What Your Food Cravings Are Really Trying to Tell You

December 11 2018

Food cravings can really pack a wallop. A desire for red meat may come on so strong that you veer off the highway in search of a burger joint. Or perhaps all you can think about is a homemade brownie. But it turns out these impulses are sometimes more than simple urges—they can also offer intel about what your body really needs.

“We live in a culture that vilifies cravings,” says Marci Evans, a registered dietician and eating disorder specialist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We think of them as forbidden desires that must be squashed. And that’s unfortunate, because cravings aren’t the enemy, Evans says. Rather, “they’re a communication from our body.”

Here, she explains how to interpret and heed those signals in a healthy, mindful way. And keep in mind, of course, that your hankerings are just one piece of a larger puzzle. As Evans puts it, “not everything about our health is going to be communicated to us in a food craving.”

Note unusual and persistent cravings

Examine whether your yearning is a huge departure from the norm. If you continue to have a “strong, unusual, insistent” desire that doesn’t get resolved by meeting it—say, by eating a steak when the pining for red meat strikes—“it’s a great idea to check in with your doctor.” Something like unquenchable thirst, for example, makes Evans think, “Do we have something going on with blood sugar levels, and it might be diabetes?” (And if you suspect hydration is the issue, make sure you’re getting electrolytes in addition to water.)

Listen to your gut

Craving a bit of chocolate after dinner? Pay attention to that, and really listen, suggests Evans. “For so long, people were taught, ‘If you want a dessert after dinner, have a piece of fruit instead!’” Some of her clients have that sort of psychological restriction, and for some, it’s been problematic. “They have a piece of fruit, another piece of fruit, more fruit… and then they binge on chocolate.”



Article originally appeared on Health.com