check out other articles on our blog like 10 Fat-Busting Superfoods that Should Be on Your Shopping List.   

Want to take it a step further? At Body Fit St. Louis, we have in-home nutrition counseling and fitness training. We’ll bring everything you need to live a healthy life, right to your door. Call us today for a free consultation.


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